Friday, August 3, 2012


Mishima Taisha                                                                       UC
Mishima Taisha, Shinto Shrines of Japan: The Blog Guide
Maidono (right) and haiden of Mishima Taisha
(photo courtesy of the shrine)
Date founded: Possibly as early as the eighth century, but 850 at the latest. The current buildings date from 1866.
Address: 2-1-5 Omiya-cho, Mishima-shi, Shizuoka 411-0035
Tel/Information: 0559-75-0172. A pamphlet on the history of the shrine is available in English.
How to get there: JR Shinkansen, JR Tokaido Honsen Line, or Izuhakone Sunzu Line to Mishima Station. From there it’s about 15 minutes on foot.
Enshrined kami: Oyamatsumi no mikoto and (Tsumihayae) Kotoshironushi no mikoto, also known collectively as Mishima Daimyojin.
Prayers offered: Prayers from people in forestry and agriculture. Prayers are also offered for safety on the roadways and the sea, and also for good parent-child relationships.
Best time to go: Late March to early April when the cherry blossoms are at their best.

Important physical features: The main building is in the gongen style, with the honden, heiden, and haiden connected under one complex roof. The roof of the honden is in nagare-zukuri style, with chigi and katsuogi, and the entire roof is surfaced in copper tiles (dobuki-ita). The roof of the haiden contains both chidorihafu and karahafu, giving it a commanding appearance. The building is made entirely of unpainted Japanese cypress, with the honden at about 570 square feet and the haiden at 1,300 square feet and 75 feet tall (making it one of the largest in Japan and almost as tall as Izumo Taisha). Another distinguishing feature is the extensive and intricate carvings, mostly above the penetrating tie beams (nuki) of the haiden and under the karahafu step canopy and the nosings (kibana). These carvings, most extensive on the kaerumata (frog-leg struts) between the pillars supporting the step canopy, are from around 1857–58 and depict a number of scenes from Shinto mythology, including the story of Amaterasu and the Heavenly Rock Cave. The haiden is encompassed by a veranda, at the back end of which, to both the right and left, are beautifully carved panels that bar passage to the rear of the building. The panels depict the brothers Yamasachi and Umisachi, who were two of the offspring of Ninigi and Konohanasakuya. The pierced carvings are in high relief, measuring about five feet wide by eight feet tall.
            Another interesting feature of Mishima Taisha is the maidono  (also called a butai or kaguraden) that sits in front of the haiden. It is of the same style as the main building and contains twenty-four carved transoms depicting the “Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Piety,” classic stories of parent and child that originated in China. The stage is used for, among other things, the Otauchi, a rice-planting ceremony (at other shrines usually called Otaue). It takes the form of a performance of ancient kyogen, thought to have originated in the Heian period. The treasure house holds some interesting objects, including one of the oldest copies of the Nihon shoki, from 1428.

Important spiritual features: While Mishima Taisha now enshrines two deities, this was not always the case. In fact, the identity of the original deity enshrined here has long been a point of contention. Kotoshironushi is the son of Onamuchi no kami, who is in turn the son of Susano-o. When the heavenly kami sent an emissary to demand that Onamuchi relinquish the land, he consulted his son Kotoshironushi, who readily consented. He is thus a male, earthly kami (kunitsukami) originally from Izumo. The connection with Mishima seems to stem from a passage in the Sendai kuji hongi (from about the tenth century) that says Kotoshironushi changed into the form of a wani (literally alligator, but referring to a mythical sea dragon) and began to court Ikutamayorihime, the daughter of Mishima Mizokui no kami. Their union produced a daughter, who later became the wife of the first emperor, Jinmu. A similar story in the Kojiki states that Mishima no mizokui was the mother of Seyatatarahime. It further states that Omononushi (an alternate name for Onamuchi and Okuninushi) fell in love with Seyatatarahime and transformed himself into a red-lacquered arrow, striking her on the genitals and producing a child, Himetataraisukeyorihime, who became the consort of the first emperor Jinmu. (The Kojiki mentions Ikutamayorihime in a tale about Omononushi but in connection with the kami of Omiwa Jinja in Nara.)
            On the other hand, Oyamatsumi no kami is considered a god of mountains and a child of Izanagi and Izanami. It is not clear if this is the same Oyamatsumi who is the father of Konohanasakuya, the wife of Ninigi, but Konohanasakuya is considered the kami of Mount Fuji, which overlooks the town of Mishima. It is also happens that Mishima Taisha has long been associated with Oyamazumi Jinja in Shikoku (located on the island of Omishima) and with Mishima Kamo Jinja in Osaka, and that Oyamatsumi is worshipped in both. (Some believe that the origin of what is said to be eleven thousand Mishima shrines throughout Japan is Omishima Island.) But in the early Meiji period, the Ministry of Religious Education (kyobusho) was put in charge of shrines, and under the influence of the nativist Hirata Atsutane’s writings decided that Kotoshironushi was the main kami. Today however, Oyamatsumi is given pride of place, though both kami are still worshipped and collectively known as Mishima Daimyojin.

Description: Though in the middle of a developed area, the grounds of Mishima Taisha are spacious enough (about 12.5 acres) to set it apart from the urban sprawl that surrounds it. It lies near the northern side of the Izu Peninsula directly west of the famous hot-spring resort of Atami. The shrine grounds are entered from a long, arrow-straight sando that leads from the first torii across a small bridge over a lovely pond, through a somon gate and into the shrine grounds proper. Passing directly through the chumon gate, you come to the maidono and then to the shrine itself just beyond. From both sides of the chumon a covered corridor encircles the front of the grounds. The area in front of the shrine, especially around the small lake, is filled with cherry trees that make it quite lovely in the spring. The grounds contain tall evergreens, and a large Osmanthus fragrans (kinmokusei) stands to the front right of the shrine. This huge broadleaf evergreen is about fifty feet tall and twelve hundred years old, with small yellow-white flowers that emit a heady fragrance around the end of September.
            The shogun who founded the first bakufu (tent government), Minamoto no Yoritomo (1147–99), was exiled as a child by the Taira clan to Nirayama, about six miles south of Mishima, instead of being executed after his father’s defeat in the Heiji Rebellion of 1160. Throughout his life he held this shrine in high esteem. As an adult, he fought the Taira clan and after his fist defeat, legend says that he prayed for a hundred days consecutively at Mishima Taisha for his campaign to defeat the Taira to be successful (which it eventually was). When he established his government in Kamakura, the whole Kanto area flourished for the first time in history (the second being four hundred years later when the Tokugawa established their headquarters in Edo). The patronage of Mishima by the Minamoto established it as one of the main shrines in the Kanto plain, and many of its greatest treasures remain from that period. During the Edo period (1603–1867) Mishima became an important post town on the Tokaido, the road that linked Edo in the east to Kyoto in the west. This is probably one reason why it continued to receive patronage, and Tokugawa Iemitsu rebuilt the shrine sometime between 1624 and 1644.
            The shrine itself is not originally from this part of Izu. The Engi shiki (927) lists the Izu Mishima shrine as being in Kamo on the southern part of the peninsula, but apparently even this was not its first location. The current site was originally home to a Hachiman shrine, but it is said that the kami yielded the site to Oyamatsumi. Be that as it may, Mishima Taisha remains one of the most popular shrines in the Izu-Shizuoka area.

Festivals: Mishima Summer Festival, 15–17 August. The largest festival in Mishima commemorates the victory of Minamoto no Yoritomo over the Taira clan. Townspeople dressed in period costume parade through the streets, along with large, wheeled, dashi floats. At night, lanterns are lit, and the distinctive festival music known as shagiri, played by musicians seated on the dashi, makes for a joyous atmosphere. Horseback archery (yabusame) is also performed in honor of the kami.

Otauchi Shinji, 7 January. A rice-planting ritual is held at the maidono, consisting of a highly symbolic, dramatic performance handed down from the Heian period. The ceremony is carried out by fourteen actors, with one of the main characters wearing a black mask and the other a white one. Designated an Intangible Folk Property of the prefecture.



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