Saturday, July 7, 2018

Hakozakigu Revisited

This is part three entry of Hakozakigu (筥崎宮)  in Chikuzen Province (current Fukuoka Prefecture). Please visit part one entry for background info.

Red torii
Why did I visit again?

It was raining when I visited for the first time and couldn't see the second and the third Torii gates.

Guide map from their HP
The God of weather blessed me this time! 

Based on their website, the Torii gates are numbered from the closest one and in April 2018 the 88-year-old-and-16-meter-tall third tori, located adjacent to stone lantern, was removed for safety reason (in case of falling apart). Instead of removing, it could have been renovated... Pity, isn't it?  

Stone lantarn
What intrigues me is that the current 3rd red Torii stands at the shore named Oshioihama (お潮井浜), which looks like entrance is wide-open to the sea for welcoming visitors from the sea. Well, that might be the case in the past when there was no subway or bus to get there. People in an ancient time used to sail by boat, I assume. Currently, the red 4th torii is in the territory of Fukuoka prefecture Shinto ministry bureau and it was not accessible when office is closed.

Red Torii
The second torii is made to imitate the first one. They look alike in shape but you have quite different impression most probably due to the color - the second one is marble-alike and the first one obsidian looking. A title “Hachimangu (八幡宮)” is written in the frame. Hachiman is a nickname of Emperor Ohjin, who, along with his mom Empress Jingu and Princess Tamayori (玉依姫), is enshrined at Hakozakigu.

The 2nd Torii
Their torii has their own characteristic features in its shape. When you take a close look at it carefully, pillars are composed of three blocks and get thicker toward the bottom. The top rail (Kasagi/笠木) is curled upward on margins. Both of top and bottom rail have the same width. Due to its unique features, their tori is called “Hakozaki torii”

The current first torii is built in 1609. When I got closer and closer to the shrine, something caught my eyes. Three flags were hang-up in front of Romon gate (cherry gate/桜門). As described in the first entry, this shrine is politically controversial sort. Two flags are familiar to me and easily recognizable but the one to the left was…. Belgium flag???

First torii
The right flag comprised of two black, yellow and red triangles is a semaphore flag of Imperial Japan Navy. It is called Z flag.

First torii and Romon gate
How come???

Controversial display at Romom Gate
There is a reason. The answer is in this entry. May 27 is the opening fire day with Russo-Japanese naval war in 1905 (Battle of Tsushima) and preparation for the ceremony was ongoing when I visited there (although it wasn’t May 27 when I was there). 

Blue sky!!!
As you already noticed, the sky was utterly blue!!!!

If you are curious about this shrine, here is an official pdf in English!!! It's very well-documented and you are strongly encouraged to check it out.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Koinobori - Carp Streamers in Breeze

Koinobori (鯉のぼり) - a carp kites fit well in the blue spring sky in Japan!

A tradition of hanging carp-shaped windsocks up in Children's Day, May 5th, was originated from Chinese mythology. 

In an ancient China, the Dragon's gate (登龍門) is believed to be the swift stream of Yellow river located at Shanxi province.  The gate was made through excavating the legendary mountain, Mt. Dragon (龍門山). The construction was ordered by "Ye the Great", a founder of Xia dynasty (2070-1600 BC), according to Wiki in Japanese (Chinese Wiki says Mt. Dragon is located at Luoyang).   

Numerous fish tried to leap such devastating rapids of the Dragon's gate, however, none of them were successful.

Except carp! 

A carp that can accomplish the mission eventually turned into the Dragon, according to Chinese myth. Dragon is a symbol of power, strength, fortune and so on. It also represents imperial power. The image of a carp jumping over Dragon’s Gate is an old and enduring Chinese cultural symbol for courage, perseverance, and accomplishment. 

In Japan, May 5th (called Tango no sekku/端午の節句) is one the five annual ceremonies that were traditionally held at the Japanese imperial court. Interestingly, in ancient Japan, May 5th was the one for women but around Edo period, it became what it is in present time (for boy's ceremony).

When I visited Yodohime shrine (與止日女神社), the most prestigious shrine in Hizen Province (current Saga Prefecture), the spring festival (第40回川上峡春まつり) took place in Kase river (嘉瀬川) that runs by Yodohime shrine.

Rescued black carp

The weather was nice and the sky was blue. But not much wind... They don't look like a triumphal carps transforming into dragon... 

Rather they look gasping:(((

Gasping for breath...

Thanks to an occasional breeze, they looked alive... a bit.

"Boys be ambitious" by William S. Clark.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Big O in Tokyo

You may wonder why this it is called "Big O". 

Yes, it is indeed big wheel with 60 meter diameter and "O" is named from a "centerless" non-rotating structure. In 2006 it is listed as the world's largest centerless Ferris wheel by Guiness World Records!!!

The rail of roller coaster called "Thunder Dolphin" goes through the "O-ring" of Big O! 

It's located very close to Tokyo Dome.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Miyajidake Shrine

Miyajidake Shrine (宮地嶽神社) is located in Fukutsu city, Fukuoka Prefecture. Based upon Japan chronicles, Kojiki/古事記 and Nihon-shoki/日本書紀, the shrine is said to be founded around 1,700 years ago when Empress Jingu/Okunagatarashihimenomikoto (神功皇后/息長帯比売命) stopped by at Mt. Miyajidake for praying a victory of conquering the southern part of Korea (although there is no historical evidence supporting her reign in Korea. See this link for more detail). The deities to whom Empress Jingu prayed for triumph were Munakata three sisters, "Tagirihine (タギリヒメ)", "Ichikishimabine (イチキシマヒメ)" and "Tagitsubine (タギツヒメ).

Currently, Empress Jingu is enshrined as a main deity and Katsumura-ookami/勝村大神 (藤之高麿) and Katsuyori ookami/勝頼大神 (藤之助麿) are also enshrined as supporting ones. The two supporting deities are considered to be the local clan reigning around Mt. Miyajitake who went to Korea to support Empress Jingu. However, enshrined deities varied with eras...  

At Miyajitake shrine, there are three objects that are ranked the first place in Japan.

The first one is the biggest shinenawa (注連縄). It is 11 meter long with a diameter of 2. 6 meters, weighed at around 3000 kg. It is replaced annually.

The biggest shimenawa in Japan
The second one is the biggest drum/taiko (太鼓) with a diameter of 2.2 meters. Well to be strictly precise, there is drum that is even bigger than this but the shrine claims that their taiko is the biggest that is made of all Japanese materials.
Image from Miyajitake shrine HP
The third object is the biggest bell, weighed at 350 kg that is donated by an ardent believer.

Image from Miyajitake shrine HP

Below is copy&paste the text from shrine's HP. When you have a chance to visit the shrine, why don't you try to find "shining rubbing black cow?"

In Japan, there’s a folk belief that if you stroke a statue of a seated cow, your illness will be cured. This statue is called “nade-ushi (stroking cow)”. It’s believed that your illness will be cured by stroking a nade-ushi statue at the same part of the body where you have the illness. While many shrines across Japan have this nade-ushi, our shrine’s nade-ushi is tiny and cute. It sits quietly in a special place in the vast premises of the shrine. Please try to find our nade-ushi!

The precinct of shrine is quite vast. I spent more than 2 hours there, although there was a constant rainfall there. To be honest, I didn't care above-mentioned three No.1 objects in the shrine... What I wanted to see there was the ancient grave (Kofun/古墳 in Japanese), named Miyajitake Kofun (宮地嶽古墳) that is presumably made in 6th century. I will post part two entry in the future... so stay tuned!

To be continued...

P.S. Official English shrine booklet is available here!

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)!