Hokuriku: Akiha Jinja in Itoigawa

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Akiha Jinja, Itoigawa

We reported in the previous post about the Akiha Jinja on the grounds of the Nou Hakusan. There is another Akiha Jinja in the town of Itoigawa, a block or so from the sea. We visited it early the next morning. It was very refreshing with tall trees and sea breezes!

Akiha Shrines 秋葉神社

Akiha-san is a sacred mountain, the shintaisan of Akiha Jinja Hongu in Hamamatsu-shi, Shizuoka-ken, headquarters of 400 shrines around the country. The enshrined deity is the kami of fire prevention. People read this name 秋葉 as akiha or akiba. It means autumn leaves. This is the Akiha Jinja plaque on the shrine at Nou Hakusan Jinja.

2018-05-16 18.06.30 Akiba Jinja

Screenshot 2018-07-13 23.07.56

The map shows three of the many Akiha shrines in the Itoigawa area. The shrine on the right is the one on the grounds of Nou Hakusan Jinja, in the previous post. The one in the middle is the one reported on here.

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Hokuriku: Nou Hakusan Jinja

2018-05-16 18.05.53 Nou Hakusan Jinja

Nou Hakusan Jinja

Benten Iwa 弁天岩

Benten iwa is an eye-catching small island immediately off-shore near the Nou Hakusan Jinja.  The two sites are geologically connected, having the same type of stone. Benten is short for Benzaiten, deity of water, originally the Hindu Saraswati. Made by the eruption of the submarine volcano of Fossa Magna 3 million years ago, Benten Iwa is one of the Geosites of Itoigawa Geopark. Itsukushima shrine to Benzaiten (Ichikishima-hime) as the guardian deity of the sea is on the island. The Itsukushima Shrine is considered a satellite shrine of Hakusan. The lighthouse continues to light the way for fishing boats coming back to the Nosei fishing port. There are large koinobori carp kites swimming in the strong wind over the Japan Sea. 2018-05-16 18.03.56 Benten Iwa

Benten Iwa

Nou Hakusan Jinja 能生白山神社

The Nou Hakusan Jinja is on the side of a small yama near Benten Iwa. In a sense, Benten Iwa is an extension of the mountain. Nou Hakusan is a Hakusan jinja in the Nou district. The honden was built in 1515, although it must have an older origin as a sacred place.  Nou Hakusan contains a number of relics of Hakusan Worship and is a bridge to the Nou Region’s ancient history. It is a Nationally Registered Important Cultural Property. The top photo shows the thatched roof of the prayer hall which resembles that of the Amatsu Jinja, shown earlier.

Kukurihime (Shirayamahime) was the earlier gosaishin. Shirayamahime is the guardian of Hakusan. During the Meiji period, her name was replaced by Nunokawa-hime’s. The current gosaishin are Nunakawahime 奴奈川姫命Isanagi no Mikoto  伊佐奈岐命 and  大己貴命 Oonamuchi no Mikoto. The kami trio of Shirayamahime (original gosaishin), Isanagi, and Oonamuchi are closely connected in the Hotsuma Tsutaye. Isanagi was the father of Amateru. When Amateru was born, Shirayamahime heard him speak his name, Uhirugi. That is how she received her Kukurihime name (she heard him). Amateru’s younger brother was Sosanowo, and Oonamuchi was Sosanowo’s son. 

Nou Hakusan Honden

While the dramatic building of the haiden faces the open grounds, the mysterious honden is in the woods behind the haiden. 

Akiha Jinja 秋葉神社

On the grounds of Nou Hakusan is a small shrine, the Akiha Jinja. The next post will show another Akiha Jinja in Itoigawa town.

Nou Hakusan Akiha Jinja

All photos by Okunomichi 2018.

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Hokuriku: Amatsu Shrine

The Amatsu and Nou Hakusan shrines have such strikingly similar architectures, namely their thatched roofs, that we are reporting them sequentially. They are both in the city of Itoigawa (糸魚川), Niigata-ken (新潟県), and they both enshrine Nunakawa-hime, the heroine of this region, plus other kami of interest to those who study the Woshite documents. 

Amatsu Jinja 天津神社

2018-05-15 19.59.45 torii

Amatsu Jinja, ichinomiya of Echigo (Niigata), is a few minutes walk from Itoigawa station. When you arrive at the site, cross over a bridge and turn to your left to the temizuya, then resume your path. You are taken to a higher level so you are on a yama. You make a final left turn and suddenly the striking haiden prayer hall comes into view on your left. The hall has an immense thatched roof. There are three altars in the haiden: 奴奈川神社 (Nunokawa Jinja)、天津社 (Amatsu Sha)、住吉の扁額 (Sumiyoshi Hengaku).

2018-05-15 20.02.32 temizuya

The primary gosaishin of Amatsu Jinja is Amatsu-hikohikoho-ninigi-no-mikoto, or  Ninikine. Ninikine (Ninigi) is enshrined in several sacred sites in this Hokuriku area of Niigata and Toyama, far from his home area of Kansai. Ninikine is Wakeikazuchi, kami of Kamigamo Jinja in Kyoto. Also enshrined here are Amenokoyane no Ookami and Futodama no Mikoto; both are mentioned in Aya 20 of Hotsuma Tsutaye. Amenokoyane was Tsurugi no Tomi to Amateru. He was the author of Mikasafumi.

2018-05-15 20.16.24 AMATSU HONDEN

Amatsu Jinja Honden

The Amatsu honden is detached from the haiden and is in the back with other hokora. In the background of the haiden photo, you can see a row of hokora. The one that is visible in the photo is Nunakawa-hime Jinja, left of the honden. Nunakawa-hime is a popular heroine of Itoigawa and she is regarded as kami of jade found in the area. There is a dragon carved on the lintel, closeup photo.

2018-05-15 20.18.03 Nunokawa-hime closeup dragon

Nunakawahime Jinja

On the right of the honden is the 聖神社 Hijiri Jinja ( hijiri means sacred). 

.Hijiri Jinjajpg


Next to it is a compound of small stone hokora, and they have the great charm of age.

2018-05-15-20-14-23-hijiri-ishi-hokurajpg.jpg

 

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Hokuriku Coast and Basho

Oyashirazu

Northern Alps drop into

the Sea of Japan.

Photo and verse by Okunomichi (c) 2018.

Hokuriku

Along the Sea of Japan, Hokuriku, which means Northlands region, is known for its heavy winter snows. Historically it includes the Koshi and Hokurikudo provinces and the Noto Peninsula. Current prefectures include Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, and Fukui. This series of posts is about a visit to Niigata and Toyama in May 2018. There are vistas of breathtaking beauty and power, and there are sacred shrines which grew organically out of this primordial region. There is a lot of unknown cultural history over the last ten thousand years, along with well-understood scientific history extending over 500 million years.

Oyashirazu

The cliffs at which the Northern Japanese Alps fall into the Sea of Japan were the product of terrestrial volcanic activity occurring about 100 million years ago. The ancient Hokuriku Road was wedged in a small space between these cliffs and the sea, making for a perilous journey, especially when the waves would surge. Large pockets and caves eroded into the wall where travelers would take refuge from the stormy seas still remain on the face of these cliffs.    

Oyashirazu    ko wa kono ura no    namimakura

koshiji no iso no    awa to kieyuku

Taira-no-Yorimori was a general of the once powerful Taira clan which was defeated by their rivals, the Minamoto clan, in the late 12th century. After their defeat, Yorimori fled to what is now Niigata prefecture. Following after him, his wife crossed Oyashirazu where she lost their child to the raging seas. In her sorrow she wrote this poem, which lends the cliffs their name.

Without his parent knowing,

my child, in this shore’s waves along the Koshiji road,

vanishes in the foam.

The above passages are from the Itoigawa Geopark’s extensive website. Itoigawa is home to the Itoigawa Geopark and the Fossa Magna Museum.  At the Oyashirazu lookout is this statue of a mother and two children, a memorial to all the children who were lost here. All photos are by Okunomichi © 2018.    

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Oku no Hosomichi

Matsuo Basho, traveled through the northern country in 1689 with his student Sora. After visiting Kasawaski, they stopped one night in Ichiburi near the Oyashirazu cliffs. At the inn, there were two ladies of leisure. Basho, perhaps mulling over the life and death pathos in the above Oyashirazu waka by Yorimori’s wife, wrote the haiku,

一家に遊女もねたり萩と月

hitotsuya ni    juujo mo netari    hagi to tsuki

In the same lodging

Play-girls too are sleeping —

Bush clover and moon.

(tr. by Christine Murasaki Millet, 1997)

This seemingly straight-forward haiku has overtones of contrasting themes: playgirls/monks, women/men, bush clover/moon, impermanence/permanence.

Poetic Monument of Matsuo Basho

At Choenji Temple, a stone monument commemorates Basho’s visit and haiku.

2018-05-18 10.03.18 Choenji

Choenji Temple 2018

 

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Togariyama, Toyama’s Pyramid Mountain

Pyramid mountains have been described in various places, including our own sister site, Yamanomiya.wordpress.com. Several authors have provided lists of pyramid mountains, such as Kosaka ,  Sakai ,  and Suzuki . Togariyama in Toyama is listed, and has been reported on here.

This year, in May of 2018, we went seeking to photograph Togariyama. According to our map, this 559 m tall mountain is in a mountainous area, and we drove around and around. We caught a glimpse of it, then lost it as we rounded the next curve, and on and on.  It was certainly elusive and it seemed to be just one of the natural mountains.

However, the photo below shows how it stands alone with beautiful symmetry and a distinctly flat top. Jomon people leveled tops of mountains to make space for holding rituals. Togariyama is said to have a stone circle on top of it. After returning to our computer and examining a Google map of the terrain, it was clear that Togariyama is truly remarkable. It has a round base and differs geometrically from the surrounding mountains. This makes us wonder if indeed this is an artificial mountain.

2018-05-18 13.17.53 Tongariyama last

What do you think?

Here are additional photos from our Togariyama album.

2018-05-18 13.02.01 2nd

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Tateyama, Sacred Mountain

Furthermore, due east of Togariyama (36.6 N, 137.3 E) is sacred mountain Tateyama (36.6 N, 137.6 E) of the Hida mountain range (Northern Alps). Could Togariyama have been constructed as a ritual site from which participants celebrated the equinox sun rising over Tateyama?

Tateyama poster

Tateyama, from a poster

Tateyama in the Hida mountain range, at 3,015 m is the tallest mountain in Toyama-ken. It is one of the 100 Famous Japanese Mountains, as well as one of Japan’s Three Holy Mountains (Mt Fuji, Mt Hakusan, and Mt Tateyama). According to Torii Rei, Tateyama is goshintai of Kurakine, brother of Isanagi, and Toyama is the sanctuary of Japan.

 

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Heike Festival and Tsurutomi-hime of Miyazaki

Trurutomihime & Hietsuki

Tsurutomi-hime and hietsuki (pounding millet)

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The doll pictured above is Tsurutomi-hime, a Heike lady of Miyazaki, on the southern island of Kyushu. Recall the Heike-Genji war of the 12th century. The decisive sea battle of Dannoura took place in 1185, in the waters of the Shimonoseki Strait. This site lies between Shimonoseki of Yamaguchi-ken on the island of Honshu and Kitakyushu of Fukuoka-ken on the island of Kyushu.

The Heike lost and fled for their lives. Some Heike went to Iwate and Miyagi. Others went south to the remote reaches of Kyushu.

Tsurutomi-hime was the daughter of a leader of the Heike who found refuge in the deep mountains of Miyazaki. Their life was hard, they could grow no rice, and so they pounded hie which is Japanese millet.

A Genji warrior, Nasu Daihachiro, was sent to search for the refugee Heike. He found a group of Heike living a wretched life in a place called Shiiba. Instead of destroying them, he fell in love with Tsurutomi, and he lived happily with her in Shiiba. However after three years, Nasu was ordered to return to Honshu by Shogun Yoritomo. He left behind a daughter with Tsurutomi.

Today in Shiiba, there are descendants of the Genji warrior Nasu Daihachiro with the family name Nasu. A Heike festival is held there every November. This love story is recreated and sung in the Hietsuki-bushi. Shiiba is a tiny village of about four thousand residents, but people come from far and wide to participate in the festival and remember the love between a Genji man and a Heike woman over 800 years ago.

 

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Japanese Swordsmithing at Atsuta Jingu

Sugisaka 番号付き熱田 刀剣奉納 

Atsuta Jingu is the shrine in Nagoya which holds the sacred sword, the Kusanagi. The Kusanagi belonged to hero Yamatotakeru, son of Emperor Keiko, who died in the year 113 CE. A sword-making event was held at the Atsuta Jingu on 2017 July 8-10. The master swordsmith is Fujiyasu Masahira of Fukushima.

Sugisaka Kazuo attended this event and took a number of photos of the process. A composite photo was made from photos taken on July 8 and 9. The sword was inscribed on July 10. Please refer to the sword-making process in the book*. There are 24 numbered photos in the composite. The 24 steps are described here, followed by a glossary.

1.    Make horizontal incisions for folding.

2.    Fold back.

3.    Stretch into a flat layer.

4.      After reaching high temperature, warabai is attached.

5.      Make the folded face smaller by hammering. At this time, impurities become sparks and fly off.

6.      The same.

7.   Make vertical incisions for folding.

8.       Fold back.

9.       Same as Step 4. Repeat Steps 1 – 9 many times.

10.Detach the kawagane (sheath).

11.Bend into U shape.

12.Bend again.

13.Wrap the shingane (core) in the kawagane. (Shingane was made in a similar fashion.)

14.The same as above.

15.Hammer to make shingane and kawagane smaller.

16.Bit by bit lengthen into shape of katana.

17.Morning of next day. Adjust the shape.

18.Holding the nakago (tang), check the result.

19.Adjust with yasuri tool.

20.Adjust shape with sen, iron shaving tool.

21.Shape is complete. However, the blade is not yet an acute angle.

22.In order to put in  hamon (a wavy pattern), yakibatuti is applied.

23.Yakubatuti is minutely applied to the spine of the sword near the tip.

24.Tempering immediately follows. (Tempering takes place in darkness, when the electric light is extinguished. As soon as the katana is inserted in the water, the light is turned on again.)

July 9 20:00. After this, in order to check the blade pattern, it was sharpened with a grinding stone.

July 10. The nakago (tang) is inscribed. The swordsmith’s work is now complete.

Glossary

 心鉄 shingane, core

皮鉄 kawagane, sheath

藁灰 warabai, straw ash made by burning straw

焼刃 yakiba, hardened zone

焼刃土 yakibati, a mixture of clay, charcoal, whetstone powder which has been kneaded together.

棟 mune, spine

刃 ha, blade, cutting edge of sword

刃紋 or 刃文 hamon, blade tempering pattern, ripples due to tempering

茎 nakago, tang (prong) of sword

* Book information

写真で覚える

日本刀の基礎知識

Sword book 基礎知識表紙

Introduction to Japanese Swords through Pictures

発行人(Publisher)

吉原荘二

小林敏雄(テレビせとうちクリエイト)

発行所(Place of Publication)

株式会社テレビせとうちクリエイト

http://www.tsccreate.co.jp/

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