Monday, September 12, 2016

Reviews

As readers of this blog know I released "Shinto Shrines; A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion", coauthored with John Dougill and published by the University of Hawaii Press, in December of 2012. The desire to continue my research into shrines led me to launch this blog in August of the same year. In addition to ongoing research, the blog contains excerpts from the book and a number of entries that didn't make it through the final edit. I believe the combination of book and blog presents a comprehensive overview of Japanese shrines in English, unlike that found anywhere else. Whereas much of the blog contents have not been verified with individual shrines—as the contents of the book have—I am rather conservative about including information from unreliable sources. One finds that misinformation is picked up and repeated to such a degree that it becomes perceived as fact. This is especially true in Japanese history/myth and equally true of Internet content. I make every effort not to add to the noise. I have also tried to make available on the blog some of the sources I have consulted in writing the book—particularly where they are readily available on the net—with a summary of each. Please let me know if there is some information related to shrines which you would like to see posted.

Here is a recent review from the website Patheos at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/pagantama/2016/08/28/pagan-shinto-spiritual-book-reviews-august-2016/2/

From the "About" section of the website comes this: Founded in 2008, Patheos.com is the premier online destination to engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality and to explore and experience the world's beliefs. Patheos is the website of choice for the millions of people looking for credible and balanced information about religion. Patheos brings together faith communities, academics, and the broader public into a single environment, and is the place where many people turn on a regular basis for insight, inspiration, and stimulating discussion. Patheos is unlike any other religious and spiritual site on the Web today.
 
The review is reprinted here by permission of the author, Megan Manson — with my thanks! You can read a short interview with Megan here: www.greenshinto.com/wp/2016/09/06/shinto-paganism-megan-manson/

Pagan, Shinto & Spiritual Book Reviews

Joseph Cali & John Dougill, Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan’s Ancient Religion
(University of Hawai’i Press, 2012)
This book is by two of the most generous and enthusiastic non-Japanese specialists on Shinto. Joseph Cali is the creator of Shinto Shrines of Japan Blog Guide, a very useful website for those looking for information about specific jinja (Shinto shrines). John Dougill is the author of Green Shinto, which I consider an essential resource for international followers of Shinto and especially those approaching Shinto from a Neopagan perspective. I’ve therefore had Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan’s Ancient Religion on my wishlist for some time, and I’m really glad I’ve finally got to read it. I was not disappointed.
Booksellers would not be wrong for putting Shinto Shrines in their “Travel” section. It looks and feels very much like a Lonely Planet-style guidebook – one that covers, in considerable detail, 57 prominent jinja (shrines) located all over Japan. Like a Lonely Planet book, Shinto Shrines is packed with full-colour photographs and the entries for each shrine all feature a table of useful information.
What makes Shinto Shrines stand out from Lonely Planet, and in fact many other books on Shinto, is the attention given to details about the shrines – there’s information here that you just won’t find elsewhere, at least in English. The key information about each shrine not only includes its contact details, but also information on which kami are enshrined there, what kind of prayers are usually offered, and key dates in the shrine’s calendar. Perhaps the most attention is given to the shrine’s architectural features, so if that interests you in particular you’ll be in heaven (and if you don’t, you can just skim-read these parts). This, coupled with the excellent introduction to Shinto (with some really helpful illustrations) at the beginning, means that Shinto Shrines transcends being a mere travel guide and is in fact a solid resource for more serious students of the Shinto religion and its shrines.
Friendly, detailed and clearly written with a lot of love, Shinto Shrines is a reference book for a new generation of Japanologists and other enthusiasts of Japan and Shinto – those who are not content with simple armchair research, and want to go out there and experience Shinto for themselves.




Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Photo Tour of Usa Jingu
 
In Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion, my focus was on delivering as much information as possible about as many shrines as possible. The original goal was 100 shrines but this would have necessitated a massive book at a massive price (as well as an irate publisher). Since I was unwilling to compromise the information for each shrine, I compromised on the number of photos. In this blog too, I have followed the style of the book and therefore images are again minimal. But in the assumption that readers of the book and of this blog might also be interested in seeing more of the places being written about, I am presenting a series of Photo Tours.  Here then is the principle shrine of the kami often referred to as the "God of War":Hachiman.
Usa Jingu
       Hachiman shrines are one of the most numerous types, having 30,000 individual shrines by some reckonings. This is likely an inflated figure given that the total number of shrines in the country is said to number about 80,000. However there is little doubt that Hachiman is one of the most common shrines, and Usa in Oita province, Kyushu, is probably where the cult began. Hachiman is an extremely interesting and thoroughly combinatory kami containing distinct Buddhist elements and origins.


Top photo shows the left ichi no goten, bottom the san no goten. Both pictures also show the nii no goten in the center back and the moshiden in front of it.
       Hachiman is itself a combination of Emperor Ojin, Himegami (a consort kami which varies according to the shrine but is here considered to be the three female Munakata deities), and Jingu Kogo. This is why there are three individual buildings. These are enclosed within a kairo covered walkway with a two-tiered roumon entrance. It is the roumon and kairo painted in cinnabar that represent the Hachiman style to most visitors. The same style can be seen at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu in Kamakura and others. What is not so apparent is the double gable roof which is even more indicative of the style though, in fact, the double gable is now to be seen in only four Hachiman shrines that I know of. Not all Hachiman shrines have three deities or three buildings either. Some enshrine Ojin alone and some Ojin and Jingu who are child and mother. Some include Ojin's sons.

Gegu of Usa Hachiman, front and right side
        While the grounds of the shrine are extensive and the structures number more than 20, the two principle groupings are the jogu (at the top of the page) and the gegu. Although the terminology is slightly different, as with Ise Jingu, the kami of the gegu are said to provide food to the kami of the jogu. Interestingly, I have been told that the gegu (or in the case of Ise, the geku) was likely built before the jogu (or in the case of Ise again, the naiku) since a place to prepare food offerings would be needed before the principle kami could be enshrined. The structure is similar to that of the main shrine except that the kairo does not surround the entire compound, there is no roumon, and the three individual shrines within do not sport a double gable as can be seen clearly from the right side photo. 

Covered bridge of Usa Jingu
        Another distinctive structure at Usa is this covered bridge called the kurehashi which is thought to exist since the thirteenth century. It is one of several bridges that cross the Yorimo River bordering the shrine grounds. The ceremonial bridge is used only once every ten years when an imperial messenger, bearing offerings from the Emperor, crosses it. Modifications have been made over the years, such as the closed gate and the concrete pilings. Such a long covered bridge is quite rare in Japan and I would love to hear from readers if anyone is aware of any others.

Map of he grounds of Usa Hachiman

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Photo Tour of Popular Shrines and Temples at New Year      C
 
In Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion, my focus was on delivering as much information as possible about as many shrines as possible. The original goal was 100 shrines but this would have necessitated a massive book at a massive price (as well as an irate publisher). Since I was unwilling to compromise the information for each shrine, I compromised on the number of photos. In this blog too, I have followed the style of the book and therefore images are again minimal. But on the assumption that readers of the book and of this blog might also be interested in seeing more of the places being written about, I am presenting a series of Photo Tours.
          The tour this time is a little different in that it contains a number of the most popular shrines and temples frequented by the Japanese people—and quite a large number of foreigners—on or about the first day of the year. First up is, of course, Tokyo's Meiji Jingu.
A taste of the crowds, looking from the inside of the Roumon on New Years Day (all photos copyright Joseph Cali)
            Meiji Jingu is constantly the most visited jinja at Oshogatsu (Japanese new Year), with police estimates usually running around three million people over a three day period. Of course, the shrine's location in central Tokyo certainly contributes to the numbers. Please check my book for details.
During a quieter time, the first torii, one of the largest wooden torii in Japan.

     Even during a quiet time, it takes about fifteen minutes to walk from this torii of the large grounds to the shrine proper. But if you line-up and wait for the drums to signal midnight—as many people do—it can easily take between one and two hours not including the waiting time.
A view of the forest surrounding the shrine in the autumn.

The Meiji period began in 1868 after the shogun 'returned' power to the Emperor, who was a mere boy of fourteen. In 1873 the lunar calendar was abandoned in favor of the Gregorian and New Year began on January 1. Prior to this time the current holiday of Setsubun, celebrated on February 3, was essentially the New Year, and celebrated by throwing beans (mamemaki) to cleanse the evil accumulated in the previous year and make a fresh start.
Photographing the members after the wedding ceremony

Many New Years customs are associated with temples (ringing of the bell 108 times to rid the soul of the 108 worldly desires), and shrines (buying demon-breaking arrows), and customs such as eating toshikoshi soba, kagami mochi, and ozoni and giving children otoshidama. Of course, Meiji Jingu is not just about New Years. On any weekend of the year you can witness a constant procession of Shinto wedding ceremonies, known as shinzen kekkon. The style began in the Meiji period but became popularized after the wedding of the Taisho Emperor's (Emperor Meiji's son) wedding. The bride in this photo wears a wataboshi, one of two common headdress.
Geihaiden outer worship hall of Meiji Jingu
 Meiji Jingu is also noteworthy for its dedication to Japanese martial arts known collectively as budo. The Shiseikan, located at the rear of the grounds, conducts training sessions in judo, kyudo, aikido and kendo, for both Japanese and foreigners (by invitation only). The shrine is also noted for its garden, called Yoyogi Gyoen, open to the public for a five hundred yen fee. The shrine itself was built in 1920, it is said, largely with contributions from the public. Its forest too was planted with donated trees and lots of volunteer labor.
A view of part of the garden where iris bloom in spring

Another view of the garden in autumn

The consistently second most visited New Year's destination is Naritasan Shinshoji Temple in Chiba. Founded in 940, it also attracts around three million visitors over a three day period (considered the usual New Year holiday). This is another very large temple housing no less than five Important Cultural Properties.

Somon Gate of Naritasan
The first three structures of the temple follow in quick order beginning with the Somon gate, which leads to the Niomon gate of 1830 above a short flight of stone stairs. This is followed by a three-story pagoda built in 1712 and the newly built Main hall.
Niomon

If you are interested in some details of the temple my book, Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion, has a short entry. It may seem incongruous that a book on Shinto has a listing for a Buddhist temple but such is the importance of the place that any trip to Katori Jingu—also in Chiba—would be incomplete without a stop here. This is especially true when one realizes that there was no sharp separation of shrines and temples and the worship of Kami and Buddha before the Meiji era.
The lantern of Naritasan, donated by the local fish market, sporting the kanji for — "Fish Market'

It is also possible to find a good bit of information in English on the net. Naritasan's own website is informative http://www.naritasan.or.jp/english/index.html as is Narita City's website at and Japan Visitor. I don't vouch for the veracity of these sites but they will give you a good sense of what you are seeing. 
The three-story pagoda of Naritasan from 1712
The Main hall






Naritasan is a Shingon sect temple, said to have been founded by a follower of Kobo Daishi who brought (or revived) the sect to Japan in the ninth century, which means that a ceremony called the goma is performed here. This is a ritual in which planks of wood are burned and prayers to Fudo-myo-O are chanted. I have not witnessed the ritual here but at a related temple, Naritasan Shinshoji Fukagawa Fudodo, located next to Tomioka Hachimangu in the Monzen-nakacho area of Tokyo. At this temple the chanting and drumming were accompanied by a shugenja blowing on the horagai (conch shell).
Shakudo Hall

 The Shakudo Hall of 1858 was once the Main Hall of the temple. Built in the irimoya style with a copper-tile roof with karahafu and chidorihafu, it is more reminiscent of Shinto-style architecture that was prevalent throughout the Muromachi to the Edo periods.
Omiyage gift shops on the temple grounds.


New Years is called Oshogatsu and the first visit to the shrine or temple is called hatsumode. Various charms to bring good luck are purchased and old charms are brought to the temple to be burnt. Probably the most sought after charm at either temple or shrine is the omikuji. This is essentially a prediction of your fortune for the coming year.
Daito of Naritasan

This is a recent addition built on the temple's 1,150th birthday in 1984. Called the 'Great Peace Pagoda' in English, the temple's website calls it a five-story pagoda but I just don't see it. It looks more like a daito or tohoto two-story pagoda to me. Be that as it may, it is impressively situated to be viewed from a lower plaza containing a fountain.
Naritasan Park
There is also a very lovely park/garden with a small pond and pavilion. If you stroll through the whole grounds, the park comes at the end of the journey, just in time for a well deserved rest. Of course, the new year is not the best time for viewing gardens but relaxing none the less.


It is often repeated that the third most popular shrine or temple in the Kanto for New Year's visits is Kawasaki Daishi more formally known as Heiken-ji. The temple's foundation story claims a date of 1128 when a priest named Sonken and exiled samurai from Owari, Hirama Kanenori, began constructing the temple to house a miraculous statue of Kobo Daishi also known as Kukai.
First gate and monzenmachi of Kawasaki Daishi crowded with people on New Year's Day

Of course, one should note that stories of statues of Buddhas and others, being fished out of the sea, is a staple of temple foundation legends. One of the most famous in Tokyo is Sensoji in Asakusa where the fishermen were reputed to be two brothers who were later enshrined (along with the village headman) in Asakusa Jinja next door. Be that as it may, it is a very popular site.
The Daisanmon Gate built in 1977

As with Naritasan above, this is a Shingon sect temple. Shingon is an esoteric sect that was brought to Japan by Kobo Daishi in 806 after a number of years studying in China. The teachings rely heavily on three ancient tantra's (treatise) and use physical images called mandala's as an aid to understanding, especially the Mandala of the Two Realms — the Womb and Diamond Realms.
The Daihondo or main temple building of Kawasaki Daishi, rebuilt in 1958

As temples go, the grounds of this one are rather small. This may be the consequence of several post-war reconstructions or it may simply be the encroaching city. Kawasaki has a population of about 1.5 million of which about thirty-thousand are foreigners. Situated between Tokyo and Yokohama and like them, it is a port city and the site of many large industries.
Looking back from the temple toward the Daisanmon as the crowd quietly waits for a chance to approach.










Five-story pagoda from 1984 (note the similar timing with the Daito of Naritasan, above)

The entrance to the temple with visitors lined up to throw their money and say a prayer.

In the photo above you can make out part of the jimon crest of the temple which consists of three oak-leaves in a circle and is called the maru ni mitsukashiwa. It is a fairly common crest with a very large number of variations. This is originally a samurai crest which was then adopted by both temples and shrines (when used in reference to samurai or jinja it is generally known as a kamon  or just mon). Though not really visible in the photo, inside the closed glass doors, a goma ceremony is in progress.
A shop selling daruma for the New Year

Finally, I think it is fair to say that one of the most important aspects of shrines and temples is the monzenmachi — literally the town within the gate. Many a large town began with no more than a temple or shrine. As one can imagine, this attracted pilgrims and pilgrims had needs which attracted merchants. Though most of these original towns are now only a small area within much larger cities, they still maintain something of that bygone era. The photo above shows one such shop at the entrance to Kawasaki Daichi which specializes in Daruma dolls. The tradition is to buy the doll and paint in one eye when one makes a resolution or sets a goal, then paint in the other when the goal is accomplished. (No word on weather there is a market for used, one-eyed Daruma or not.) Not only for New Years, these dolls are a favorite among successful candidates for political office who love to be depicted painting in that second eye.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Yamamiya Sengen Jinja                                                       UC
View of Mount Fuji from Yamamiya Jinja
(all photos by Joseph Cali)



Date founded: During the reign of Emperor Keiko (A.D. 71–130) at the behest of Yamato Takeru, according to shrine tradition.
Address: 740 Yamamiya, Fujinomiya-shi, Shizuoka 418-0111
Tel/Information: (no phone).
How to get there: About twenty minutes by car or taxi from Fujinomiya Station on the JR Minobu Line.
Enshrined kami: Konohanasakuyahime no mikoto, Asama no okami (Sengen no okami).
Prayers offered: Successful childbirth. 
Best time to go: Mid-October to May to see the snow covered version of Mt. Fuji which is the most famous view. Avoid mid-August when the crowds are the biggest.

First torii of Yamamiya Jinja

Important physical features: In Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion, I have listed this shrine as a sub-entry under Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha, considered the main shrine for Asama (Mt. Fuji) worship. However, Yamamiya is considered the first place from which Mt. Fuji was worshiped. There are no shrine buildings here. Instead, there is only a tree and stone lantern-lined road that begins at a stone torii at a modern crossroad. Walking under the torii starts you down the narrow tree-lined path that leads to a second torii where the stone lanterns begin. This part of the path leads to a wooden gate where the collection box (saisenbako) stands. Continuing through the gate, just past the entrance, is a stone which is said to be the original place from where the mountain was worshiped. Now you find yourself on the last narrow path which leads to a stair that brings you to a sacred ground (yaniwa) from which the mountain was worshiped. This space contains a few trees and a stone alter and is surrounded by a low stone fence. This ground faces directly to Mt. Fuji which looms up behind it. The area is set to be moved to allow for a more direct view of the mountain. As it is, you may be able to walk to the back side of the fence and further up the slope for a magnificent view. The trees have been removed for some distance to afford a full view of the peak.

The road lined with stone lanterns and the entrance gate in the background

Important spiritual features: (From Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion.) "Although both the Kojiki and the Nihon shoki attribute Yamato Takeru’s deliverance from a burning field to the sacred sword kusanagi no tsurugi, shrine tradition says that he prayed to Asama no okami and that it was this deity that saved him. As a result, the origin of Asama worship is said to be here at Yamamiya Sengen Jinja. It is recorded that the deities of Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha were moved to the present location from the Yamamiya shrine in 806." Yamato Takeru is a legendary figure who seems to represent the Yamato governments efforts to subdue the various tribes that existed even through the Heian period. Various stories in the Kojiki and Nihon shoki depict him subduing the Izumo tribes and the so-called kumaso in Kyushu, before being sent east where he was finally killed by an offended kami. He is in fact credited with so many major adventures and depicted in so many different places that whatever truth the legends may be based on is heavily obscured. More likely, Fuji san, also known as Asama, was worshiped from as early as the the Jomon period (14,500 to 300 BC). If not actually worshiped, it was no doubt revered and feared for its enormous power. The added dimension here is the beauty of the graceful slopes formed by ages of continued eruptions and weathering. This may be the main reason why the kami worshiped here came to be accepted as Konohanasakuya, said to be a beautiful young woman and herself the daughter of a mountain kami. However it is likely that the mountain was worshiped from many points on its circumference and the only reason Yamamiya is said to be the first is that some textural evidence remains from the eighth century.

The stone said to mark the original point of worship.
The sacred ground at the top of the stairs
Description: I go into detail about Mt. Fuji and its worship in my book. There are also a number of entries on this blog which may be of interest. For more information please view the entries for Shizuoka Sengen Jinja, one of the other main shrines for Fuji worship, and Mount Fuji and its Religious Traditions, which lists a number of important research articles on various aspects of the cult of Mt. Fuji, as well as some information on its popular climbing trails.
View of Mt. Fuji from the sacred ground without aid of a zoom lens.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Shizuoka Sengen Jinja                                                       UC
The combined haiden of Sengen (Asama) and Kanbe Jinja (all photos, Joseph Cali)
Date founded: This shrine complex consists of three shrines, two of which are under the same roof. Kanbe Jinja was founded during the reign of Emperor Sujin (r. 97-30B.C.) according to shrine tradition. Asama Jinja (Sengen) was founded in 901 as a divided spirit of Fujisan Hongu Jinja. The third shrine, Otoshimioya Jinja was founded during the reign of Emperor Ojin (r. 270-310) according to shrine tradition.
Address: 102-1 Miyagasaki-cho, Aoi-ku, Shizuoka-shi, Shizuoka 420-0868
Tel/Information: 054-245-1820.
How to get there: JR Shinkansen or local line to Shizuoka Station, then by Shizutetsu Bus to the Akatorii bus stop.
Enshrined kami: Onamuchi no mikoto (Kanbe Jinja), Konohanasakuyahime no mikoto (Asama Jinja), Otoshimioya no mikoto (Otoshimioya Jinja).
Prayers offered: Successful childbirth (Asama Jinja), long life and good marriage (Kanbe Jinja).  
Best time to go: Himachi Festival, 25 September. About 500 hand painted paper lanterns are displayed.

Important physical features: In Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion, I have listed this shrine as a sub-entry under Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha, considered the main shrine for Asama (Mt. Fuji) worship. However, in terms of physical properties (other than Fujisan itself) Shizoka Sengen Jinja is at least as magnificent if not more so. For this reason I have recently visited the shrine and decided to go into greater detail on this blog.
           For a person like myself, an artist and designer, Shizuoka Sengen Jinja provides much that is of purely visual interest.Situated on a finger of stone and woods that extends from Mt. Ryuso into the heart of Shizuoka City, Sengen Jinja is actually the name for a group of shrines. Shizuoka was the the nineteenth stop on the old Tokaido rode linking Edo and Kyoto. It was also the home of retired Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu who rebuilt the shrine and resided at nearby Sunpu Castle after 1605. Unfortunately, only the castle grounds still exist, but it was a prosperous and popular city and well endowed by the Tokugawa family. Ieyasu, who had his coming of age ceremony at this shrine in 1555, was himself first laid to rest at nearby Kunozan Toshogu before being relocated to Nikko in Tochigi Prefecture. I detail the magnificent Kunozan Toshogu in my book and also have a Photo Tour elsewhere on this blog. That shrine has undergone major renovation as of 2013 so the paintwork is in splendid condition. There is no question that the exterior of the main shrine of Shizuoka Sengen is in need of repainting, which is a major undertaking that will no doubt occur at sometime in the future, nevertheless both the painted and sculptural detailing of the shrines, along with the splendid view of Mt. Fuji and the city itself as well as the sixth-century Shizuhatayama Kofun are all well worth seeing.
          
Roumon of Shizuoka Sengen
           In fact, the shrine grounds contain some twenty-six Important Cultural Properties of the country and the prefecture—an enormous number matched by few other shrines in Japan. Of these, what must be considered the main shrine in terms of size and status is the combined Kanbe and Asama Jinja. While there are many entrances to the shrine grounds, the one at the end of Hase Dori leads under a stone torii, a gate (which may have once held nio), and a large roumon with zuijin figures from 1816. This gate is interesting for its dragon carvings and its interesting agyo and ungyo rikishi sitting on or suppressing the shishibana.The black plaque in the photo contains the names of Sengen and Kanbe shrines. Passing through the roumon leads to a large buden from 1816 which sits in the center of a square formed by the covered walkway (kairo) that connects the roumon in the front to the haiden in the back. Only the honden is outside of this. This buden is one of the only unpainted structures here though the remains of color on the zoubana indicate that at least parts may have been painted at one time. Extensive carvings in the ranma are by the Tachikawa-ryu as are most of the carvings here (though a volunteer guide I met at the shrine mentioned that the dragon on the roumon was carved by the legendary Hidari Jingoro (1596-1644?)—although it would have had to been salvaged from the original gate which burnt down in 1804).
           The next structure, the haiden, has several distinguishing features. First, one notices that there are two staircases and two entrances, one for the worship of each kami. The other thing is the second story structure, found only on this shrine and Fujisan Hongu. That distinction earns for these two shrines the nomenclature sengenzukuri. The second level (pictured above) is built like a smaller shrine however, unlike Fujisan Hongu, there are no chigi or katsuogi and the illusion of a small shrine is less strong. Nevertheless the irimoya-style roof, balcony and railing give the impression of a complete building sitting on top of the first floor. I am told that, like Fujisan Hongu, this room is not used and that to do so would place a worshiper above the level of the honden where the kami resides. If the combined height is in fact twenty-five meters (about eighty-two feet) as is stated, that would make it taller than Izumo Taisha which is often claimed to be the tallest shrine (at almost eighty feet—twenty-four meters) in Japan. Regardless, this beautiful building from around 1814 reflects the tastes and lavish support that the shrine was given by its powerful Tokugawa patrons. The interior ceiling features a dragon painting by Kanno Horinobu.
Left: The rear of the haiden (left) courtyard and honden.  Right: Honden
           The shrine is encompassed by a kairo that begins at the roumon and ends at the haiden forming a courtyard. Completing this shrine is the detached honden which also has two staircases (Asama Jinja to the left), plus a third for the priests, and is built on a raised level about eight meters high, surrounded by a low fence with kawara roof, and two entrance gates topped by karahafu roofs. The entrance is on the eave side of a simple gabled roof. The construction of the honden above an earth and stone platform is reminiscent of such shrines as Yoshino Mikumari Jinja

Left: Torii and zuijinmon of Otoshimioya Jinja   Right: Map of the shrine grounds showing the round kofun.
Yachihoko Jinja with beginning of staircase on the left.
           The other main shrine here is Otoshimioya Jinja which has a completely different entrance and faces south where Asama and Kanbe face east. The entrance is at the end of Sengen Dori and starts with a large red torii at the beginning of the shopping street at the Nakacho intersection of the road that comes directly from Shizuoka Station and passes by the south side of Sunpu Castle. After passing the second red torii, you immediately enter through a zuijinmon and the haiden of the shrine stands about three meters from that. It is immediately apparent that this haiden is more simply appointed than the other buildings on the grounds. The copper roof with karahafu is not the classic dobuki-ita of most Tokugawa sponsored shrines but a simple copper shingle, and the elaborate carvings are missing. The honden is however built much like Asama and Kanbe—detached from the haiden and raised on an earth and stone platform. It is a small building (3x2 bays) in a nagare-zukuri style. The honden does feature a dobuki-ita roof and polychromed carvings without chigi or katsuogi. The shrine dates from the same early nineteenth-century period after a fire destroyed the previous structures in 1804. It is built in a direct line and sitting directly below the sixth-century Shizuhatayama Kofun which can be seen (but not entered) by walking up the left side of the shrine.
Shizuhatayama Kofun
(Kofun photos courtesy of M. Kawaguchi)



Large cutaway mockup
The kofun is a thirty-two meter mound of about seven meters height with a large stone sarcophagus inside. First excavated in 1949, the bones and and most valuable goods were long gone by then but the remaining weapons, armor, and other metal work and pottery marks it as that of an influential family of the sixth or early seventh century. Some of these can be seen at the shrine's museum.

Right side of the shrine
Walking to the right of Otoshimioya you come to a long staircase leading up the mountain. To the right of this is Yachihoko Jinja, elaborately carved, painted and gilded. The roof is irimoya-zukuri with chidorihafu and karahafu all in dobuki-ita (also called dogawarabuki). These features, and a primarily black lacquer exterior were favorite features of Tokugawa-sponsored shrine construction. This shrine as well as most of the others on these grounds are the work of the Tachikawa-ryu family of shrine carpenters who were renown also for their carving abilities. Their magnificent works include Nikko Toshogu in Tochigi and Suwa Taisha in Nagano. They were active from 1774 to the beginning of the Meiji period. This building is a honden only with no haiden. the carving here includes the "The 24 Paragons of Filial Piety" a Confucian text from the thirteenth century that was a favorite of Tokugawa Japan. these scenes are depicted in the kaerumata (frog-leg struts) that encircle the building.
Hayama Jinja haiden with zuijin figure
Side view of the honden.
           Climbing those long stairs and then another shorter climb to the right brings you to Hayama Jinja, another magnificent example of decorative shrine architecture in the Buddhist-Shinto combinatory mold. The most unusual feature of this shrine is that the zuijin guardian figures, usually reserved for entrance gates (mon) are here placed directly on the portico of the haiden. This is a highly unusual feature and no other shrine comes to mind that matches it though there are a number of shrines that have komainu sitting on the portico (I would be interested if any readers could site another example). The haiden is decorated and polychromed above the nuki but otherwise simple in appearance. As with most of the shrines on this site, the haiden and honden are separated which is a little unusual for shrines of this period which were built by the Tokugawa. Most such shrines were of the gongen-zukuri type with the haiden and honden attached by an intermediary heiden. The honden is a nagare-zukuri, 3 x 2 bay type painted primarily in black, with elaborate carving and polychrome. Passing beyond the shrine and a bit more climbing brings you to a wonderful view of Mt. Fuji and the city of Shizuoka stretching out to the sea. This view reminds us of why the shrine exists; to venerate the kami of the mountain.
Mt. Fuji and Shizuoka City with the ocean in the far distance.
Finally is Sukunahikona Jinja located back down the hill to the right side of the main shrine. This is also a honden-only shrine of 3x2 bays, primarily in black lacquer, with extensive polychroming and carving above the nuki. The theme here is the twelve signs of the Chinese/Japanese zodiac.

Sukunahikona Jinja (right side)
Important spiritual features: It is not unusual for more than one shrine to exist on the same grounds. There are generally several reasons offered for this phenomena. One is the concept of a mini-pilgrimage which became popular from the medieval period when the idea of visiting more than one shrine or temple, to gain spiritual benefits, became more widespread. However, even during the Edo period, travel was restricted and costly. So the idea of enshrining famous and far-flung kami on the same site became popular. There was also a question of economics, especially when patronage of the Imperial House dried up as it did from time to time. This prompted the creation of the soja, a site that contained a number of the kami of the province. This is the case with Shizuoka Sengen Jinja. The primary difference here is that where most such structures at other shrines would be modest, many splendid buildings were lavished on this site by the Tokugawa who claimed Suruga no kuni (the old name for Shizuoka) as their home province. It is great luck that these buildings have survived.  Of the many shrines, three are considered to be primary. Of these, the kami of Asama or Sengen Jinja (two different readings of the same Chinese characters)—Konohanasakuya—is usually considered to be the kami of Mt. Fuji and is worshiped at all the Sengen Jinja. Onamuchi no mikoto of Kanbe Jinja is considered the ancestor of the Izumo clan and is the deity of Izumo taisha, Omiwa, and Hiyoshi Taisha. Otoshimioya no mikoto is considered a child of Susano-o, father (or grandfather) of Onamuchi and considered a kami of grains and the market place. He is therefore related to Onamuchi and the Izumo line of deities. He was considered the principle kami of Abe River and the area where the shrine is located.
           While the other shrines here are considered sessha and massha of the principle shrines, it seems that Hayama Jinja ranked on the same level prior to the Meiji period when shrines were reorganized and their rankings confirmed or changed. The deity of the shrine is Oyamatsumi, another of the Izumo line, but the great shrine authority R.A.B. Ponsonby-Fane believed it was originally Hayamatsumi one of the five mountain kami created when Izanagi cut off the head of the fire kami, Kagutsuchi. Hayamatsumi was created from his right hand, Oyamatsumi from the head of the fire kami. What is more to the point is that most of the kami here are related to mountains as one might expect.
           Sukunahikona is a kami closely associated with Onamuchi. He is a kami of grains and also of healing and paired with Onamuchi in "building" the land. Yachihoko is another name for Okuninushi no kami who is considered to be the transformed spirit of Onmononushi after he survived a number of trials by his father Susano-o and returned from yomi, the land of the dead. In fact there are so many alternate names for these kami that it is difficult to pin them down exactly. However, as I mentioned above, these kami in their various guises are enshrined at important mountains of the old Yamato polity such as Mt. Hie and Mt. Miwa.
Mt. Fuji
Description: Shizuoka Sengen Jinja is located in the heart of Shizuoka City, a short walk or bus ride from Shizuoka Station which is on the local and the Shinkansen Line. Since this shrine is not part of the Mt. Fuji World Heritage Site, about one hour by train or car from Fujinomia City where Fujisan Hongu Sengen is located, and far from the beginning of any climbing routes up the mountain, it is likely to be overlooked by foreign travelers. That would be a shame. It really is a most important shrine from the point of view of history, architecture and nature and well worth the trip. Located at the base of the small Shizuhatayama, it contains some beautiful old trees, a short hiking course through Shizuhata Park to the north (which also contains a pond), and splendid views of Mt. Fuij.

Festival: Reitaisai, 1~5 April. On the 5th there is a large procession of around one thousand participants and five dashi (called kuruma here) with musicians and pantomime.There is also a performance of bugaku at the buden on the shrine grounds. Other events throughout the week.