Kato Shrine in Kumamoto

Kato shrine (加藤神社) is located in the territory of Kumamoto Castle (熊本城). The enshrined deities are, as name of shrine says, Kiyomasa Kato (加藤清正), as well as Kaneyoshi Ohki (大木兼能) and Kinkan (金官).

Kiyomasa, born in 1562 in current Nagoya city, Aichi prefecture, was distant relative of Hideyoshi Toyotomi (AD1537-1598). Kiyomasa served for Hideyoshi till Hideyoshi passed away, in return, Hideyoshi cherished Kiyomasa. In 1586 when  Kiyomasa was 24 years old, he was granted Higo Province (current Kumamoto prefecture) by Hideyoshi and settled in Kumamoto castle (隈本城). Later on he reconstructed the castle and changed the character of "Kuma" from "隈" to "熊" and the castle was described as current one, "熊本城". Kumamoto Castle is considered one of the three premier castles in Japan, along with Himeji Castle and Matsumoto Castle. Thirteen structures in the castle complex are designated Important Cultural Property.

Torii Gate
Owing to Kiyomasa's talents as politician, he ruled Higo province by irrigation, cultivation and trading. He was worshipped by locals and hence he was buried in the prestigious temple called "Honmyo-ji temple" (本妙寺)". In 1868 the shrine was separated from Honmyo-ji and was initially called "Nishikiyama shrine (錦山神社)". In 1909 the name of shrine is changed to "Kato shrine".

Main Hall
His spirit was transferred to 90 shrines located all over Japan. In the past there used to be Kato shrines even in Hawaii and in Korea!

Inside of Main Hall
Kiyomasa was said to be unusually tall guy that his height reached over 190 cm! Besides, he wore tall helmet called "Nagaeboshinari kabuto (長烏帽子形兜)" that made him to look even taller!

Statue of Kiyomasa. Image from Wiki
When he was little, his nickname was Toranosuke (虎之助). Tora means tiger in Japanese.

Statue of Tora
He had two emblems. One is Chinese bellflower/Platycodon (桔梗) and the second "Snake eye" that was frequently used in his body armor.

Chinese bellflower (left) and Snake Eye (right)
When I visited, Kumamoto castle Kiyomasa constructed was heavily damaged by earthquake in 2016 and many places in the castle were off-limits.


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