Sunday, November 4, 2012

Miyazaki Jingu                                                                           UC

Miyazaki Jingu
(photos courtesy of the shrine)
Date founded: The shrine was founded in the reign of Jimmu Tenno (r.660-585BC) according to shrine tradition.  Current buildings from 1907. 
Address: 2-4-1 Jingu, Miyazaki-shi, Miyazaki 880-0053
Tel/Information: 0985-27-4004
How to get there: Take the JR Nippo Line to Miyazaki Jingu Station, then 5 minutes on foot. 
Enshrined kami: Kamuyamato iwarehiko no sumera mikoto (Jinmu Tenno), Ugayafukiaezu no mikoto (father), and Tamayorihime no mikoto (mother)
Prayers offered: For safe childbirth, protection against misfortune (yakuyoke), and others.
Best times to go: From mid to late April to see the wisteria blossoms, including a rare variety with large white blossoms.  There is also horseback archery (yabusame) on 3 April. The surrounding forest is lovely any time of year.

Important physical features: Miyazaki was a small provincial town until the Meiji period when in 1883 it was chosen by the central government as the capital of the newly created prefecture of Miyazaki in southeastern Kyushu. Prior to this, the area was known as Hyuga since at least the seventh century. The shrine was rebuilt in 1907 on what was believed to be the birth place of Emperor Jimmu, making the shrine an important one in the newly created group of imperial shrines that included the creation of Hokkaido Jingu (1869), Heian Jingu (1895), and Meiji Jingu (1912). Most of these shrines were given the name jingu rather than jinja to show a special connection to the Imperial House, and to link them to an attempted centralization of Shinto focused on Ise Jingu.
         The modern shrine architecture style used here is the work of Ito Chuta, the historian-architect who is also credited with the design of Heian Jingu, Meiji Jingu and many other shrines from the era. For Miyazaki Jingu he created a strictly symmetrical layout of shinmei-zukuri type structures. One of the characteristics of this modern Shinto style is the strict flatness of the roof, made even more so by being surfaced with copper shingles rather than kaya as Ise Jingu. This makes for a much stricter and cooler appearance. The other characteristic is the great length of the roof and width of the structures, as opposed to their shallow depth, and the heavy use of very long chigi along the ridge of every structure from gate to honden. The roof ridge of shinmei-zukuri runs left to right and the entrance is on the non-gable side. The 4-legged gate (shinmon) with a long shinmei style roof with chigi and katsuogi, is followed by a square, open sided “worship place” (haishyo) with the same style roof. This is the point from which people usually make their prayers. A low, open fence that also lines the sando, prevents entry past this point. Beyond this is the large, 7-bay wide heiden with a long roof containing seven katsuogi. Extending from the sides of the heiden, covered corridors connect to two 3x2-bay structures that are placed with the gable facing forward. This gives the building the feel of a shoin style palace from the Heian period. All of these structures have very simple and unadorned round pillars, and the wood has taken on a dark patina over the years. The smaller honden is of the same style, and connected to the heiden by a short roof. Right of the sando just before entering the gate, there is a treasure house also designed by Ito. This semi-European style employs a wall treatment called namakokabe that first became popular on the houses of high-ranking samurai during the Edo period. It became common for storehouses in the western part of the country and involves tiles set diagonally on the wall, with wide gaps in which plaster has been mounded. The tile is usually dark grey like roofing tile and the result is fire and water-resistant.

Important spiritual features: We are told by both the Kojiki and the Nihon shoki that the roots of the imperial line—from the descent of Ninigi no mikoto, to the outset of the third generation in the form of Kamuyamato iwarehiko and his brothers—has its history in the ancient fiefdom of Hyuga (present day Miyazaki). Known as Jimmu Tenno from about the eighth century, the story of this heavenly descendent ultimately founding the kingdom that would become Japan, is central to the Japanese version of divine rule. It will be recalled that the line of heavenly kami continued to marry earthly kami until Jimmu makes his way to Yamato to found the nation, where the ancient texts record a change from the “Divine Age” or “Age of the Kami”, to the age of man. I go into some detail on the founding myths in Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion." The story of Miyazaki Jingu’s foundation begins in Yamato, where an aged Jimmu (said to have lived for 137 years) is concerned that the Kyushu clans have not yet submitted to his will. Jimmu decides to send his grandson Takeiwatatsu no mikoto to do the job. When he lands back in his ancestral Hyuga, he first stops off at the site of present day Miyazaki Jingu to worship his grandfather, before going on to find a place to settle down and develop the land. The place he finally settles in is Aso and therefore he is enshrined at Aso Jinja in neighboring Kumamoto. He is therefore considered the founder of Kyushu while Jimmu is considered the founder of the nation. While the dates are not known and take place in mythical time (i.e. there is as yet no written or archeological proof of any nation states in Japan at that time), the traditional foundation date of Yamato (and the official founding date of Japan) is given as 660BC. 
         Archeology does tell us a few things, however, which bare some light on the mythology. It is believed that, in fact, the region later known as Hyuga was late in developing compared to other places in Kyushu. This may be partly because it was isolated from the rest of Kyushu and accessible only by sea. It may also be that a hostile group, referred to in the literature as the Kumasa people, resisted influences from the outside, were responsible for the death of Emperor Chuai (r.), and were finally subdued only in the eighth century. It is odd, therefore, that the writers of these eighth century texts should have chosen this region to begin the history of the country. There is even speculation that Jimmu and his followers landed here from another country and, finding an unwelcoming environment, continued on there way to the Kansai—conquering and consolidating kingdoms as they went.  A later date for development in the south is evidenced by the  the kofun burial mounds in this area being of a later date than those in the Kansai. It is also the case that metal work in bronze was rare in southern Kyushu and that commerce and communication ran east-west along the northern shores and on to Yamaguchi in western Honshu, through the Inland Sea and on to the Kansai area. There is also some evidence from skeletal remains that the  new Yayoi immigrants of North Asian origins, moved into the older Jomon locations occupied by people of South Asian origin. It may be that the mythology of the seventh century chronicles and that of Miyazaki Jingu is a reenactment of this displacement in an area of the country that—because of its isolation—was later in experiencing it, and therefore more prominent in the legends that were handed down. An excellent book on the subject is "Himiko and Japan's Elusive Chiefdom of Yamatai" by J. Edward Kidder.

Shan Shan Matsuri
Description: Miyazaki Jingu occupies an area of 64 acres in the heart of the city. The forest that surrounds the shrine reflects the combination of the belief in the sanctity of nature and the efforts of local people who have taken care to preserve the forest known as Jimmu sama.  This includes a 600 year-old rare, white wisteria, with a canopy reaching some 40 feet in one direction. The shrine itself is built entirely of cedar. Like many of the other imperial shrines built from the Meiji to the pre-war period, Miyazaki Jingu was a statement of the “new order” in Shinto, as defined by the government. Unlike some completely new shrines from the era, Miyazaki Jingu had an ancient history and connection to the Imperial House. As I mentioned above, the area comprising present day Miyazaki is central to the account of the first three generations of kami after the decent to earth.  The prefecture therefore boasts many ancient shrines dedicated to those involved in the mythical birth of Japan.

Yabusame at Miyazaki Jingu
Festivals: Miyazaki Jingu Taisai, first weekend after 26 October.  Also called "Shan Shan" Matsuri, from the sound made by the bells decorating the horses in the procession of 1000 people in period costume.

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