Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Akiba Shrine, Nishigamo, Kyoto.


In the foothills of NW Kyoto City stands Kyoto Golf Club. Bisecting the convoluted course is a narrow valley reached by a small road that passes Shakuhachi Pond. After passing under the bridge traversed by the golf carts one comes to Akiba Shrine. Enshrined here is one of the Fire Protection deities. There are many Akiba Shrines scattered throughout Japan, the original shrine is in Shizuoka, and the Akiba cult was spread by Yamabushi, the mountain warrior monks of the shugendo religion.


The shrine is in a state of poor repair, and seems abandoned, but on closer inspection one sees that the altars in front of the small hondens have fresh offerings placed upon them.

There is also a small Inari shrine, also with fresh offerings. Probably no priests visit the shrine. Akiba (sometimes pronounced Akiha) is classified as a "folk" kami, which basically means its very popular but has nothing to do with the Imperial kami that State Shinto is based on.


Further evidence of the Shugendo connection is the small altar to Fudo Myojin, a Buddhist deity of Indian origin that was particularly revered by followers of Shugendo. The altar is at a water purification spot, the channel above brings ice-cold mountain water which falls onto the yamabushi in a form of water purification. Shugendo was outlawed by the Meiji government in their drive to create the national State religion of Shinto. It became legal again after 1945, but is now just a pale imitation of what it was.


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