Sunday, December 2, 2012

Oyama Jinja

Oyama Jinja                                                                                      UC
Shinmon of Oyama Jinja
(photo courtesy of the shrine)
Date founded: Founded in 1599 as the Utatsu Hachimangu shrine on Utatsuyama by order of the Daimyo (lord) Toshinaga Maeda. Moved to its present location on the site of the old Kanaya Palace in 1873.
Address: 11-1 Oyama-cho, Kanazawa-shi, Ishikawa 920-0918
Tel/Information: 076-231-7210 A brief history of the shrine is available in English.
How to get there: Take the bus from Kanazawa Station going to Kenrokuen. Get off at the Minami-cho bus stop then 3 minutes by foot to the shine.
Enshrined kami: Maeda Toshiie, the founder of the Kaga domain.
Prayers offered: Business success, academic success, and a happy marriage.
Best times to go: When the Japanese apricot (ume) trees are in bloom around the end of February.

Important physical features: The most striking physical feature of Oyama Jinja is its unique entrance gate, which was built in a semi-Western style in 1875. The three-story shinmon gate was designed with the help of a Dutch doctor/teacher named Holtman, and built by Kichinosuke Tsuda who also built the shrine. It is an eclectic mix of European, Chinese, and Japanese elements, made of wood frame construction and approximately 83 feet in height. The ground floor consists of a triple arch constructed in brick that constitutes the gate. Two much smaller levels stand above this, surfaced with white stucco and clad in copper sheeting. A square tower, with stained-glass work on all four sides, once served as a light tower and is said to have the first lightening rod in Japan extending from its peak. Apparently it was disliked and unpopular when it was built. It certainly makes for a startling site, sitting as it does at the top of a broad, stone stair that itself begins with a large stone torii. Though rather European looking at first glance, closer inspection reveals the Chinese influence in the curved edges of the tower's three stories (including the first, brick level), the ornamental woodwork inside the arches, the ornamental folding doors on the second level, and the roof ornament at the peak. In short, it is a genre of architecture that grew up in the early Meiji period called gyofu (sudo-Western style). It is an absolutely unique structure, worthy of its designation as an Important Cultural Property.
            The haiden that stands at some distance from the gate, is a massive 9 by 6-bay irimoya-zukuri structure in unpainted wood, with a large chidorihafu and a large karahafu over the stair. The roof is tiled and all the walls contain latticed panels with the majority being sliding doors with glass under the lattice. A statue of Maeda Toshiie astride a horse seems a bit out of place on the grounds of a shrine, but such is the respect for the man in this town.
A stroll garden that sits to the right side of the shrine was designed by Kobori Enshu (1579-1647), a Japanese “Renaissance Man” who is famous as an architect, garden designer and tea master. He studied tea under Furuta Oribe and is considered one of the most important masters in history, along with Oribe and Sen no Rikyu. Enshu is best known for his work on Katsura Rikyu, Nijo Castle, and many other landmarks of the Momoyama and early-Edo periods. This beautiful garden contains a pond shaped like a biwa (Japanese lute), with islands in the shape of musical instruments. A brick bridge spanning a small pond on the grounds contains a triple arch that may have influenced the design of the gate.

Important spiritual features: Oyama Jinja was originally founded as Utatsu Hachimangu on Mt. Utatsu. When Maeda Toshiie, the powerful warlord and founder of the Kaga domain (present day Ishikawa Prefecture) died in 1599, his son Toshinaga enshrined him there. Though Toshiie was not the founder of the famous clan descended from the Sugawara (whose most famous son Sugawara Michizane was enshrined as Tenman Tenjin), he was the most celebrated member. Maeda was a powerful daimyo and his clan was allied with and related by marriage to Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu at different periods in time. He was one of the so-called “five regents” appointed by Hideyoshi to safeguard the succession of his five-year old child Hideyori, after Hideyoshi’s death (which came in 1598). Maeda had direct charge of protecting Hideyori at Osaka Castle, but when he died in 1599, Tokugawa Ieyasu began to consolidate power in his own hands and Toshinaga sided with the Tokugawa. The Hideyoshi faction split and a decisive battle between the factions was won by the Tokugawa allies at Sekigahara in 1600. Due to the able maneuvering of Maeda’s son Toshinaga and their heirs, the Maeda enjoyed the second largest domain after the Tokugawa, and the capital of their domain, Kanazawa, was the fourth-largest city in Japan by 1700. The city that the Maeda clan built is still one of the most vibrant along the Sea of Japan coast. With the end of domain wars brought about by the rise of the Tokugawa, the Maeda turned their eye toward commerce and began to modernize the province through the use of modern mechanized looms.

Description: Oyama Jinja was built by former samurai, adjacent to Kanazawa Castle on the former site of the Maeda villa Kanaya Goten in 1873. In fact, the back gate to the shrine is one of the few parts remaining of the original castle. The old castle was also built by the Maeda clan and parts of it have been faithfully restored. The grounds are now a large park. While the shrine sits on the western end of the castle grounds, the lovely Kenroku-en garden sits on the southern side. This beautiful stroll garden is typical of the private daimyo gardens of the feudal period, many of which later became public parks. Its 1,200 square foot garden contains the large Kasumiga-ike pond, the smaller Hisago-ike pond, and a long, winding stream. Together with the castle grounds and Omiya Jinja, Kenroku-en creates a large expanse of greenery in the heart of Kanazawa City.
            Maeda was ahead of his time in the sense that he turned the province toward creative production at an early date. He brought craftsman from Kyoto to train local people, establishing the osaikusho crafts workshop, and built an economy based on the textile industry. His legacy can still be seen in such things as the Kanazawa International Design School (a branch of Parsons in New York City), Kanazawa University of Art and Design, and the city's efforts to preserve and restore traditional architecture.
            One other interesting aspect of Kanazawa is the history of the Ikko-ikki, one of the few and most long-lived revolutionary movements in Japan. This group of Buddhist monks, farmers and itinerants followed the teachings of the Jodo Shinshu monk Rennyo. He is considered the "second founder" who revived the teachings of the founder Shinran (1173-1263). Jodo Shinshu was a kind of "outlaw" form of Buddhism founded under the influence of Honen (1133-1212). Honen taught that the path to awakening could be reached by repeatedly chanting the name of Amida (referred to as the nembutsu). Both Honan and Shinran were persecuted and exiled for their heresy. Likewise, Rennyo battled the Tendai monks of Mt. Hie (who burned down the sects main temple, Honganji, in 1465. This caused Rennyo to flee and rebuild in Echizen province (present day Fukui—next to Ishikawa). The religious fervor of his followers eventually lead to an uprising in 1488. The Ikko-ikki overthrew the lords of Kaga and established a peasant government there. Eventually, Oda Nobunaga destroyed the power of the Ikki and gave the domain to one of his top generals, Maeda Toshiie. The Ishiyama Hoganji was destroyed along with Goboji where Maeda built his castle.

Festivals: Hyakumangoku Matsuri, held on the first or second Saturday of June. This festival commemorates the entry of Lord Maeda into Kanazawa Castle in 1583. A large parade of people dancing and singing, and a procession of people dressed in period costume, fireman acrobatics, and Noh drama.

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