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Shinto Shrines

Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion

Joseph Cali
with John Dougill
illustrations by Geoff Ciotti
Copyright Date: 2013
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  • Book Info
    Shinto Shrines
    Book Description:

    Of Japan’s two great religious traditions, Shinto is far less known and understood in the West. Although there are a number of books that explain the religion and its philosophy, this work is the first in English to focus on sites where Shinto has been practiced since the dawn of Japanese history. In an extensive introductory section, authors Joseph Cali and John Dougill delve into the fascinating aspects of Shinto, clarifying its relationship with Buddhism as well as its customs, symbolism, and pilgrimage routes. This is followed by a fully illustrated guide to 57 major Shinto shrines throughout Japan, many of which have been designated World Heritage Sites or National Treasures. In each comprehensive entry, the authors highlight important spiritual and physical features of the individual shrines (architecture, design, and art), associated festivals, and enshrined gods. They note the prayers offered and, for travelers, the best times to visit. With over 125 color photographs and 50 detailed illustrations of archetypical Shinto objects and shrines, this volume will enthrall not only those interested in religion but also armchair travelers and visitors to Japan alike.

    Whether you are planning to visit the actual sites or take a virtual journey, this guide is the perfect companion.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-3775-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
    (pp. 7-58)

    This book is about visiting a small selection of the roughly eighty thousand Shinto shrines that exist in Japan today. It is also about the traditions embodied in these shrines as well as the festivals and rites that unite the Japanese people with those traditions. It provides information on Shinto architecture, history, rituals, and deities in general, and on a number of shrines in particular. We hope it will enrich your shrine-going experience.

    Shinto is the older of Japan’s two main belief systems, not in the sense of an organized religion with the name Shinto, but in the various local...

  4. TOKYO

    • Akasaka Hikawa Jinja
      (pp. 61-63)

      The shrine was established in 951 during the reign of Emperor Murakami (r. 946–67). The present shrine was built at the behest of Tokugawa Yoshimune (1684–1751), the eighth Tokugawa shogun, when he had it moved here from nearby Akasaka Mitsuke. It is a small, modestly appointed,gongen-zukuristructure (with thehaiden,heidenandhondenconnected under one roof), none of the usual carving, and a limited use of gold. This is said to be due to the attitude of frugality that was a hallmark of Yoshimune’s administration. Thehondenis innagare-zukuristyle, and thehaidenisirimoya-zukuri....

    • Asakusa Jinja
      (pp. 63-66)

      Asakusa Jinja is a rare case in Tokyo. It is a shrine built in 1649 that survived the Great Meireki Fire of 1657, the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, and the destruction of Tokyo during World War II. That is more than can be said for its larger neighbor, Sensoji, which, though less than fifty feet away, has been destroyed and rebuilt a number of times, most recently in 1958.

      Asakusa Jinja is built in a variation ongongen-zukuri, as were most of the shrines built under the sponsorship of the Tokugawa.Gongen-zukuriis a Buddhist-influenced style that begins here...

    • Kameido Tenjinsha
      (pp. 67-70)

      Kameido Tenjinsha lies some distance east of the Sumida River off Kuramae-dori, the same street that continues across the river and runs past Kanda Jinja. Like most major thoroughfares, it has become lined with tall, ugly buildings. Kameido Tenjinsha is a bit of a relief from the blight that engulfs the modern city and takes us back to the charmingukiyo-eprints of Edo-era Tokyo scenes. Kameido has managed to retain several of the features of that time gone by, albeit in somewhat altered form, although the building is a postwar reproduction in reinforced concrete. It shows the Buddhist influence...

    • Kanda Jinja (Kanda Myojin)
      (pp. 70-75)

      Kanda Myojin is the older and better-known name of the shrine that is properly called Kanda Jinja. It sits in an old section of Tokyo, just north of Ochanomizu and the Kanda River As elsewhere in Tokyo, the structures here are rather new. There are three great disasters to consider when speaking about the age of buildings in Tokyo: the Great Meireki Fire of 1657 that consumed most of the city, the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 that caused similar devastation, and the firebombing of 1945 that burned Tokyo to bits. Though the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are...

    • Meiji Jingu
      (pp. 75-80)

      Meiji Jingu stands near the center of Tokyo on approximately 173 acres of forested land. The grounds contain of over 245 species of trees, which number about 170,000 in all. The trees were donated by citizens and carefully chosen to create a natural-looking forest that would prosper in the heart of the city. One of the main trees (said to number 22,000) is theinu tsuge, a member of the holly family used on the periphery of the grounds and elsewhere. This is because by the Taisho period (1912–26) Tokyo was already becoming polluted and the holly is pollution-tolerant. A...

    • Nezu Jinja
      (pp. 81-83)

      One of the rare cases of a Tokyo shrine that has survived the 1923 earthquake and World War II, Nezu Jinja comes to us largely intact from its 1706 rebuilding. Though not much is known about its early years, it was considered theujigami(guardian spirit) of Tokugawa Ieyasu’s great-great-grandson, Ienobu. Ota Dokan (1432–86) is believed to have rebuilt the shrine in its original location in Sendagi (one train stop to the north). Dokan also built Edo Castle and is credited with rebuilding a number of Tokyo shrines. The shrine was moved to Nezu and rebuilt during the Edo...

    • Tomioka Hachimangu
      (pp. 84-87)

      The area east of the Sumida River where Tomioka Hachimangu stands is called Fukagawa. It once stretched almost to Ryogoku in the north and right down to Tokyo Bay in the south. In the early twentieth century it was the most watery of the city’s neighborhoods, claiming 140-odd bridges. Some of the land occupied by the shrine was turned into a park in 1873, making it one of the oldest in the country. At that time, the eightkamimentioned above were moved from demolished sub-shrines (sesshaandmassha) into thehonden.

      The shrine itself follows thehachimanzukuristyle set...

    • Ueno Toshogu
      (pp. 87-91)

      Thesandoof Ueno Toshogu starts as one of the streets emanating from the mall south of the Grand Fountain of Ueno Park, just to the left of the statue of Prince Komatsu on a horse. More accurately, it begins at the large black graniteryobu-styletoriifrom 1633 that stands a short distance from the statue. The stone lantern from 1632 to the front left of thetoriiis twenty-three feet tall and considered one of the three largest stone lanterns of Japan, alongside those in Atsuta Jingu in Nagoya and Nanzenji in Kyoto. It is called theoishidoro...

    • Yasukuni Jinja
      (pp. 91-95)

      Established by Emperor Meiji in 1869, Yasukuni Jinja occupies about twenty-five acres of land in the Kudanshita district of Tokyo. It sits just north of the moat around the imperial palace, and the entrance is directly across the street from the famous Tokyo performance space, the Budokan. The firsttoriiis a massive eighty-two-foot-tall steel structure built in 1974. It was once the tallest in Japan but is now third, after Kumano and Omiwa. There are threetoriion thesandoand one at a side entrance, all in theshinmeistyle. The longsandolined with ginkgo and cherry...

    • Yushima Tenmangu (Yushima Tenjin)
      (pp. 96-98)

      Yushima Tenmangu was completely reconstructed in 1995 from 250-year-old Japanese cypress, preserving a traditional style of shrine architecture. It was no mean feat—not because of the need to bring the logs from the Kiso region of Nagano Prefecture but because of the need to pass newer Tokyo fire codes, which do not permit the construction of wooden buildings in this part of the city. The shrine finally received a green light after a specialized sprinkler system was developed that douses the entire exterior with water in case of a fire. one previous incarnation of thehondenwas built in...

  5. KYOTO

    • Fushimi Inari Taisha
      (pp. 101-104)

      From JR’s Inari Station, the first largetorrimarking the entrance to Fushimi Inari is literally a few steps away. Fushimi is the oldest and most important of the thousands of Inari shrines throughout the country. The shrine was burned down in 1468 but the existing buildings are still of great age. Thehondenwas rebuilt in 1499 (when it was expanded to enshrine fivekami) in anagare-zukuristyle with an extra long roof on the front. Its red-lacquered woodwork and white stucco walls are typical of Inari shrines, but this shrine is rather large at five bays wide....

    • Heian Jingu
      (pp. 104-107)

      The main physical feature of Heian Jingu is its grand scale. It is a five-eighths reproduction of the Heian-periodchodo-in(Hall of State), a building within the grounds of the imperial palace used for deliberations on affairs of state. The main structure occupying the north side of the compound was thedaigokuden, reproduced at Heian Jingu as the shrine’shaiden.

      The first sight of Heian Jingu is usually the massive 80-foot-tall vermillionmyojin torii, constructed in concrete in 1929 (there was notoriiprior to that date). It stands about 900 feet in front of the main gate. Unlike many...

    • Hirano Jinja
      (pp. 108-110)

      Thehondenof Hirano Jinja houses fourkami, and each has its ownkasuga-zukuristructure. The unusual thing about the architecture here is that thehondenare in paired sets, with two side-by-side gable roofs to the right and two to the left. A roof running perpendicular between the gables creates two identical “H” shapes when seen from above. Infill panels between the paired structures create the impression of a single building with two doors, two sets of stairs, and two gabled roofs. A single pent roof runs along the front of this double gable, and a veranda wraps around...

    • Iwashimizu Hachimangu
      (pp. 110-114)

      Iwashimizu Hachimangu is located at the summit of a 469-foot mountain known as Otokoyama, about 30 minutes southwest of Kyoto Station. The small peak stands in the midst of the city of Yawata. The north side of the mountain is bordered by the confluence of three rivers: the Kizugawa, Ujigawa, and Katsuragawa. Built in a style known ashachiman-zukuri, the shrine was reconstructed in 1634 by the third shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu. Besides the highly ornate finish, the chief characteristic is that the shrine looks like two separate and parallel buildings. In fact it is one building with two parallel, cedar...

    • Kamo Wakeikazuchi Jinja (Kamigamo Jinja)
      (pp. 115-118)

      Kamo Wakeikazuchi Jinja is commonly known as Kamigamo Jinja (upper Kamo shrine). It is located on 170 acres in the north of Kyoto, just before the plain gives way to mountains. Along with its sister shrine, Shimogamo Jinja, it is considered one of the oldest shrines in Kyoto, and both were designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1994. The grounds encompass Mount Ko to the north, where legend states that Wakeikazuchi no kami first descended during the age of Emperor Jinmu.

      Kamigamo has a number of unique physical features, beginning with thehondenthat is paired with a second identical...

    • Kamo Mioya Jinja (Shimogamo Jinja)
      (pp. 119-122)

      Perhaps Kamo Mioya Jinja’s most striking physical feature is its location in an old-growth forest called Tadasu no mori (“forest of truth”), in the northern part of Kyoto, at the confluence of the Kamagawa and Takanogawa rivers. Along with its sister shrine, Kamigamo Jinja (the upper shrine), it is one of the oldest shrines in Kyoto and was designated a World Heritage Site in 1994. (Kamo Mioya Jinja is commonly known as Shimogamo, which means “lower kamo”). With just 30 acres the shrine area is much smaller than Kamigamo’s, but since the longsandotakes you right through the center...

    • Kifune Jinja (Kibune Jinja)
      (pp. 123-127)

      Perhaps Kifune Jinja’s most important physical feature is its location in the mountains just north of Kyoto. The road leading to the shrine runs continuously uphill, and from Mount Kibune flows one of the sources of Kyoto’s Kamogawa river. The name Kifune originally meant “yellow ship,” though the characters for “precious ship” are used now. The shrine prefers the pronunciation Kifune, though it and the area are commonly referred to as Kibune. The name refers to the legend of Tamayorihime no mikoto (“spirit-inviting maiden”), who sailed upriver to this spot in a yellow ship. The name Tamayorihime can refer to...

    • Kitano Tenmangu
      (pp. 128-131)

      Kitano Tenmangu is known as one of the best examples ofyatsumune-zukuri(eight roof-ridge–style) shrine architecture, also calledgongen-zukuri. In this style thehaidenandhonden, which lie parallel to each other, are connected under one complex roof, which is covered in Japanese cypress bark. In Kitano, the space between the structures called theishinomais three steps lower than thehaiden. The shrine is a magnificent example of the architecture of the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573-1603) and differs somewhat from othergongen-zukuribuildings in that it has music chambers, known asgakunoma, added to the right and left of...

    • Matsuo Taisha (Matsunoo Taisha)
      (pp. 132-135)

      Matsuo Taisha is located on the western edge of Kyoto along the Katsuragawa River, south of Arashiyama and north of the famous Katsura Rikyu. It takes its name from Mount Matsuo that rises up directly behind it. The original shrine—a largeiwakura(stone altar)—is located at the top of the mountain, and the origin of worship there is likely quite ancient. Maiden, chumon, and honden of Matsuo Taisha Theiwakuracan be seen by climbing the path from inside the shrine grounds. The entrance fee is ¥1,000, which includes entrance to thehomotsuden(treasure house) and gardens. The...

    • Seimei Jinja
      (pp. 136-138)

      Seimei jinja sits on a narrow patch of land off one of Kyoto’s main north-south avenues, called Horikawa Street. Although the firsttoriistands directly on that main thoroughfare, the shrine actually fronts onto a narrow street just behind it. The most striking physical feature is the preponderance of five-pointed stars, or pentagrams, that appear everywhere—on the firsttorii(boldly emblazoned with the five-pointed star rather than the name of the shrine), thehonden, and just about everyplace in between. It is an ancient symbol that has been used for thousands of years in the Far East, the Middle...

    • Ujigami Jinja
      (pp. 139-142)

      The most important feature of Ujigami Jinja is its age. Various sources describe it as “the oldest shrine in Japan,” but this is incorrect. Thehondenfrom around 1060 makes it the oldest shrinebuildingin Japan. It is impossible to verify just which shrine is the oldest, and claims are made for several named in theKojikiorNihon shoki, but Ujigami is not one of them. The oldest building in Japan, and one of the oldest wooden buildings in the world, is the pagoda at Horyuji in Nara, considered to date from about 711. While Ujigami Jinja is...

    • Yasaka Jinja (Gion-sha)
      (pp. 143-147)

      Yasaka Jinja stands near the foot of the Higashiyama hills at the eastern end of Shijo Street, one of Kyoto’s most important east–west thoroughfares. The entrance sports a great two-story, three-bay gate called thenishi romon, built in 1497 after the previous one burned down. It is complete with Shinto archer-guardians sitting at either side of the entrance. The whole gate stands at the top of a staircase of some twenty-plus steps, near the top of which are two impressive stonekomainusculptures. The elevated height makes the vermillion gate visible down Shijo Street all the way to the...

    • Yoshida Jinja
      (pp. 148-152)

      Yoshida Jinja stands at the southwestern foot of Mount Yoshida, a small tree-covered peak originally called Kagura-oka on the eastern edge of Kyoto. Higashi Ichijo Street, which runs directly east from the Kamogawa river, passes the southern end of Kyoto University and connects directly to thesandoof the shrine. As a Fujiwara clan shrine, it is a branch of Kasuga Taisha in Nara (the third after Oharano in Nagaoka-kyo, now part of Kyoto). Thekamiare the sameshisho myojin(four gods of Kasuga), and the structure of the four side-by-sidehondenis much the same as at Kasuga....

  6. NARA

    • Himuro Jinja
      (pp. 155-156)

      Thehondenis a variation ofikkensha nagarezukuristyle calledsankensha, with a gabled roof and the entrance on the non-gabled side. There are three doors, one for eachkamienshrined, with the center door a little taller than the other two. The interior of thehondenis partitioned by hanging fabric. The wood is unpainted, and a wide wooden stairway leads to the veranda, where offerings for thekamiare placed. In front of thehondenis a redtoriiand fence, with a gate built into thetorii. Thehaidenconsists of a large stage for rituals, sacred...

    • Isonokami Jingu
      (pp. 157-159)

      Isonokami Jingu is one of the oldest shrines in Japan, mentioned in theKojikiand theNihon shoki. The shrine had nohondenuntil 1913. Prior to that it had only ahaiden, which was originally located on the grounds of the imperial palace and was called theshinkaden. Thehaidenwas moved here in 1081 by Emperor Shirakawa (1053–1129). As such the shrine claims it as the oldesthaidenin Japan, and it is designated a National Treasure. The modest building is seven bays wide and five bays deep, and the woodwork (other than the floor, ceiling, and...

    • Kasuga Taisha
      (pp. 160-163)

      Thekasuga-zukuritype of shrine building takes its name from thehondenof this shrine. Though they form a collective, thekamiare each enshrined in their own structure, which is only one bay in size (about 6 by 8.5 feet, with slight variations). They each have a curved, gabled roof covered in cypress bark. A deep pent roof (hisashi) on the front side (the gable side) is covered in the same material, and overhangs a veranda and stairs that are a little longer than the building itself. Thechigiat the roof ridge are narrow and slightly curved, resembling...

    • Omiwa Jinja
      (pp. 164-168)

      The mountain is referred to as both Miwa and the more honorific Omiwa. It is known as ashintaizan(“kami-boiy mountain”). In other words, the ancient cedar- and cypress- covered mountain is believed to be the body of thekamiand considered a sacred object of worship. For this reason there is nohonden, but only ahaidenthat stands in front of the mountain facing west. The original building was constructed around the Muromachi period (1336–1573), and Tokugawa Ietsuna had the currenthaidenbuilt in 1664. Directly behind thehaidenis a uniquetoriiillustrated in the introduction...

    • Tamukeyama Hachimangu
      (pp. 168-170)

      Tamukeyama Hachimangu stands adjacent to the grounds of Todaiji, one of the most celebrated temple complexes in Japan. Walking from Todaiji, the vermillion and whiteromonof the shrine is clearly visible from a distance. Though not of great age, its two-story single-bay structure with rooms connected to the right and left is characteristic of Hachiman shrines in general. In front of theromon, to the right, is an ancientazekura-zukuristorehouse that was once ayuso(oil storage house) for Todaiji. Though much smaller than the Shosoin, it is of the same style, with its sawtooth interlocking logs standing...

  7. KANTO

    • Aiki Jinja
      (pp. 173-175)

      The modesthondenof Aiki Jinja was built by Ueshiba Morihei (1883–1969) in 1944; thehaidenwas built in 1962. The shrine was renewed in 2002 by Saito Morihiro, a long-time disciple and caretaker of the shrine after Ueshiba’s death. There is not much to the shrine from the standpoint of interesting or historic architecture, except as it relates to Ueshiba (who is known to aikido practitioners as O-sensei, or “great teacher”). Thehonden, which was called theokuden, is a small structure built by a local carpenter, with the larger six-by-three-bayhaidendirectly in front of it. The...

    • Kashima Jingu
      (pp. 176-179)

      The shrine and its grounds are located in Ibaraki, northeast of Tokyo, close to the mouth of the Tonegawa, where it empties into the Pacific Ocean. The imperial court made large land grants to Kashima jingu as early as the mid-seventh century. Today, it sits on 173 acres of forested land which contains cedar, oak, chinquapin, fir, cypress, and other trees and plants. Because of the variety of birds found here, the grounds have been designated a wildlife protection area. In ancient times, the sea periodically inundated the surrounding area. The soil here is primarily white sand.

      The shrine is...

    • Katori Jingu
      (pp. 180-183)

      Katori Jingu is located a little more than a mile past the Onogawa river, which flows through the city of Katori and into the Tonegawa river in Chiba, not far from the Pacific Ocean. It is located near the old city of Sawara (now part of Katori City) that prospered as a shipping hub for Edo and was home to many sailors, storehouses, and wealthy merchants. To the left off the main road from Sawara district stands the shrine’s firsttorii, built in 1926. The grounds are covered in tall Japanese cypress and maples that make an excellent setting for...

    • Kawagoe Hikawa
      (pp. 184-188)

      The most important physical feature of this otherwise modest shrine is the elaborately carvedhondendating from 1849. Construction of the approximately thirteen-by-eight-foot structure was begun in 1842 by the lord of Kawagoe Castle, Matsudaira Naritsune. The Matsudaira were the clan from which the Tokugawa emerged, and a decorative style similar in a sense to that of the Toshogu shrines is seen in the construction of thishonden. The unpainted building features elaborate Zenstyle bracket complexes (zenshuyo tokyo) under the eaves and the veranda. But the main feature of the shrine is the extensive carving on the exterior panels and...

    • Nikko Toshogu
      (pp. 188-194)

      Tokugawa Ieyasu ordered that he should be enshrined north of Edo at Nikko after his death so that he could continue to protect the nation. His son Hidetada erected the “small shrine” that Ieyasu described, but it grew to become one of the most elaborate shrine/temple complexes in Japan, due to the efforts of his grandson Iemitsu and the influential Tendai Buddhist monk Tenkai (1536–1643). The work on Nikko Toshogu as we know it today started in 1634 and took fifteen thousand artisans to complete the project in time for the twentieth anniversary of Ieyasu’s death in 1636. It...

    • Suwa Taisha
      (pp. 195-199)

      The most important physical feature of the upper shrine is the fact that there is nohondento enshrine thekami. Instead, there are onlyhaidenin front of Mount Moriya, which serves as theshintaizan(“kami-body mountain”) of the Kamisha. In ancient times direct worship of a mountain was common, but after the advent of Buddhism the custom developed of enshrining thekamiin ahondenat the foot of the mountain. Inside this sanctuary (honden) an object called thegoshintaiwas placed, which thekamicould descend into. Latter, worship halls (haiden) were built from which priests and...

    • Tsurugaoka Hachimangu
      (pp. 200-204)

      Tsurugaoka Hachimangu was built as the focal point of Kamakura. It was moved from its original location near the waterfront of Zaimokuza to elevated land at the base of Mount Kitayama in 1180, commanding a view of the city all the way down to Sagami Bay. The main thoroughfare of the city, Wakamiya-oji, runs arrow-straight for about one mile from Yuigahama beach, moving due northeast and terminating at Hachimangu. Originally it was built a hundred feet wide with ten-foot moats on both sides. The city was laid out according to the samefeng shuiprinciples that guided the layout of...

  8. TOKAI

    • Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha and the Sengen Shrines of Mount Fuji
      (pp. 207-214)

      Obviously, the most important physical feature of Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha is Mount Fuji itself. On a clear day, from anywhere in the area, you have only to look over your shoulder and the sight of Mount Fuji fills the sky. The mountain is considered sacred and is the most highly revered mountain in a country full of revered mountains. The main shrine sits near the southwest side of the mountain, while theokumiya(inner, or far, shrine) sits close to the crater at the top of the mountain, on property given to the shrine by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1606....

    • Ise Jingu
      (pp. 214-222)

      The most important feature of Ise Jingu is that it is the only shrine that has been rebuilt in the same style every twenty years (other than the period from about 1434 to 1585). This has taken place ever since its first rebuilding by Empress Jito (r. 686-97) more than thirteen hundred years ago. The twenty-year rebuilding applies to the Naiku, Geku, and another 14 of the 125 buildings on the shrine grounds, plus the Uji Bridge and thetorrileading to the shrine. Another forty-three structures are rebuilt every forty years; otherwise repairs or rebuilding are carried out as...

    • Kunozan Toshogu
      (pp. 223-226)

      This is the oldest example of a Toshogu shrine, the most famous of which is Nikko Toshogu, constructed in 1617 and rebuilt in 1636. Tokugawa leyasu is laid to rest there; however, Kunozan is where he was first laid to rest after his death in 1616 at the age of seventy-five. It is a mausoleum-shrine, and though Ieyasu’s remains were moved to Nikko, the original stone mausoleum still remains. (Actually, it is not clear if leyasu, buried in a box in a sitting position, was dug up and moved or not.) Kunozan Toshogu was built by order of his son...

    • Tsubaki Okami Yashiro
      (pp. 226-228)

      Tsubaki Okami Yashiro is located in Mie Prefecture, about thirty miles southwest of the city of Nagoya. The overall setting in a forest of cedars at the base of Mount Nyudogatake forms a perfect environment for worship of Sarutahiko—a powerful giant and one of thekunitsukami, or earthlykami. The shrine is approached by a longsandopassing through the tall trees. After the firsttoriithere is a building called theshishido, or “lion hall,” whereoharaipurification is performed for automobiles. Continuing down thesando, just to the left is the place where shrine tradition states that...


    • Hiyoshi Taisha (Hie Taisha)
      (pp. 231-234)

      Hiyoshi Taisha is approached from the eastern slope of Mount Hiei, facing Lake Biwa. The train brings you to the town of Sakamoto, which has since the Heian period been the temple town (monzen-machi) that developed along with the religious complex of Mount Hiei. You encounter the first largetoriiabout 10 minutes from the station. Continuing through thetoriibrings you to a redtoriito the right and the entrance to the grounds. From here you cross a bridge and shortly after encounter thesanno torii, which originated from this shrine. Its appearance is unusual in that it...

    • Itsukushima Jinja
      (pp. 235-237)

      The shrine is arguably Japan’s most famous World Heritage Site. Though all of the structures have been repaired many times in their history each time great care was taken to rebuild to the previous style, which has preserved the twelfth-century character of the site. Of the seventeen structures, six are National Treasures (including the corridors) and eleven are Important Cultural Properties. Probably the most important physical feature of this shrine, however, is its location on Miyajima, a mountainous island about nineteen miles in circumference and considered one of the most scenic spots in Japan. Its tallest peak, Mount Misen, is...

    • Izumo Taisha (Izumo Oyashiro)
      (pp. 238-242)

      Perhaps the most impressive feature of Izumo is its size and the visual impression it gives of rough power that is completely atypical of most shrine architecture. It exudes masculine power, like the hunting lodge of some mountain giant, in contrast to the refined delicacy of Ise Jingu. It is the finest example oftaishazukuri(“grand shrine style”), which takes its name from thishondenand is considered one of the oldest styles of shrine architecture.

      The first taste of size and strength actually comes from thehaiden,a massive struct built in 1959 that stands well in front of...

    • Kibitsu Jinja
      (pp. 243-245)

      Thehondenandhaidenhere are built in the distinctivekibitsu-zukuristyle. Thehondenis the second largest in Japan after Yasaka Jinja, at seven bays wide by eight bays deep (about forty-eight by fifty-eight feet). It is essentially built like two side-by-sideirimoya-style buildings but with a continuous roof. Thishiyoku-irimoyastyle roof is unique to Kibitsu Jinja and was probably influenced by thedaibutsuyostyle established by the Buddhist priest Chogen (1121–1206) for the rebuild- ing of Todaiji. The double gable and upturned corners of the exceptionally long cypress-bark-covered roof make a powerful impression. A third ridge...

      (pp. 246-256)

      Kumano is an area in the southernmost part of the Kii Peninsula in present-day Wakayama Prefecture. The Kumano Sanzan are three separate shrines, but translates literally as “three mountains of Kumano.” The termzan, meaning “mountain,” was historically applied to important Buddhist temples, such as the famous Gozan (“five mountains”) of the Zen sect. Throughout most of their history the three shrines—Hongu, Hayatama, and Nachi—have been linked together in the minds of worshippers and in the practice of pilgrimage. They have also been centers of combinatory Shinto, Buddhist, andshugendoworship for most of their long history and...

    • Sumiyoshi Taisha
      (pp. 256-260)

      A large stonetoriimarks the entrance, and immediately you are led to the first of a number of historic structures, the steeply archedsori hoshibridge built by order of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Passing through another stonetoriiand the main gate brings you to the heart of the shrine and the fourhondenwhere the kami of Sumiyoshi are enshrined separately. Each sanctuary is built in thesumiyoshi-zukuristyle, one of the oldest styles of shrine architecture, characterized by a straight gable roof with deep eaves and a thick covering of cypress bark. The roof has a squared ridge...

    • Tsukubusuma Jinja
      (pp. 261-264)

      The most important physical feature here is of course the island of Chikubushima itself. It is located in the northern part of the largest lake in Japan, Lake Biwa. It is the perceived sacredness of the island that drew worshippers from ancient times and resulted in the building of a temple and shrine.

      Tsukubusuma Jinja is one of the island’s designated National Treasures and was originally just thebenzaitendo(Benzaiten hall), the construction of which reflects its Buddhist roots. Now thehonden,it was constructed in 1567 and refitted with a new central three-baysquare core called amoyain 1602....


    • Dazaifu Tenmangu
      (pp. 267-271)

      Historically, the most important physical feature of Dazaifu was its location in northern Kyushu. When the Yamato ruling clans consolidated power over this part of the country, Dazaifu became the seat of their appointed governor. The ruins of the government administration buildings are still located in the town, not far from Dazaifu Tenmangu (about a fifteen-minute walk from Tofuromae Station on the Nishitetsu Line). In addition to its administrative functions, Dazaifu acted as a military outpost for the Yamato government. It was not a popular posting, and Kyoto elites who fell from favor were often exiled here. As we will...

    • Hakozakigu
      (pp. 271-274)

      Hakozakigu is a superb example of how Buddhist temple building came to influence the structure of the Shinto shrine. One of the oldest shrines in Fukuoka, it has burned down and been rebuilt many times but has maintained the same form seen in a painting from the sixteenth century. The architecture reflects yet differs from the Hachiman style in a number of ways. The shrine has a two-storyromongate embedded at the center of a wide-roofedkairothat surrounds thehonden,creating a square inner courtyard. Thekairoandromonare typical features of Hachiman shrines, but the scale...

    • Munakata Taisha
      (pp. 274-280)

      It’s tempting to say that the most important physical feature of the shrine is the Genkai Sea, as the southern part of the Sea of Japan is known. It was one of the most important entry points for trade between Japan and the continent in ancient times, and the deities enshrined here protect the sea lanes. But perhaps the most interesting physical feature of Munakata Taisha is its division into three shrines in three different locations. Two of the locations are small islands, one of which is open once a year to male worshippers only. This kind of prohibition was...

    • Udo Jingu
      (pp. 280-282)

      The most important physical feature of Udo Jingu is its location inside a cave on the side of a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, along the coast of Miyazaki Prefecture. This area is called Cape Udo and is part of the Nichinan coast, famous for its beaches and beautiful sea. Theyatsumune-zukuri-styk shrine combininghondenandhaidenunder anirimoya-slyle copper-shingle roof is of Edoperiod vintage. There are achidorihafuandkarahafuin line with the edge of the eave over the entrance. The building is primarily painted in red, with some touches of polychrome and carvings above the tie...

    • Usa Jingu
      (pp. 283-288)

      Usa Jingu is built in a distinctive style that came to be known ashachiman-zukuri.The key feature of this style is that the roofline gives the impression of two separate buildings joined together. It has two distinct gable roofs that come close together along the eaves over a large wooden rain gutter covered in gold leaf. The building under the roofs, though appearing to be two, is in reality one continuous structure. The rear part of the structure(naiin)is three bays wide by two bays deep, while the front part, called thegein,is only one bay deep....

    • Yutoku Inari Jinja
      (pp. 288-291)

      The most important physical features of the shrine are its dynamic construction and its setting against Mount Sekiheki in rural Saga Prefecture. Built in thekake-zukuri(hanging) style, the main shrine building stands on scaffolding that extends out from the side of the mountain, affording a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside. The style is most closely associated with Kiyomizudera temple in Kyoto’s Higashiyama district. While the view from that venerable old temple is perhaps more interesting, the architecture is no more impressive than that of Yutoku Inari. The shrine building is agongen-zukuristyle, with some variations. Thehonden...

    • Isaniwa Jinja
      (pp. 291-294)

      The shrine sits atop Mikariya Hill, accessed by climbing an impressive stairway of 135 rough stone steps. It is one of only four existinghachiman-zukurishrine buildings and said to be based on the design of Iwashimizu Hachimangu in Kyoto. It begins with anirimoya-zukuri romonwith akarahafuover the entrance, connected to a wide, covered corridor (kairo) that extends from theromonand wraps around the entire inner compound. Theromonis connected to a small corridor and gabled-roofmosuden. An open lattice-work fence extends from thehaidenand wraps around thehonden. Thehondenis a double-gabled...

    • Kotohiragu (Konpira-san)
      (pp. 294-298)

      Probably the most striking physical feature of Kotohiragu is its magnificent setting on the side of Mount Zozu (“elephant head”) in Kagawa, the least mountainous prefecture in Shikoku. What mountains it does have stand on the plains like triangularonigiri(rice balls), and this very characteristic landscape becomes clear when viewed from the platform in front of thehonden, which stands about 824 feet above sea level. At this point you will have climbed 785 stone steps and have another 583 and another strenuous half-hour of walking to go if you intend to visit theokusha, closer to the top...

    • Oyamazumi Jinja
      (pp. 298-302)

      Probably the most important physical feature of the shrine is its location on the Inland Sea island of Omishima. Since ancient times itskamihas been worshipped by warriors who have deposited weapons and armor in honor of the deity. As a result, the shrine museum contains more than a thousand objects, of which there are 8 National Treasures and 472 Important Cultural Properties. Some of Japan’s most important items of medieval warfare are housed here, including a suit of armor from Minamoto no Yoshitsune and the only existing example of a woman’s armor from the mid-sixteenth century. It was...

    (pp. 303-304)
    (pp. 305-314)
    (pp. 315-320)
    (pp. 321-322)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 323-327)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 328-329)