Monday, August 21, 2017

Munakata Taisha Nakatsu-Gu In Ohshima Island

This is the entry inspired by the decision made by The World Heritage Committee held in Krakow in July, 2017. "Sacred island of Okinoshima and associated sites in the Munakata" is now in UNESCO's world heritage site list!

Okinoshima Island (沖ノ島) is located midway between the Kyushu island and the Korean peninsula. The sacred island, along with three nearby reefs and four other related sites were given world heritage status at the UN body’s annual summit in Krakow, Poland.

Okinishima is 97 hectares (240 acres) island invisible in the scale of this map...

In principle, Okinoshima is owned by Munakata Grand shrine (宗像大社) and only the shinto priest can reside in the sacred island. No women are ever permitted to land Okinoshima. It could be due to the fact that enshrined deity, Tagirihime (タギリヒメ)" is a female deity who are jealous at the same gender... If you are a man, there is a only one way to land. Until this year, only 200 jackpod "male" winners are permitted to land for attending the annual ritual ceremony that takes place on the 27th of May. The chance is only once a year!!!!

You may wonder why on 27th of May???

Because it's one day after my birthday...  


Tsushima battle in 1905 (Image from Wikipedia)

The data is set based on the fact that in 1905 the then-shinto priest eyewitnessed the battle of Tsushima (or Naval Battle of the Sea of Japan), a major naval battle fought between Russia and Japan during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05). 

On my birthday, 26th of May, 200 lucky men who are blessed by Tagirihime female shinto deity get together in Ohshima island (大島), located between Okinoshima and Kyushu, and stay one night there. Everybody can land on Ohshima island and all the photos I posted here were taken in Ohshima island where Munakata Taisha Nanatsu-gu (宗像大社中津宮) is located. Next day, they head for Okinoshima island. Before they go ashore, they must observe centuries-old rituals, including taking their clothes off and undergoing misogi ()– bathing naked in the sea to rid themselves of impurities (see video above!!!). 

They are prohibited from taking home mementoes, including small objects such twigs, pebbles and blades of grass, according to the island’s websiteThe objective of permitting 200 men in sacred island is to honour sailors who died in a nearby naval battle during the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese war.

After visiting Ohshima island, landing on Okinoshima sacred island became one of my "must visit" destination list.

However, Takayuki Ashizu, the chief priest at Munakata Taisha, said the ban on tourism – and women – would stay in place, despite a flood of inquiries from travel agencies.

We wouldn’t open Okinoshima to the public even if it is inscribed on the Unesco cultural heritage list, because people shouldn’t visit out of curiosity.” Ashizu told the Japan Times last year... 

Oh, well. One of my dream's over.... 
Hang on. There are two ways to land Okinoshima. One is to be a shinto priest at Munakata shrine and the second is to be a scholar in shinto history and land for research! 

It takes 15- 25 min to get to Ohshima island by ferry from mainland Kyushu island (time table is available only in Japanese here). It costs ¥560 JPY one way (adult).

To be continued...

Monday, November 21, 2016

Takami Shrine

Takami shrine (高見神社) is located at the heart of Kitakyushu city, Fukuoka Prefecture.

In the main hall 12 enshrined deities include (1) Amenominakanushi (天之御中主神), (2) Takamimusubi (髙御産巣日神), (3) Kamimusubi (神産巣日神), (4) Umashiashikabihikoji (可美葦芽彦遅神), (5) Amenotokotachi (天之常立神), (6) Kuninotokotachi (国之常立神), (7) Toyokumonu (豊雲野神), (8) Amaterasu (天照大御神), (9) Amenooshihomimi (天忍穂耳命), (10) Ninigi (皇孫瓊々杵命), (11) Hikohohodemi/Hoori (彦穂々手見命), (12) Ugayafukiaezu (鵜萱葺不合命). 


I am afraid that not so many readers are familiar with them, except (8) Amaterasu (天照大御神) but I tell you that they all are really big names and the list of them are like all star game members to me!!

The first 5 deities are collectively called "Kotoamatsukami (別天津神), who appeared at the time of the creation of the universe in Japan methodologies, Kojiki and Nihon Shoki. Unlike the later gods, these deities were born without any procreation. They are asexual and also called "Hitorigami (独神)". They are described as hiding themselves away once they achieved awareness. 

Later on, seven deities called "Kamiyonanayo - Seven Generations of the Age of the Gods"(神世七代)" appeared with whom (6) Kuninotokotachi (国之常立神) and (7) Toyokumonu (豊雲野神) are included. I would like to list the remaining 5 deities of Seven Generations but I should omit here... So let's continue introducing the remaining enshrined deities.

(8) Amaterasu's son is (9) Amenooshihomimi (天忍穂耳命), the son of (9) Amenooshihomimi (天忍穂耳命) is (10) Ninigi (皇孫瓊々杵命), Ninigi's son is (11) Hikohohodemi/Hoori (彦穂々手見命/ホオリ or Yamasachihiko/山幸彦) and Hoori's son is (12) Ugayafukiaezu (鵜萱葺不合命) who is a father of the first Emperor Jimmu (Iwarebiko)!!!

Again Whew!!!

In Wakamiya (若宮社), Emperor Nintoku (大雀命/仁徳天皇) and his wife Iwanohime (石之比売命) are enshrined.

In Sougozen (惣御前社) three female deities called "Munakata three sister deities Takiribine (多紀理毘売命), Ichikishimabine (市杵島比売命) and Tagitsuhime (多岐都比売命)" are enshrined. They are born in the ritual ceremony "Ukei (誓約)" made between Amaterasu and Susanoo, younger brother of Amaterasu.

At last in Saishu (歳守社) Ohkuni (大己貴命) and Toyoukebine (豊受姫命) are enshrined. Ohkuni is well known deity enshrined in Izumo ohyashiro (出雲大社) whereas Toyoukebine is know to be enshrined at Geguu (outer palace/外宮) in Ise grand shrine (伊勢神宮). This combination of deities is bit bizarre to me as I can't find significant relationship between them... 

Whew!!! One more time.

While preparing this entry, I found intriguing fact that the in such a small area there are seven shrines named "Takami shrine"!!!

1. 鷹見神社 4-5-1, Inokuma, Mizukami, Onga, Fukuoka, 807-0001
2. 鷹見神社折尾 10-56, Minami-takami, Yahatanishi, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, 807-0833
3. 高見神社 7-15, Norimatsu, Yahatanishi, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, 807-0831 
4. 鷹見神社 2-13-9, Einomaru, Yahatanishi, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, 807-0851
5. 鷹見神社 2-13-6, Anoo, Yahatanishi, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, 806-0049
6鷹見神社 Ichinose, Yahatanishi, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, 806-0063
7. 高見神社 1-1-1, Takami, Yahatahigashi, Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, 805-0016 - this is the one I visited.

I repeat. The pronunciation is the same but two different Kanjis are used for "Taka" - one is 高/hight and the second is 鷹/falcon. 

Family emblem of the shrine, falcon feathers

Guess what

The family emblem of all shrines holds the same, falcon feather (鷹羽). This was my first time to see the unique emblem in my eyes!!!

Main Hall

It is said that the shrine was founded when Empress Jingu visited the hill by Doukai bay (洞海湾) where she prayed for the triumph of conquering the southern part of Korea/三韓征伐 (around AD 200???) by enshrining twelve ancestral deities of Royal family (= her ancestors) that are list above.

In 1896 when Yawata (or Yahata) Steel Works (八幡製鐵所 ) was launched there, the spirits of enshrined deities were transferred to the Toyoyama Hachiman shrine (豊山八幡神社) where the spirits stayed for 37 years.

The current Takami shrine was established in 1933 due to the celebration of current 125th Emperor Akihito, as well as the establishment of Japan Iron & Steel Co., Ltd (日本製鐵株式會社 1934-1950)...

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Shikaumi Shrine

Shikaumi shrine (志賀海神社) is located in Shikanoshima island (志賀島), Fukuoka Prefecture (福岡県).Shikanoshima is indeed an island, however, it is connected to Kyushu island via Umi no nakamichi (海の中道), which is a tombolo.

So called "Watatsumi sanshin (= three deities related to the sea/綿津見三神) are enshrined. "Wata" means ocean (海) in Ancient Japanese, "tsu" means 'of/の' and "mi" means spirit. After passing the Tower gate (楼門), three main halls are ahead of you. From the left through middle to right; Naka(=middle/)tsuwatatsumi (仲津綿津見神), Soko(=bottom/底)tsuwatatsumi (底津綿津見神) and Uwa(=surface/表)tsuwatatsumi (表津綿津見神) are enshrined, respectively. 

They appear in the chapter called "Kamiumi (=the birth of the gods/神産み)" in Japanese mythologiesKojiki (古事記) and Nihon shoki (日本書紀). When Izanagi (イザナギ) came back from Yomi (=the world of the death/黄泉), he performed "misogi (the purification ceremony/禊)" through which numerous deities are born (Purification of Izanagi). Watatsumi three deities are born at the same time as Sumiyoshi three deities (住吉三神) were.

Tiny divine bridge in front of romon gate

In Japanese mythology, Azumi clan (安曇氏) claims to be the descendant of Watatsumi sanshin. They are believed to be one of the main marine traders and later on they scattered all over Japan. When the town is named "Azumi" (阿曇/安曇) or "Atsumi" (厚見/厚海/渥美/阿積/泉/熱海/飽海), they are likely to be the places where Azumi clan used to settle!!!

Oh dear...!

In the precinct of the shrine, more than 10,000 deer horns are dedicated in the Rokkakudo hall (鹿角堂).

It was so unfortunate that it was raining when I visited there (as you can see from photos above) because Shikanoshima island (志賀島) is such a breathtaking place!!! 

Please enjoy official video of Shikaumi shrine!!!

As all of visitor are aware of, I am Shinto geek (otaku), visiting as many shrines as possible when I am in Japan. Shikaumi shrine is definitely one of my favorite shrines utterly worth visiting!!! I bet I will visit once again when the weather is nice xD.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Hofu Tenmangu

Hofu Tenmangu (防府天満宮), located in Hofu city (防府市), Yamaguchi Prefecture (山口県), is one of the three main shrines dedicated to Tenjin (天神), Michizane Sugawara (菅原道真). The other two major Tenmangu include Kitano Tenmangu (北野天満宮) in Kyoto and Dazaifu Tenmangu (太宰府天満宮) in Fukuoka.

Rohmon Gate (楼門)

The shrine claims to be the oldest Tenmangu estabiished a year after the death of Michizane Sugawara in AD 904. The precinct of the shrine is believed to be one of the places where Michizane Sugawara stopped by when he was exiled to Dazaifu (太宰府) where he passed away in 903. Fujiwara clan members who plotted his downfall believed that Michizane passed away with grudges...

The first Torii gate
Soon after his death the Kyoto citizen in the capital suffered from natural disasters. Since the dehydration persisted since his death, the ritual ceremony to pray for rain took place in June 26th, 930. After the praying dark and thick clouds appeared and covered the Heian capital. 

In principle, the ceremony was successful!!! 
Except the following unexpected incident...

Shimenawa pillars
An after the long-awaited rainfall, the palace was struck by lightning, resulting in several casualties who grabbed the power in the palace. Three months after eyewitnessing the unprecedented disaster, Emperor Daigo passed away.  Based upon the "coincidence", Michizane is worshipped as Tenmandaijizai Tenjin (天満大自在天神).

In AD 909 Tokihira Fujiwara (藤原時平), who expelled Michizane, passed away at the age of 39. Besides epidemic diseases were rife all over. Prince Yasuakira (保明親王), the second son of Emperor Daigo, passed away in AD 923 and his son, Yoshiyori (慶頼王), grandchild of Emperor Daigo, passed away, too in AD 925.

The statue of cow is always somewhere in Tenmangu shrine because there are several folklore saying that "Michizane's Chinese animal is cow", "He had a ride in cow when he was exiled to Dazaifu.", "He loved cow and was loved by cow.", "Cow saved him from assassination.", "The place of Dazaifu Tenmangu was assigned by his cow.", and s on... Cow is considered as a Messenger of God" in Tenmangu shrines.

Tenmangu is located in the Hofu city center and contributed to the development of the town since its foundation.

Panoramic view of the town is all yours (free of charge)!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hakozakigu Ikejimaden

This is a part two entry of Hakozakigu (筥崎宮) in Fukuoka Prefecture. 

To the east, there are complex of auxiliary shrines called sessha (摂社). Myriad of hanging straw sandals were hung up there, which caught my attention...

From right to left Ikejima Palace (池島殿), Takeuchi shrine (武内社), Otokogu Palace (乙子宮), Sumiyoshi Palace (住吉殿), Inari shrine (稲荷社)
Enshrined deity in Ikejima Palace are Kagutsuchi (賀具土命), Okutsuhiko (奥津彦命) and Okutsuhime (奥津彦姫). The name of the Palace, Ikejima came from the fact that there used to be a pond (ike/池) and an island (shima or jima/島) in the pond. 

As far as I know Kaguchuchi is a god of fire, however, here Kaguchuchi has been worshipped as a deity of healing diseases related to feet and hands. It makes sense that people who suffer from limb diseases come to visit there and pray. When the disease is cured, they deposit straw sandals...

The remaining deities, Okutsuhiko and Okutsuhime, are also know to be the deity of fire in cooking stove... They are all related to fire somehow...

The annual ritual ceremony (池島殿祭) takes place on the 27th of June (starting at 11 AM).

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Hakozakigu (筥崎宮) is the most prestigious shrine in Chikuzen Province (筑前国) and considered to be one of the three great Hachimangu in Japan. The other two involve Iwashimizu Hachimangu (岩清水八幡宮) in Kyoto and Usa Jingu (宇佐神宮) in Usa city, Ohita Prefecture. Hako (筥) means oval-shaped box.

Since the shrine is named Hachimangu, the enshrined deities are 15th Emperor Ohjin (応神天皇), his mom Empress Jingu (神功皇后), and Tamayorohime (玉依姫).

The shrine started it's history in AD 921 when the spirits of above enshrined deities were transferred from Daibu Hachimangu (大分八幡宮) located in Fukuoka Prefecture. Initially Hakozakigu was located by the Genkai sea (玄界灘). Two years later (AD 923) it was moved to the current location.

The shrine is famous for its plaque "敵国降伏" denoting "Surrender of the hostile nation". The plaque was the enlarged version of its original one written in plain paper by the 60th Emperor Daigo (醍醐天皇) in AD 922. He prepared 37 copies because the main hall was composed of 34 pillars and three deities were enshrined (altogether 37). Besides he was 37 years old when he wrote. It became well-known when Emperor Kameyama (亀山天皇) wrote it in AD 1274 because Mongol invasion (元寇) took place then.

As you can see, it was raining like crazy when I was there:(((

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Iminomiya Shrine

Iminomiya Shrine (忌宮神社) is the second prestigious shrine (Ninomiya/二ノ宮) in Nagato Province (長門国 currently a part of Yamaguchi Prefecture). The precinct of shrine is considered to be the place where 14th Emperor Chuai (仲哀天皇) stayed for seven years during his conquest of Kumaso (熊襲平定) and built the Palace called Toyoura no Mia (豊浦宮) in AD 192.

The enshrined deities are Emperor Chiai, of course, his wife, Empress Jingu (神功皇后), and their offspring, Emperor Ohjin (応神天皇).

After taking government affairs there for 7 years there, Emperor Chuai, along with Empress Jingu, moved to Kashiigu (please check my entry) in Tsukushi Province. In AD 199, Emperor Chuai passed away...

According to the Nihon Shoki, Empress Jingu led an army in an invasion of Korea and returned to Japan victorious after three years. However, there is no evidence of her rule in any part of Korea. Anyway, it is said that she stopped by 

Iminomiya Shrine on her way back from Korea and enshrined her husband, Emperor Chuai in the shrine...

As you can see in photos, there are tons of pigeons and some chickens all over and I was just overwhelmed by them... Well, to be honest, I was bit scared at them (yes, I am a chicken-shit) but the local lass had no problem with getting along with them!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Maroudo Shrine in Itsukushima Shrine

This is part five entry of Itsukushima shrine (厳島神社) in Miyajima island.

Maroudo shrine purification hall

Let's assume that you are approaching the shrine from the big torii gate that looks floating in the ocean. To the left there is sessha shrine (摂社/subordinate to main one) called Maroudo (= guest) shrine (客神社). In reality, this is the first shrine visitors worshipping and praying as this is the closest shrine from the entrance.


The family crest of Itsukushima shrine is called "Mitsumori nijuukikkou ni kenhanabishi  (三つ盛り二重亀甲に剣花菱) meaning triplet (三盛り) double-tortoiseshells (二重亀甲) embedding swords () and diamond-shaped flower (花菱). This crest is well known as that of Izumo Ooyashiro (出雲大社), although Izumo has the singular form. Just to remind you that Izumo Ooyashiro enshrines Okuni (大国主), BTW.

Itsukushima shrine family crest - triplet
Is there a relationship between Itsukushima shrine and Izumo Ooyashiro???


Family crest of Izumo Taisha at Yatsuashimon (= 8 legged gate)

Five male deities, Masakatsuakatsukachihayahi amenooshihomimi (マサカツアカツカチハヤヒアメノオシホミミ), Amenohohi (アメノホヒ), Amatsuhikone (アマツヒコネ), Ikutsuhikone (イクツヒコネ), and Kumanokusubi (クマノクスビ) are enshrined in Maroudo shrine. These dudes are born by ritual ceremony called "Ukei (= covenant trial by pledge/誓約)", made between Amaterasu (アマテラス) and Susanoo (スサノヲ). Since they were born from Amaterasu's accessory (アマテラスの玉) named "Yasakaninoihomisumaru (八坂瓊之五百箇御統)", they are considered to be offsprings of Amaterasu.
Needless to say, three enshrined deities, Takiribime (タキリビメ), Ichikishimahime (イチキシマヒメ), and Tagitsuhime (タキツヒメ) in Itsukushima shrine were also born during Ukei ceremony. The name of the shrine came from Ichikishimahime, BTW. Since they were born from Susanoo's sword (スサノヲの剣) named "Totsukanotsurugi (十拳剣)", they are considered to be Susanoo's offsprings.

Image from Wiki
It should be mentioned that the probable reason why Izumo Ooyashiro and Itsukushima shrine share the same type of family crest is that Izumokuninomiyakko (出雲国造) clan, who's been taking care of all the ritual ceremonies in Izumo Ooyashiro, declares that they are descendent from Amenohohi (天穂日命). When you see shrines having this type of family crest, enshrined deities must have something to do with above mentioned five male and three female deities.

On the other hand, shinto priest at Itsukushima shrine has been heredity of Saeki clan (佐伯氏). Kuramoto Saeki (佐伯鞍職), the first shinto priest, received divine message from Ichikishimahime and built Itsukushima shrine in AD 593. The family crest of Saeki family is Gyouyou Kuyou (杏葉九曜 see below) that is different from shrine's family crest. This is probably because Saeki clan is a prominent deity in Aki province but they are not descendant from three enshrined deities.

Saeki clan's family emblem-杏葉九曜
Collectively, five male deities enshrined in maroudo shrine and three female deities enshrined in main hall are siblings and that's why five brothers are invited to be at maroudo shrine.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Sumiyoshi Shrine In Shimonoseki City Part 2

This is part 2 entry of Sumiyoshi shrine (住吉神社) in Shimonoseki city.

To the eastern part of the shrine there is a big and old camphor tree that is believed to be planted by Takenouchi Sukune around 1800 years ago. To be precise, the current tree with the trunk 60 meter in girth grows from an old stump. 

Divine tree planted by Takenouchi Sukune

Takenouchi Sukune is enshrined in the middle of Main hall, facing just in front of Haiden hall. When you stand in front of Haiden hall and ring the bell in the middle, then you are praying to him. 

"Why is he enshrined there?", you may wonder.

He is a legendary statesman serving under fifth emperors (KeikoSeimuChuaiOhjin, and Nintoku). Although there is no reliable record in terms of his age, he is known for his longevity. For instance, according to Mizukagami (水鏡) that was written in the early Kamakura period around 1195, he passed away at the age of 280 in Nintoku 55th (AD367).
According to Kojiki, twenty seven clans declared to be descendent from him. These clans include Soga (蘇我), Kose (巨勢), Ki (), and so on... He is enshrined at several shrines such as Koura Taisha (高良大社), Ichinomiya in Chikugo Province, Ube shrine (宇倍神社), Ichinomiya in Inaba Province, and a couple of more.

1 Yen issued in 1916

His portrait was featured in the old version of banknotes of the Japanese yen