Showing posts with label oyamazumi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label oyamazumi. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Shrines of Day 67


For many pilgrims, I believe the main priority is to get from temple to temple. The temples are the focus. For me, however, the temples were just reference points on an exploratory walk. The sites between the temples were just as important, and I tried to stop in at every single shrine I passed, both to learn any interesting local history and myths, and to find unique and interesting art.

On Day 67 of my walk around the Shingon Kyushu pilgrimage, I started the day in Sasebo, Nagasaki, visiting a pilgrimage temple then headed north out of town to the Ainoura River valley. These first four photos are from Nakazato Hachiman Shrine, a fairly standard village shrine to Hachiman, by one count the most common shrine in Japan.

With its Hizen-style torii, and modern komainu, there were no surprises here. Like most village shrines numerous smaller shrines had been brought here from neighboring areas in the early part of the 20th century.

I visited nearby temple number 74, Tozenji before heading on up the valley. In Tabarucho I stopped in at Norito Shrine. A little further I saw the unusual shimenawa of Yodohime Shrine.

The next four photos are from my next stop, an unnamed Inari Shrine.

If you include small, roadside shrines without buildings, then Inari, rather than Hachiman, becomes the most common shrine in Japan.

The vast majority of Inari shrines only date back to the Edo period when Inari became so popular.

Continuing to climb my next stop was Kamiari Shrine.

There is absolutely no info on this shrine which was obviously more substantial in earlier times, but now is just a small, stone honden.

It enshrines Amaterasu.

Not far from Kamiari Shrine I spent quite a bit of time exploring Saikoji Temple, number 73 on the pilgrimage with a notable Giant Fudo statue. I had now climbed to more than 300 meters above sea level and while heading to a mountain tunnel that would take me over to the next valley I could see an Oyamazumi Shrine in tye distance set in a tell-tale grove of trees.

Dropping down into and then slowly descending the Sasa River Valley my first stop was another Oyamazumi Shrine, this one with a unique old-growth ecosystem. This was once a coal mining area and after a brief stop at the local coal mine museum I visited the last pilgrimage temple of the day, Saifukuji Temle with its cave shrine.

I carried on down the valley and just before reaching Yoshii Station and the train back into Sasebo I stopped in at a very small shrine. I have no idea of the shrines name as I couldnt read the eroded kanji on the torii, and can not find it on the map, but it did have a nice pair of komainu.

If you enjoyed this post you might also enjoy the post on shrines of day 66.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The Forest at Oyamazumi Shrine in Sechibaru


This Oyamazumi Shrine is located in Seechibaru Town in the high country north of Sasebo, and is one of several Oyamazumi shrines in the region.

Oyamatsumi was an older brother to Amaterasu and Susano and there are many shrines for him across Japan, the most famous being the one on Omishima Island which has the greatest collection of samurai armour and weapons in Japan in its collection.

What makes this particular local shrine of interest is the forest environment around it which is a rare example of old-growth forest in Japan.

It was designated a Natural Monument in 1972 primarily because it is home to a stand of Japanese Chinquapin trees, Castanopsis cuspidata, a tree related to Beech and Oak, it is an evergreen with edible nuts that grows to 20 to 30 meters in height. Covering less than 3 acres, is is very biodiverse with many other species of trees, both evergreen and deciduous, as well as numerous bushes and smaller plants including a rare fern.

Called Tsuburajii in Japanese, the dead wood of the Japanese Chinquapin is one of the best hosts for shiitake mushrooms and is actually the origin of the word shiitake itself. a combination of the Japanese kanji for tsuburajii(椎)  and take (mushroom)(茸).

The previous post was on Saikoji Temple which lies across the mountain in the valley I had walked up. I was now heading down the valley to the next pilgrimage temple.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Konomine Shrine


When you finally reach the entrance to Konomineji Temple, the 27th on the Shikoku Pilgrimage, the steps fork, left to the main gate of the temple, and right further on up the mountain to Konomine Shrine.

Founded, according to legend, by Gyoki in the 8th century, the shrine and temple were in fact one single sacred site, and where the shrine now stands was in all probability the original site. Nowadays the shrine is considered the okunoin, the inner sanctuary, of the temple, which also suggests it was the original site.

In 1869 things changed with the governments "separation of the Buddhas and Kami, a process akin to separating the white and the yolk from a scrambled egg. Several of the "temples" on the Shikoku pilgrimage were primarily shrines before this time, just as many of the now-famous shrines in Japan were actually temples.

Most of the pilgrims and visitors to the temple don't make the extra climb up to the shrine, and unlike the temple the shrine is uninhabited, so  its a little more rundown, although it is obvious it was a much grander place in former times. There are several other small shrines around the grounds too.

The main kami now enshrined here is Oyamazumi, a kami of mountains, in  a sense the "older brother" of Amaterasu, and a kami with strong ties to Izumo. The most well known shrine to Oyamazumi would be the one on Omisjima Island between Shikoku and Honshu. Amaterasu and some other kami are listed, but I would seriously think they are much later additions.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Enya Shrine

Enya Shrine is the tutelary shrine of Izumo and is located south of downtown. It used to be called Yamuya Shrine, and the main kami enshrined is Yamuyahiko and his wife Yamuyahime.

Yamuyahiko was a grandson of Okuninushi, and other than that I can find no information about him.

The shrine is very old, being listed in the Izumo Fudoki of 720, as well as the Engishiki.

Also enshrined in the main shrine is Kotoshironushi, Oyamazumi, and Ojin,.... a strange mix of kami. Enshrining Ojin makes it a hachimangu, though it is not officially named that,  it is considered the number one of Izumo's eight Hachimangu. Hachiman must have been enshrined here much later.

Secondary shrines within the precincts are to Inari, Tenjin, and Aragami, among others...

There was a nice pair of small, wooden komainu in the Zuijinmon.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Many hands, some feet: Kono Shrine

Where ever I go in Japan I am always on the lookout for shrines to explore. The number I have visited by now numbers in the thousands. My way favorite way to find shrines is by walking, but on car journeys my eyes are always peeled for torii. And so it was as we were driving up Rte 53 heading towards Tottori City passing through Chizu Town.


Kono Shrine, known locally as Nyakuichisan, appeared to be a fairly standard village shrine, but the whole point of exploring is to see if there is anything interesting or unusual. And here there certainly was.....

Inside the main shrine building was shelf upon shelf of wooden cutouts of hands and feet. They are a form of ema, votive tablet, and here is where you come if you have any kind of problem with your hands or feet.


Many of the ema were made by the local priest, and a stack was left in front of the building for petitioners to take and use. The priest asks for nothing in return, but the I suspect the saisenbako ( the wooden box on the front steps of shrines for donations) contains more money than most do. You write your name and address on the ema and then leave at the shrine. An unusual variation on the custom of leaving ema here is that if your prayers are answered, and you receive relief or healing for whatever ailment you were suffering, then you come back a second time and leave a second ema as thanks to the kami.


The origin of this custom lies in a legend from Okayama, south of Chizu. There was a benevolent giant name of Sanbutaro ( or Sanbotaro). He was so large that he could reach Kyoto in only three strides!! His head was buried down in Okayama, but for some reason that I have been unable to find out, his hands and feet were buried here.


Kono shrine is an amalgamation of 4 local shrines, so there are seven main kami enshrined here in all. The first, Susano, is well known to anyone who reads this blog. He is my favorite kami and the culture hero who created Izumo culture. According to Yamato mythology he is the brother of Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess ancestor of the Imperial clan. The second is Onamuchi, which is another name for Okuninushi, the Izumo kami who "gave" Japan to the descendants of Amaterasu. Okuninushi is either the son of, or the 6th generation descendant of Susano, depending on which version of the myths you read. Most myths associated with Okuninushi take place in Inaba, the old name for Tottori. The third is Oyamazumi, the great Mountain God. He is the older brother of Amaterasu and Susano, and one of his daughters married Ninigi, Amaterasu's grandson who descended from heaven and took over Japan from Okuninushi. The son from this marriage was Jimmu, the mythical first emperor of Japan. The fourth is Uganomitama which is a kami of grains, and seems to be a female aspect of the similar Ukanomitama. Nowadays equated with Inari. A child of Susano and another daughter of Oyamazumi. Confused? There's more.....


The fifth is Oshihominomikoto, the father of Ninigi, and therefore the son of Amaterasu. Actually Oshihomi was one of 5 boys created by Susano which he gave to Amaterasu. She created 3 girls that she gave to Susano ( the Munakata sisters). The sixth is Hikohohodeminomikoto, a son of Ninigi. The seventh is Homusubi, the kami of fire, whose birth killed his mother Izanami. A sibling of Amaterasu, Susano, and Oyamazumi. Lots of incest in the genealogy of the kami!!!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tanzan Shrine


Probably the first thing you notice at Tanzan Shrine is the rather unusual 13-story pagoda. Pagodas are of course Buddhist, and this was a temple and monastery complex until the government made it a "shinto" shrine in early Meiji.


The pagoda was built on top of the bones of Kamatari Nakatomi by his son Joe Fujiwara and the temple was primarily a private family mausoleum until later when it came under the wing of the Tendai sect and expanded.


Nearby is where Kamatari met with Prince Nakano Oe (later Emperor Tenji) and plotted the assasination of Soga no Iruka.

The Soga were the most powerful clan and most probably ruled Japan at that time, the Imperial family being mere figureheads (like they were for most of history). After their fall the Fujiwara ( the new family name of the Nakatomi) in essence ruled Japan for the next 1,000 years or more.

The history of the ruling elites of Japan, like many other places, reads like a gangster novel, assasinations, plots, revenge, inter-gang warfare, etc. and in truth the distinction between gangster and ruler is a very fine one indeed.


Leading away from the main building a line of torii lead to 3 shrines to Inari. There are in fact and incredibly large number of Inaris, though there are collectively lumped together as one.

There are numerous other sub-shrines within the grounds, a Shinmei Shrine dedicated to Amaterasu, a Sugiyama Shrine dedicated to Isotakeru, the son of Susano that came with him from Korea, the local Mountain God, an Okami Shrine to Suijin the water god, and a branch of Hie Shrine enshrining Oyamazumi, probably dating from the time the Tendai sect took over the temple.


When I went to Tanzan many years ago it was hard to reach, even though it is close to Asuka, though now they have built a new road directly from Asuka that I believe is open.

Tanzan is very popular during the Fall when the leaves are changing.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Asuka Nimasu Shrine


Asuka Nimasu Shrine in Asuka, the ancient capital of early Japan is a very old shrine and is one of the possible sources of the name of Asuka.

The three main kami enshrined here are Kotoshironushi, Takamimusubi, and Kayanarumi.

Kotoshironushi is an Izumo kami, one of Okuninushi's sons, nowadays equated with Ebisu. Kayanarumi is a daughter of Kotoshironushi, and Takamimusubi is one of the three "creator" kami. In some versions of the Kuniyuzuri myth that explains the ceding of Japan from Okuninushi to the Yamato, it is Takamimusubi who orders the process and not Amaterasu, and in fact Ninigi who descends to rule over Japan is the grandson of both Amaterasu and Takamimusubi.

Kayanarumi is the most interesting of the three, and an alternate name for her is Asuka no Kannabi mi Hime no kami, and this relates to what happened after Kuniyuzuri. Okuninushi decided to place himself and several of his relatives in the Kannabi (sacred mountains) surrounding Yamato, and Kayanarumi was placed in a mountain in Asuka, so it seems likely that she was the original main kami of the shrine.


There are a lot of secondary shrines within the grounds, enshrining Onamuchi (the name of Okuninushi enshrined in nearby Miwa), Oyamazumi, an Asuka Yamaguchi Shrine, and Sarutahiko.


There is also an Inari Shrine, one for Konpira, one for Daijingu, and one for Shirahige, a Korean god brought over with immigrants who settled in the Lake Biwa area.


When we look at some of the things for sale in the small office of the shrine it becomes clear what the focus of the shrine is,..... fertility!

This is a male/female sake cup.


The shrine is home to a famous matsuri, the Onda matsuri, which includes a performance with masked dancers that includes explicit representations of the sex act.