Takachiho Shrine

I might as well introduce Takachiho shrine (高千穂神社) where night kagura performance takes place. Please visit part one and part two entries if you are interested in night kagura performance.

Main Hall at night
The enshrined deities are Takachiho sumegami (高千穂皇神) and Jussha Daimyojin (十社大明神). Both Takachiho sumegami and Jussha Daimyojin are collective terms of deities.

Torii gate

Takachiho sumegami includes so called "Himuka Sandai/日向三代 (Three generations of deities settled in Himuka (日向)" and their spouses. That is:

Jussha Daimyojin (十社大明神) are Mikeirinomikoto (三毛入野命) who is a brother of the first Emperor Jimmu (神武天皇), his spouse, Unomehime (鵜目姫) and their offsprings (Mikotaro/御子太郎, Jiro/二郎, Saburo/三郎, Unemi/畝見, Teruno/照野, Ohto/大戸, Reisha/霊社, and Asarabe/浅良部).

Inside of Main Hall
According to the local narratives, Mikeirinomikoto exterminated demon named Kihachi (鬼八) and settled palace there. On the other hand, according to the shrine's articles, a son of Emperor Jimmu rooted Kihachifushi (demon) out. Later on offsprings of Emperor Jimmu were enshrined as Jussha Daimyojin.
Alternatively, Mikeirinomikoto rescued his future wife, Unomehime, from the demon Kihachi and they were married later on, another narrative depicted.

It is widely recognized that the shrine initiated its history when Mikeirinomikoto enshrined Himuka Sandai deities by building Himorogi (sacred altar/神籬). Since then descendant of Mikeirinomikoto's offsprings worshipped enshrined deities. Later on Mikeirinomikoto himself and other Jussha Daimyojin deities were also included as enshrined deities. Eventually during Emperor Suinin (垂仁天皇)'s reign (29 BC- 70 AD), the buildings were made.

Cedar tree named "Couple cedar/夫婦杉" is well known for benefiting a couple (1) happy marriage, (2) family safety and well-being (3) prosperity after making circle around the tree three times. The nickname came from the fact that two independent-looking cedar trees were branched from the same root.


Takachiho Kagura Performance Part 2

This is the part 2 entry of Takachiho Night Kagura performance. If you are curious about it, please visit part one entry to get to know more about it.

The night Kagura performance goes on to the last chapter:

(4) Dance performance of Goshintai (御神体の舞)
The performance was considered to depict the process of formation of the country (called Kuniumi/国産み) that was conducted by Izanagi and his spouse, Izanami in Japan myths (Kojiki and Nihon Shoki). They are enshrined in several shrines in Takachiho because they are parents of Amaterasu.

However, it is said that the performance was originated from the ritual ceremony of bumper crops called Niiname-sai (新嘗祭 = harvest festival). Needless to say, crop means rice in Japan and the sake is made from rice. That's why the performance was also called "the dance performance of brewing sake", where a pair of male and female deities (Izanagi and Izanami in the case of Takachiho night kagura) cooperate to make sake from freshly harvested rice for devoting to Shinto deities.

After the ceremony we mankind are allowed to eat devoted rice and sake. Through this process of sharing the same foods with shinto deities mankind feel their worshipping deities as a part of their flesh and soul, ancient Japanese believed.

According to Japan mythology, Izanagi and Izanami appear in two chapters called Kuniumi (formation of the country) and Kamiumi (birth of gods/神産み). However, they didn't make sake, as far as I am concerned. Sukunabikona (スクナビコナ) is a deity of brewing rice.

That's why, unlike previous 3 kaguras described here, this dance performance is not based on mythologies, instead, it's more oriented toward entertainment and comedy. 

Izamagi (male deity with red mask on the left) and his wife Izanami (white mask on the right) appear on stage by carrying instruments/tools for brewing rice.  

They make booze cheerfully

and comically

time for Kanpai (cheers)

one more kanpai

me too

me three

Izanami has had enough but her drunk husband wouldn't let her go...

She spilled

but not that much

That's the consequence 

Izamagi doesn't behave himself. He found a pretty lass in a crowd.

Izanami said to Izanagi "She is taken. Give it up."

Now it's her turn!
God's punishment for an innocent mankind

Sake tastes much better after the punishment

If so, then please go ahead, my Darling

BTW, do you know the meaning of Kanpai? Kan(乾=dry=empty)-pai (杯=glass=barrel in this case).

That's the shinto deity's way of "Kanpai= Empty it out." 

Confidential ritual ceremony???

Are you all right my Dear?

For sure, he's got a mission of sharing rice with us.



Takachiho Kagura Performance

Takachiko (高千穂) is well-known as a town of Myths where traditional dance performance called "Kagura (神楽)" takes place for visitors almost every night at Kagura-den Hall (神楽殿) of Takachiho shrine (高千穂神社).

Amano Uzume

In the first palace of Takachiho shrine, Takachiho sumera-gami deities (高千穂皇神) are enshrined whereas in the second palace Jyusha daimyojin deities (十社大明神) are enshrined.

Takachiho sumera-gami deities are said to be a general term of so called deities of Himuka sandai and their spouse deities. "Himuka saidai (日向三代)" means three generations of deities settled in Himuka/日向 where Takachiho locates that include Ninigi (ニニギ : grandchild of Amaterasu and the first generation of Himuka and Konohana sakuyabime/木花之佐久夜毘売 is his wife), Hoori (ホオリ: second son of Ninigi- second generation whose spouse is Toyotamahime/トヨタマヒメ) and Ugayafukiaezu ( 鸕鶿草葺不合尊: son of Hoori and hence the third generation, who is also the father of the first Emperor, Jimmu. His spouse is Tamayoribime/タマヨリビメ who is a younger sister of Toyotamahime).

Jyusha daimyojin (= ten great shining deities) include the older brother of Emperor Jimmu, Mikenuno-mikoto (三毛入野命), his spouse (Unomehime/鵜目姫) and offsprings, who are Mikotaro (御子太郎), Jiro (二郎), Saburo (三郎), Unemi (畝見), Teruno (照野), Ohto (大戸), Reisha (霊社), and Asarabe (浅良部).

According to the shrine's narrative, the shrine launched its history when Mikenuno-mikoto built Himorogi (神籬) to enshrine Takachiho sumera-gami deities (they are his ancestors). During Emperor Suinin (垂仁天皇) 's era, the shrine building was made.

In Kaguraden hall, night kagura takes place almost every night. It costs 700 JPY, consisting of 4 famous stages that are based on Japan mythologies. Along with traditional instruments orchestra, following performances are provided. It is registered as List of Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties.

(1) Dance performance of Amano Tajikarao (手力雄の舞)
     Due to the conflict made between Amaterasu and her younger brother, Susanowo, Amaeterasu hid herself into  cave called "Amano Iwato". His dance depicts the scene where Amano Tajikarao tries to find where Amaterasu hid.

(2) Dance performance of Amano Uzume (鈿女の舞)
     Thanks to Amano Tajikarao's efforts on finding Amaterasu, it is clear where Amaterasu hides herself. Now Amano Uzume tries to draw Amaterasu's attention by dancing in a funny way that made numerous deities bursted into laughter.

(3) Totori dance performance (戸取の舞)
     Again, Amano Tajikarao appears with red mask. He tries to break the door and eventually take it away so that Amaterasu can get herself out from the cave.

Note that Amaterasu (shrine) revealed eventually

(4) Dance performance of Goshintai (御神体の舞)
      This is bit unusual. A couple of deities, Izanagi and Izanami make sake (Japanese wine), dedicate and enjoy drinking it cheerfully.

I will post photos taken during (4) in the following post. 

Have a wonderful weekend.


Dazaifu Tenmangu

Dazaifu Tenmangu (太宰府天満宮) is a shinto shrine located in Dazaifu of current Fukuoka Prefecture. From the 8th to the 12th centuries Dazaifu served as a local government dealing with foreign affairs (trading and military headquarter) and ruling several provinces in northern part of Kyushu.

Dazaifu Tenmangu launched its history as a mausoleum of Michizane Sugawara (菅原 道真 845 –903 A.D.), a scholar, poet, and politician of the Heian Period. Although several candidates are listed as Michizane's birthplace, he is said to be born in current Sugawara town in Nara city (well, town is named after his clan). 

Statue of Michizane Sugawara
He was a man of numerous talents in terns of studying and poets. After graduating from university, he developed his career in the court as a scholar, then, thanks to Emperor Uda's support, became a bureaucrat. For more detailed info about his career, see his Wiki.

In pre-modern time of Japan, the position of career was assigned according to the hereditary title of the family. Politicians and Bureaucrats started watching him with envy and malice as his position ascended. He was even encouraged by his opponent, Kiyotsura Miyoshi (三善清行), to retire from politics and enjoy the life but he refused to do so.

In 901, through the political maneuvering of his rival, Tokihira Fujiwara (藤原時平), Michizane was demoted from his aristocratic rank of junior second to a minor local post at Dazaifu that is far from the Kyoto Capital. Two year later from the dispatch (903 AD) he passed away there with great grief and despair, people who knew him thought so... 

Map of Dazaifu - Tenmangu is located at north-east (鬼門) of Dazaifu.

It is said that he passed away at Enokisha (榎社) and his body was buried at Anrakuji Temple (安楽寺). His body was carried by ox wagon (牛車) to the temple, however, the ox stopped pulling his body in temple's precinct. According to this narrative, his monastery was built by Yasuyuki Umasake (味酒安行) at the very place where ox wagon lied down. Yasuyuki Umasake called Michizane's monastery "Amabara-san Byoin Anrakuji temple (pronunciation???/天原山庿院安楽寺)" in AD 905. Later on the name was changed to Anrakuji temple Tenmangu (安楽寺天満宮). That's why statues of cow can be seen in Tenmangu. Another coincidence. Michizane was born in AD 805 when animal of the year was cow!

Today 11 statues of cow are scattered in shrine's precinct.

How many of them could I happen to find???

Cow/bull with red scarf
Tip of right horn missing???

Relaxing under shadow
My favorite

Calf with white (stray) cat

I found only 8 unfortunately during relatively short stay surrounded by countless numbers of foreigners mostly Chinese visitors. I heard more Chinese conversation than that of Japanese!!!!

Plum called Tobi Ume (飛梅) in Japanese is the sacred tree of Tenmangu. Three stocks of Tobi Ume trees grown in front of Main Hall were transferred from Enoki sha where Michizane passed away, meaning they are 1100 years old and still bloom every February!

Plum trees in front of Main Hall
Inside of Main Hall
Other than 11 cows, are giraffe, owl (behind giraffe) and deers there, as well.

Giraffe as an imaginary creature

Statue of Lion???
Ah, monkey performance took place there. Actually that monkey is born in my prefecture where Nikko city locates.

Today he is well-known as a deity of studying but this was not the case from the beginning. Originally he was revered as Tenman-dai zizai Tenjin (天満大自在天神) because, after Michizane's death (903 AD), several coincidences took place in Kyoto. These include calamities such as a death of Michizane's rival, Tokihira Fujiwara in 909, Seiryo-den Palace (清涼殿) struck by lightning (清涼殿落雷事件) in 930 that resulted in couple of bureaucrat's death as well as Emperor Daigo (醍醐天皇), drought to starvation, plague breakout, and so on. Whenever the disasters and calamities struck in Kyoto capital, people freaked out and feared that Michizane ('s evil spirit) caused them. To calm his spirit down, Kitano Tenmangu (北野天満宮) was built in 947. That's how Michizane was enshrined as Temjin deity. 

Back in olden days people believed that the river is the border between the life and death. The bridge is, literally, the path to connect two distinct world. Politicians and bureaucrats who persecuted Michizane to death with despair didn't want his spirit to come back to their world and punish them as a vengeance. 

Image is from official site with modifications, indicating the position and the number of bridges.

In Dazaifu Tenmangu there are pond and river making across the main path (参道, highlighted in red line). In order to get to main hall where Michizane's spirit resides, six bridges await for you. In other words, to interpret the very fact based on Michizane's point of view, his spirit needs to come across six times to get into our living world. 

Bridge #1 called Taiko (= drum) bridge (太鼓橋) representing "past"

Bridge #2 called Hira (= flat) bridge (平橋) representing "present"

Bridge #3 called again Taiko (=drum) bridge, representing "future". Local high school lass drawing by the bridge

Bridges 4 through 6 are quite shocking to me. Despite the fact that they are small in size, these bridges gave a big impression on me. "How fearful had ancient people who were in political power been to Michizane's spirit???, I wondered... They really wanted to confine his spirit in the world of death, I assume.