Osaki Hachimangu UC
(photo courtesy of the shrine)
Date founded: Founded in 1607 at the behest of Date Masamune (1567–1636).
Address: 4-6-1 Hachiman, Aoba-ku, Sendai-shi, Miyagi 980-0871
How to get there: JR Senzan Line from Sendai Station to Kunimi Station, then 15 minutes on foot.
Enshrined kami: Hachiman (identified with Emperor Ojin).
Prayers offered: Protection against danger, safe childbirth, and good fortune.
Best time to go: The end of May, when an annual azalea (satsuki) festival is held.
Important physical features: Osaki Hachimangu is constructed in the gongen-zukuri style, which was one of the most popular during the Muromachi to Edo periods. It is said to be the oldest extant shrine built in the style, which is also known as yatsumune-zukuri. It features a honden and haiden linked by an ainoma under a complex roof structure. The roof is an irimoya-zukuri style with large chidorihafu and karahafu in the center of the step canopy. The roof is covered in wood-bark shingles, and everything above the horizontal beams, from the top of the pillars to the top of the triangular dormers, is polychromed and heavily ornamented in gold-plated copper. From the horizontal tie beams down, the exterior is painted in black lacquer, presenting a formal and imposing appearance.
The interior is also primarily decorated in black lacquer with extensive polychroming and gold ornamentation above the horizontal tie beams. The large partitions inside the haiden are in gold leaf with paintings of lions by Sakuma Sakyo of the Kano school of painters. Some of the carvings of plants, animals and dragons are attributed to Hidari Jingoro, the legendary carver who worked on Nikko Toshogu. In fact, Osaki Hachimangu is virtually a prototype of the Toshogu style. The main difference between this style and the Toshogu is that the Daimyo, Date Masamune, employed carpenters working in the wayo, or Japanese style, of the Shitennoji-ryu. They included Osakabe Saemon Kunitsugu, the Umemura family, and others who were formerly in the employ of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The wayo style featured bracket complexes (tokyo) that were less ornate and placed on top of pillars (as opposed to being used on the tie beams between the pillars as well). The wayo style uses frog-leg struts (kaerumata) between the pillars instead. Also, brackets not used under the veranda here as they are in Toshogu shrines. Still, this comparatively simple style could be used to great effect. However the Tokugawa—especially under the third shogun, Iemitsu—came to favor the more elaborate and elegant zenshuyo style. As Osaki Hachimangu clearly shows, both styles could be opulently decorated. Many of the same sculptors and painters (for example Jingoro and the Kano family) were used on buildings throughout the country, and their work came to signify the wealth and power of their patrons.
In contrast to the shrine itself is the nagatoko gate (a warihaiden, or “split haiden”) that leads to the grounds in front of the building. It is a narrow structure, nine bays long, of a very different style than the main shrine. Thought to be from the same period, it is made of unpainted wood and is relatively unadorned, with open-sided rooms on both sides of a central entrance that sports a karahafu.
Important spiritual features: Shrine tradition states that the kami of Osaki Hachimangu was originally enshrined as Chinjufu Hachiman in Mizusawa in present-day Iwate Prefecture by Sakanoue no Tamuramaro (758–811), when he was sent by Emperor Kanmu to subjugate the northern tribes. Hachiman was already considered a protector deity of Buddhism (chinju) having been established in 749 as guardian of Todaiji in Nara. Hachiman shrines were founded close to the kokubunji (provincial temples). They were part of a system of one temple in every province, established by Emperor Shomu in 741. The Mutsu Kokubunji (located close to Sendai Station) was the northernmost temple of the group. It was destroyed in the twelfth century, but Date Masamune partly restored it at around the same time that he built Osaki Hachimangu.
Hachiman was enshrined in most of eastern Japan from the eleventh century onward by the Minamoto clan, who worshipped the kami as a deity who protected them in battle. The kami was also considered to be Emperor Ojin and therefore an ancestor—since the Minamoto were themselves of imperial blood. When Minamoto no Yoriyoshi and his son Yoshiie were sent to the northeastern provinces to quell a rebellion by the Abe clan in the early eleventh century, they enshrined Hachiman in many places along the way. After their victory the Minamoto withdrew to Kamakura, where they established a small shrine that later became Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. The kami was also enshrined in several places in Mutsu Province around the town of Tajiri in present-day Osaki City. It may be that one of the shrines was patronized by the Osaki clan, retainers of the Minamoto, who rebuilt the shrine building in 1361 and renamed it Osaki Hachiman. It was later moved to its present location. In other words, exactly from which Hachiman shrine Osaki Hachimangu originates is less than certain. For details on the kami Hachiman, please see the entries for Usa Jingu, Iwashimizu Hachimangu, and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu in "Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion" published by University of Hawaii Press.
Description: The Osaki were only one of several powerful clans in the area of present-day Sendai. The region eventually came under the influence of the Date clan that was founded by Isa Tomomune from Ibaraki—a descendant of the Fujiwara. He was a retainer of Minamoto no Yoritomo, who awarded him land in the Date district of Mutsu in return for service against the Taira in the Genpei War (1180–85). In 1584 the clan came under the control of Date Masamune, a one-eyed hothead who narrowly escaped leading them into total annihilation. Nicknamed “dokuganryu” (“one-eyed dragon”) later in life, he lost sight in his right eye at a young age due to smallpox and is said to have ripped it out with his own hands because of a slight. He became a clever and ruthless general, taking revenge against hundreds of men, women, and children of the clan that killed his father. He also defeated his southern neighbors, the Ashina clan, and took over their territory of Aizu. Though fiercely independent, he nevertheless came under the sway of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and was forced to fight for him in 1590 when Hideyoshi seized Odawara Castle. After the Battle, Hideyoshi forced Date to give up the territory and accept relocation to Iwadeyama in present-day Miyagi Prefecture. Date also fought in Hideyoshi’s invasion of Korea, though after his return he was pressured into moving his domain to Shikoku. Only the intervention of Tokugawa Ieyasu saved him from this fate. He thus became a strong ally of Ieyasu and helped him in his drive to control the country. Ieyasu rewarded Date with the Sendai domain, which encompassed all of present-day Miyagi and parts of neighboring prefectures. He moved the majority of the clan and vassals, some fifty thousand people, further down the coast from Iwadeyama and established the city of Sendai around 1604. He also brought the Osaki Hachiman shrine to Sendai and reestablished it in its current location in 1607. Though ruthless in battle he was by all accounts an excellent manager, and the area became one of the strongest domains under the Tokugawa. Today Sendai is a major city with a population of one million inhabitants.
The shrine was built on the northwest side of Sendai Castle, also built by Date. It is a testament to his power that he was able to gather some of the finest craftsmen in the country to his northern fishing village, at a time when major battles for control of the country were being fought and many new castles, temples, and shrines were being built. From the late sixteenth to early seventeenth centuries, about a hundred major castles were built, that employed tens of thousands of workers each, including sculptors, painters, metalworkers, and stonemasons of the highest quality. Unfortunately, most of the castles have since burned down or were destroyed by the Meiji government. Sendai Castle (also called Aoba-jo) was partly dismantled by the Meiji government and the rest lost to bombing in World War II. But happily Osaki Hachimangu has survived, as have the ramparts of the castle. Recent excavations have shown that they incorporated some of the finest engineering techniques of the period. The palisades and one of the few areas of virgin forest adjacent to them are located a little less than half a mile southeast of the shrine. The mausoleum of Date, together with those of his son and grandson (also destroyed during the war), has been recreated close to the southeast of the castle grounds. These highly ornate structures reflect the same aesthetic found at Osaki Hachimangu. In fact, the Japanese term “date,” came to mean a style of ornate or even gaudy beauty. The word, often translated as “dandy,” also denoted an outlandish man and may have originated as a description of Masamune and his lifestyle. Nevertheless, he has left us with a marvelous structure that is today designated a National Treasure. About a mile to the northeast lies Matsushima Bay, known as one of the “Three Views of Japan,” because of its scenic beauty. The bay, with its pine-covered coastline, is home to many fantastically shaped islands of stone. Along the bay stands the Buddhist temple Zuiganji, founded in 828 and rebuilt by Date in 1609.
|Bonfire of the Matsutaki Matsuri|
(photo courtesy of the shrine)
Festival: Matsutaki Matsuri, 14 January. A huge sacred bonfire (goshinka) is lit, using all the New Year’s decorations deposited at the shrine. A procession of male participants, stripped to the waist and wearing white shorts and headbands, circle close to the fire (hadakamairi). The custom was begun by saké brewers in the Edo period to pray for protection of the winter brew.