Kashima Jingu Part One

Do you know Ibaraki Prefecture (Wiki here)?

If you know nothing or very little, don't worry. Even the Japanese are not familiar with Ibaraki.

Every year Tokyo-based think-tank named "Brand Research Institute Inc. (ブランド総合研究所)" conducts the local brand survey among 1,000 municipalities (786 cities + Tokyo's 23 wards + 191 towns and villages) and 47 prefectures. Polls collected from around 30,000 anonymous individuals on the web are statistically analyzed by weighted sampling. Hence, the power of brand of the area is numerically converted into "attractiveness" felt by consumers towards each area. Here comes the summary of statistics.

Ibaraki ranks the lowest in the survey for six years (article here)!!!

I personally am familiar with Ibaraki and its products solely because I was born in their neighbor prefecture, Tochigi prefecture, which also ranks among the worst 5 every year! 

The first red torii of Kashima Jingu

Takemikazuchi in Japan chronicles

Kashima Jingu (鹿島神宮) is the most prestigious shrine, Ichinomiya (一の宮), in Hitachi Province (current Ibaraki Prefecture) and the headquarter of Kashima shrines distributed to all over Japan.

Takemikazuchi (タケミカヅチ) is commonly regarded as the enshrined deity of Kashima JinguTakemikazuchi appears in Japan Myth, Kojiki (古事記), three times:
1) Kamiumi (=the birth of the gods: 神産み), 
2) Conquering Ashihara-Nakatsukuni (葦原中国平定), and
3) Emperor Jimmu's conquering eastern part of Japan called "Jimmu Tohsei (神武東征)"

During Kamiumi ceremony conducted by Izanagi (イザナギ) and Izanami (イザナミ), Izanami was burned to death (due to burning her private part off) when she gave birth Kagutsuchi (カグツチ), a deity of fire. Having eye-witnessed Izanami's corpse, Izanagi lost his temper, grabbed the sword named "Totsuka-no-tsurugi" (とつかのつるぎ)/Ameno-ohabari (あめのおはばり or alternatively called Itsuno-ohabari/いつのおはばり) and stabbed Kagutsuchi (= his son) into death. When Kagutsuchi's blood splattered to the rock, three deities were born from there. Alternatively, it is said that eight deities related to fire, thunder, and sword were born. Either way, that's when Takemikazuchi was born.

Kashima Daimyojin (鹿島大明神) =Takemikazuchi

In the chapter entitled "Transfer of the land (= Kuni yuzuri/国譲り" of Nihon Shoki (another Chronicle of Japan), describing the incidents during conquering Ashihara-NakatsukuniTakemikazuchi, together with Futsunushi (フツヌシ), descended to Izumo province where they "negotiated" with Ohkuni (a ruler of Izumo) and his three sons to abandon their nation. The negotiation resulted in a triumph that enabled Amaterasu to have Ashihara-Nakatsukuni under control.

That's why Kashima Jingu has a close relationship with Katori Jingu (香取神宮), worshipping Futsunushi (フツヌシ) as a chief deity. You may notice that two shrines have the term "Jingu (神宮)". Before the Meiji restoration, the permission from Emperor (勅許) was essential for shrines to be called Jingu. In Engishiki-jinmeicho (延喜式神名帳) compiled in A.D. 927 that listed all the then-existing  2861 shrines, only three shrines held "Jingu". The remaining Jingu was, of course, Ise Grand shrine (= Ise Jingu/伊勢神宮), enshrining Amaterasu (アマテラス) whose direct descendants are the Japan Royal family. Needless to say, Katori Jingu is the Ichinomiya in Shimousa Province (下総国). When one more shrine, Ikisu shrine (息栖神社), is combined with Kashima Jingu and Katori Jingu, they are collectively called "Togoku sansha (= three prestigious shrines in Eastern part of Japan/東国三社).

Geographical relevance of three prestigious shrines in East of Japan

Image from Wiki with modifications. The three prestigious shrines locate to constitute "near" rectangular equilateral triangle (dotted lines) 

In Kojiki chapter that corresponds to "Transfer of the land" in Nihon Shoki depicting Futsunushi as an accompanying deity of Takemikazuchi, the accompanying deity is Amenotorifune (アメノトリフネ), who is one of the deities enshrined in Ikisu shrine. Three shrines (well one shrine and two Jingu) are located at bays of ancient inland sea called "Katori-umi (Katori sea/香取海)". More importantly, three shrines geographically constitute a rectangular equilateral triangle, Japanese Wiki says (it's not perfectly formed though).

Utagawa Hiroshige's Ukiyo-e (Image from Wiki), illustrating the Kashima first torii by the Katori sea bayside

In Edo period, visitors launched a boat by the bay and walked to Kashima Jingu.  The first photo on this entry I took is the current 1st Torii, which is the biggest one (18.5 meters tall from a bed) standing in the water.

Mysterious Mitarashi Pond

The same route yet the opposite direction  

Back in the ancient era, it appears that visitors who arrived at the bay rowed a boat further up along the river that ran close to Mitarashi pond (御手洗池) in the precinct of Kashima Jingu (encompassing 70 hectares). 

Rear visitor's path covered with sand

The ancient visitor's route is highlighted in red (map below). "Mitarashi (御手洗)" means "washing hands". The pond could have served as chozuya (手水舎), a water ablution pavilion for a ceremonial purification rite. At present, the visitor's route is the opposite. Visitors approach from the west entrance where the second torii is built (highlighted in blue).

Kashima torii

The current second torii, made of cedar trees (500 years old tree for hashira, 400 years old for kasagi, and 250 years old tree for nuki), was built in 2014 because the previous one that was made of granite was collapsed on March 11th, 2011. Yes, that was when the Tohoku Earthquake struck the northern part of Japan!!! It's not only the second torri that was destroyed but also torii in Mitarashi pond and several more. Kashima Jingu suffered.

Kashima-style torii gate

This type of torii is called "Kashima torii".

Images fro Wiki with editing. Nomenclature on the left and Kashima torii on the right
"The kashima torii (鹿島鳥居) is a shinmei torii without korobi, with kusabi and a protruding nuki"Wiki says. However, it's not so articulate to you, isn't it???

Kashima torii is characterized by the following:
1) Hashira (pillar) and kasagi are cylinder-shaped
2) Nuki is rectangular-shaped with both ends protruding beyond hashira

Once again please take a closer look at photos of first and second torii. Does it make sense?

BTW, the kamebara  (= base stone) of the current second torii (white part in the photo I took) is from the previous torii and wooden torii was built upon the stone. Only the base stone remained after the 3/11 earthquake.

Romon Gate
Romon gate founded on A.D. 1634 was registered as the Important Cultural Property of Japan. The name of the shrine hung on the gate was written by the admiral of the fleet Heihachiro Tohgo (東郷平八郎).

Haiden hall facing north and the gate (not torii) in front of haiden hall

Eighth wonder

Oddly the haiden hall and the main hall (both registered as the Important Cultural Property of Japan) are oriented toward the north that is quite unusual. This could be due to the fact that both Takemikazuchi and Futsunushi deities were dispatched to Katori inland seasides to conquer tribes against Amaterasu, whose territory was the northern part of Japan. To support this, several Kashima shrines to which the spirit of Takemikazuchi was transferred were distributed to the northern part of Japan already in 8th century.

The distribution of Kashima shrines (red circles) in current Miyagi and Fukushima prefecture (Image from Wiki), described in Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku compiled in A.D. 901. Blue circle indicates Shiogama shrine (Ichinomiya in Miyagi prefecture), enshrining Takemikazuchi and Futsunushi.

In front of haiden hall, there is torii, however, this is not Kashima torii because kasagi is rectangular. The volunteer local guides call it a gate. Well, it's just another type of torii but it's just a gate. Nobody knows why the gate is there.

Here is the oddest part (at least to me). The enshrined deity in the sanctum of main hall orients toward the East! 
The layout of the main hall (Image grom Japanese Wiki with editing. Enshrined deity resides in sanctum facing to the East (arrow). It is partitioned into two by three doors.

What does it mean? 

It means visitors praying in front of haiden hall do not pray to Takemikazuchi face-to-face! We are told that the main hall orienting to the north is explained by the missions of Takemikazuchi for watchdogging the power against Amaterasu. 

That does not account for the orientation of Takemikazuchi....

Well, Takemikazuchi is not the only shy deity not facing prayers. Here is another odd deity, Ohkuni enshrined in Izumo OhyashiroOhkuni and Takemikazuchi met in person while negotiation (Kuni-yuzuri/国譲り). When Ohkuni agreed with Takemikazuchi that Ohkuni would abandon his territory, Ohkuni asked Takemikazuchi to build for himself a magnificent palace (Izumo Ohyashiro) – rooted in the earth and reaching up to heaven. According to this narrative, it's not a bad idea to imagine that designers building Izumo Ohyashiro applied the same principle to building the Kashina Jingu's honden, I presume.

The layout of Izumo Ohyashiro main hall. Ohkuni stays at the sanctum, facing to the west. In front of him, five deities face to the south. Ohkuni's son, Wakafutsunushi, is the only one showing the face to prayers.

There are seven wonders about Kashima Jingu, however, the orientation of Takemikazuchi is not included in the list. Personally, I find it the most mysterious wonder of them all.

Komainu dogs can be seen nowhere in Kashima Jingu

In many shrines, a pair of komainu dogs can be found. However, there are exceptional shrines, which involve Meiji Jingu (明治神宮), Ise grand shrine (伊勢神宮) and so on. Actually, there are wooden statues of komainu dogs showcased in the museum of Kashima Jingu  (currently it's closed). As described above, a pair of komainu dogs are in the main hall building! This is also the case in Meiji Jingu
Historically komainu, originally as a lion, was introduced to Japan in the 6th century (during Nara period). Shrines founded earlier than that and didn't change the style till now (i.e. Ise grand shrine) don't own komainu dogs. Shrines such as Kashima Jingu or Meiji Jingu follow the old-fashioned style of komainu exhibition (= keep dogs inside the house -just like Chihuahua owner does). Kashima komainu dogs are invisible to visitors. Besides, they are well-behaved and quiet, nobody notices them unless you know the layout of the main hall. It became common in Edo period for shrines to have a pair of komainu dogs for guarding the entrance, the honden hall, or inner shrine (just as we can see in many shrines today). 
The fact strongly indicates that Kashima Jingu is, indeed, quite an old shrine!

Shall we visit Ibaraki prefecture?

According to the survey, not so many people are keen on heading for Ibaraki prefecture. In other words, there are still a countless number of intriguing places and things to be discovered and shared on the web by visiting the least attractive prefecture of lovely Ibaraki!!!

To be continued...

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