Sunday, September 30, 2012

Atsuta Jingu                                                                             UC
Gate to the grounds of the honden of Atsuta Jingu
(photo by Gnsin via Wikipedia)
Date founded: Founded on the death of Yamatotakeru no mikoto in a.d. 113 according to shrine tradition. The shrine was founded to enshrine the sacred sword Kusanagi no tsurugi, one of the three Imperial Regalia. The current honden is from 1955.
Address: 1-1-1 Jingu, Atsuta-ku, Nagoya-shi, Aichi 456-8585
Tel/Information: 052-671-4151. A brief history of the shrine in English is available.
How to get there: Meitetsu Railway to Jingumae Station, then three minutes by foot. JR Tokaido Line to Atsuta Station, then about eight minutes by foot. Meijo Subway Line to Jingu-Nishi Station or Tenma-cho Station (closer to the main entrance), then about five minutes by foot.
Enshrined kami: Atsuta no Okami, identified as Amaterasu omikami as embodied in the sacred sword Kusanagi no tsurugi (one of the three sacred treasures of the imperial throne). Also, in the aidono,  Amaterasu Omikami; Susano-o no mikoto; Yamatotakeru no mikoto; and Takeinadane no mikoto and Miyasuhime no mikoto (ancestors of the Owari clan).
Prayers offered: Pray for bountiful crops, family harmony, and safety on the roadways.
Best time to go: Although located in the heart of the city of Nagoya, a lovely wooded area surrounds the shrine. The grounds are at their best in spring and summer.

Important physical features: Although it may not be viewed, the truly important physical feature of Atsuta Jingu is the sacred sword of Susano-o, of Amaterasu, and of Yamatotakeru called the Kusanagi no tsurugi. In terms of the shrine itself, Atsuta Jingu is a modern version of shinmei-zukuri. This notion of remaking the shrine from its former style into shinmei-zukuri arose in the Meiji era, and the work was first completed in 1893. The Meiji government created a group of ninety-seven national shrines in 1871 known as kanpeisha (imperial shrines), of which twenty-nine were initially given the highest rank of kanpei taisha. Atsuta Jingu became one of these shrines, which also included many of the nijunisha (or twenty-two shrines receiving offerings from the Imperial House during the Heian period). The name Jingu, previously reserved for Ise, was given to some older shrines (such as Atsuta and Miyazaki) and some newly created ones (such as Heian and Hokkaido) starting at about that time. Atsuta Jingu was heavily damaged during World War II and restored between1955–66 to its present condition. Some of the buildings of the naiku at Ise were brought here after that shrine’s renewal in 1953. Some differences with Ise Jingu include a roof surfaced in copper rather than thatch (although prewar pictures show it with a cedar shingle roofing) but curved to retain a thatched-roof silhouette; columns supported by foundation stones, rather than being planted directly in the ground; no twenty-year rebuilding regimen; and no leaving a “dormant” site when the old shrine is dismantled. Another difference with Ise is the two smaller shrines for the yaoyorozu deities of the East and West within the courtyard occupied by the honden, arranged on either side of it. Ise has two treasure houses to the left and right rear (which is thought to reflect the original layout). Though shrines rather than treasure houses, the in-line arrangement at Atusta reflects the layout that prevailed at Ise before the Meiji period.
            Like many other shrines, Atsuta has suffered numerous fires and been rebuilt many times in its long history. Unlike many other shrines, it has the distinction of having been rebuilt or repaired at different times by Japan’s “big three shoguns,” Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu. A document from 1841 inventories and details the buildings, and a drawing shows the layout as it was in the early seventeenth century. By that time, the shrine had a multiple fence/multiple gate structure and the layout was similar to what it is today. According to tradition, the shrine had four gates when a structure was first erected (said to be in 684) and the south gate (kaizomon) had a tablet written by Kobo Daishi–the founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism. The Western gate was supposed to have had a tablet written by Emperor Tenmu. Of particular interest is the treasure house, holding about four thousand objects including garments, furniture and utensils, mirrors, and bugaku masks—many designated Important Cultural Properties. The Kusanagi no tsurugi is not on display, but a large number of important swords and daggers are. The treasure house is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is 300 yen for adults.

Important spiritual features: Of the kami enshrined at Atsuta Jingu, all but one are related to the sacred sword called the Kusanagi no tsurugi (“herb-mowing sword” or “grass-cutting sword”), which is also known as the Atsuta no okami. The unrelated kami, Takeinadane no mikoto, is a native agricultural deity of the Owari area (present-day Aichi). Both this deity and his younger sister, Miyasuhime no mikoto, are considered to be ancestral deities of the Owari clan, and the shrine is believed to have originally been a family shrine. The Owari were said to have descended from Hoakari no mikoto, one of Ninigi no mikoto's three sons. It seems that the Owari and illustrious Urabe were branches of the same family.
           The principle kami of Atsuta Jingu, though, is said to be Amaterasu omikami in the form of the sacred sword. This is one of the three imperial regalia (sanshu no shinki) that were entrusted to the heavenly grandson Ninigi when he descended to rule Japan. The Kojiki and Nihon shoki record that when Ninigi was sent to rule, Amaterasu gave him, in addition to the sword (also known as Ama no murakumo no tsurugi [“sword of the gathering clouds of heaven”]), the jewel known as Yasakani no magatama and the mirror known as Yatanokagami. When she gave these three objects to him, she said explicitly about the mirror “… when thou look upon this mirror, let it be as though looking on me.” Though no such explicit statement is made about the sword or jewel, it is taken for granted that they all embody the spirit of Amaterasu. It is also taken for granted that the sword is the same one that Susano-o pulled from the tail of the eight-headed serpent (yamata no orochi), which he slew in the land of Izumo. Though the Kojiki and Nihon shoki offer different versions of this legend, it is generally accepted that Susano-o sent the sword to Amaterasu as a sort of recompense for past wrongdoings (though how the sword got into the dragon, and therefore its true origin, is not stated). As I mentioned above, the sword is also called by two different names (Ama no murakamo and Kusanagi) in different versions of the story in the Nihon shoki. The sword was passed down to Ninigi, and the next we hear of it is when it turns up in the imperial palace during the reign of Emperor Sujin (r. 97–30 b.c.), along with the mirror. Here we are told that the emperor feared the power of the deities embodied in them and wanted the mirror and sword removed to another place. The Kogoshu of 807 tells us they were first removed to a place called Kasanui in Yamato, and then later to Ise (the legendary founding of Ise Jingu). The Kogoshu also records that duplicates were made at that time and that these were the sacred regalia (only two, not three as in later times, presented to the new emperor upon ascending the throne.
           Then, much later, during the reign of Emperor Keiko (a.d. 71–131), we are told that the emperor sent his fourteenth son, Yamatotakeru no mikoto, on a mission to conquer the East. On his way, he stopped at Ise Jingu and was given the sword by his aunt, the high-priestess of the shrine, in order to protect him on his journey. During this crusade, his enemies trick him several times into traps, and on several occasions the magic of the sword saves him. On one such occasion, he is surrounded by fire, but the sword cuts down all the grass around him, allowing him to escape. By some accounts, from this point the sword is called Kusanagi no tsurugi (“grass-cutting sword”), though it was already referred to in this way by in some earlier accounts. The story continues that Yamatotakeru’s mission is successful and that he goes on to marry Miyasuhime from the province of Owari. But for some unknown reason, he leaves the sword with his wife before embarking on his last mission. This time he has heard of a wrathful deity savaging the country around Mount Ibuki and goes out to meet him. Before he can return home to her, he is killed (or dies from illness), and his wife enshrines the sword first in her home and later in Atsuta, in present-day Nagoya.
            Yamatotakeru is an extremely interesting figure in Japanese mytho-history. He is the sort of tragic hero and even scapegoat figure so prized in Japan. In other words, the hero who "dies trying" is often more a hero than the one who succeeds. We are told that the prince, who is credited with conquering numerous enemies and expanding the area of the dynasty, was feared by his own father and kept at arms length battling enemies along the boarders. Though denied the throne he is said to be the father of Emperor Chuai whose consort was Jingu Kogo and whose son was Emperor Ojin. Although Atsuta Jingu was probably dedicated to him, he is not the principal kami enshrined here. I will devote further study to this fascinating figure and post it to this blog in the future.
            As the sword is also considered the body (shintai) of Amaterasu, some consider Atsuta Jingu the second most important shrine after Ise. As early as a.d. 807, Inbe no Hironari, the compiler of the Kogoshu, laments that, “Atsuta Shrine has not enjoyed any of the special privileges due its divine nature” (the Inbe were the clan responsible for court ritual, along with the Nakatomi, and the Kogoshu is considered one of the most important historical documents of Shinto). This may have been because the sword was not considered the shintai of Amaterasu, but was misunderstood to be the shintai of Yamatotakeru or another deity. It was also once thought that the other kami enshrined at Atsuta was not Amaterasu but Inada hime, wife of Susano-o. Such beliefs may have been held until the Meiji era, when recognition of Amaterasu omikami would have justified the change of rebuilding in the shinmei style and raising its rank to kanpeitaisha. However it is important to note that the combination of jewel, sword and mirror has been found in a jar-burial from the early Yayoi period at the Yoshitake-Takagi site in Fukuoka, Kyushu. It seems that these symbols may have been the possessions of at least one local chieftain, signifying his status as leader. While beads, bronze mirrors and bronze swords have been uncovered in numerous sites throughout Japan from earliest times, at some point this combination was appropriated to become the symbols of rulership solely of the imperial line.
            Another story associated with the sword is that it was stolen by a priest from Silla during the reign of Emperor Tenji. The priest was apparently captured but the sword was returned to the imperial palace rather than to the shrine. Then, during the reign of Emperor Tenmu (who waged war against his brother Tenji's son to claim the throne), the emperor was taken ill and a divination determined that this was due to the presence of the sword in the palace (curiously reminiscent of Emperor Sujin's motivation for sending it away), and it was then returned to the shrine.
            As with most shrines in Japan, Atsuta was once amalgamated with Buddhism and had a temple for worshipping the kami (jinguji), built during the reign of Emperor Ninmyo (833–50) that enshrined Yakushi Nyorai, a pagoda, and other Buddhist structures, but these were destroyed during the Meiji period. Today, Atsuta Jingu stands at the head of about two thousand branch shrines throughout Japan.

Description: The name Atsuta Jinja is said to come from an incident at the shrine’s founding. The site contained a maple tree that spontaneously burst into flame and started a fire in the adjacent rice field. The water in the rice field turned hot instead of extinguishing the flame. This is how it got its name, which translates literally to “hot rice-field shrine.” A long, broad road (sando) leads from south to north and passes through a grove of trees and under three large wooden torii before reaching the shrine. The grounds are quite large, at about fifty acres, including ancient camphor trees around a thousand years old. The grounds are also home to forty-four sub-shrines and attendant buildings. The shrine claims to receive over nine million visitors annually, with about 2,350,000 of these visiting during the first three days of the New Year.

Festival: Rei Sai (Main Festival), 5 June. Commemorates the day that offerings (heihaku) were first sent to the shrine from the imperial household. The ceremony to greet the imperial messenger is held between 10 and 11 a.m. Demonstrations of tea ceremony, Noh theater, flower arrangement, and kendo are held throughout the day. After dark, tall clusters of lanterns (makiwara) and rows of food stalls make the summer evenings pleasant and festive.

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