Thursday, October 9, 2008

Izumo Taisha Shrine, Hamada


This branch shrine of Izumo Taisha is just off busy Route 9 in Hamada, sandwiched between modern concrete buildings. Like its parent shrine, the great Izumo Taisha, it has an unusually large shimenawa. Most people I know in Hamada come here for Hatsunode, the first shrine visit of the new year.


Most shrines in Japan are now branch shrines. The "spirit" of the kami at the head shrine is "divided" and brought to the new location. Sometimes this was done by the rulers, as is the case with Hachiman shrines which were spread by the samurai. Sometimes the kami is brought by travelling shugenja, as with Akiba and Atago shrines, and sometimes the kami is brought by a delegation of villagers who travelled to the main shrine, such as Konpira.


The identities of the kami have changed over time, and they also often have a buddhist identity. The kami of Izumo Taisha, Okuninushi, was more commonly known as Daikoku, one of the seven lucky gods. According to the ancient Yamato legends, Okuninushi "gave" Japan to the Yamato, although there are no stories of him in Izumo itself, he being based in what is now Tottori. Okuninushi is associated with marriage, and like its parent shrine in Izumo, this shrine also has a wedding hall attached to it.


  1. Hello Jake.

    I've heard many times that Izumo Taisha is the oldest shrine in Japan, but I often heard the locals of yakumo say that their shrine, Kumano Taisha is older. Any thoughts on this?

    Kumano Taisha is gorgeous. I recommend a visit on Setsubu (hope for snow) or their September Niwabisai world music event.

  2. Izumo Taisha's claim is based on the Kojiki, when the Yamato built a "palace" for Okuninushi. As this is before the descent from heaven of the Yamato, and as history begins with the Yamato, its the oldest. In fact it was built in the 7th century. There were no shrines "built" until after buddhist temples had been built. Izumo Taisha did not become an important shrine until the tenth century. It celebrates the Yamato take-over of Izumo. There are many older shrines in Izumo. Early record also indicate that Izumo Taisha's kami was originally Susano, but the Yamato denigrated Susano and "hyped" Okuninushi as he was "their guy"

  3. Hi there,

    That's an amazing building.
    Love the dragon.