Friday, December 5, 2008

Gokoku Shrine, Hamada


Gokoku shrines are considered branches of the infamous Yasukuni Shrine. "Nation Protecting Shrines" enshrine those who died for the country, though originally that meant for the Emperor. The Hamada shrine enshrines almost 29,000 individuals.


The original Gokoku shrine was built in Kyoto in 1869. When the Emperor moved to the new capital of Tokyo a second one was built. This became the Yasukuni Shrine.


I find shrines built in the Meiji period to be quite sterile. They are usually built for Emperors and those that served emperors, and are very much the essence of the nationalistic cult known as State Shinto. Meiji era shrines are usually lacking in any natural connection to place. The Hamada shrine is built on the hill where Hamada castle once stood, I suspect to give it an association of authority. The Gokoku shrine in Matsue is also built on the castle hill there.


From the shrine one can climb up the hill past the stone foundations of the old castle. Built in 1620, the Lord of Hamada burnt it down in 1866 to stop it falling into the hands of the advancing Choshu forces.


There are fine views from the top of the hill, and is a popular place to view cherry blossoms in the spring.


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