Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Taga Taisha                                                                      UC
Taga Taisha
(photos courtesy of the shrine)
Date founded: Unknown but mentioned in the Kojiki written in the seventh century.
Address: 604 Taga Taga-cho, Inugami-gun, Shiga 522-0341
Tel/Information: 0749-48-1101
How to get there: Take the Omi Tetsudo Line to Takamiya Station and change trains for Taga-taisha mae Station. Then 10 minutes by foot.  Or take the Biwako Line to JR Minami Hikone Station, then 10 minutes by bus. 
Enshrined kami:  Izanagi no okami and Izanami no okami.
Prayers offered: Pray for a good marriage, for protection of one's wife, protection from harm (yakuyoke), recovery from illness, and long life.
Best time to go: In late March or early April to view a particularly beautiful weeping cherry tree.

Important physical features: Hideyoshi Toyotomi prayed for the health of his wife here and donated new shrine buildings and a garden around 1588 as an offering for her recovery from illness. The long, straight sando leads to a romon gate connected to a kairo that surrounds the inner shrine. This is followed by a haiden and a shimei-zukuri style honden with chigi and katsuogi. All the roofs are surfaced in Japanese cedar. The garden is located next to the study (shoin) attached to the shrine offices. It includes a stone bridge and a sanzon seki (a Buddhist-influenced, three-stone arrangement often found in Japanese gardens). Though the shrine was either burned down or destroyed by storms several times between 1615 and 1791, it was always rebuilt in grand style by the Tokugawa shogunate or the Hikone clan. The current rebuilding was completed in 2005. Though the grounds are small, they are covered in trees and located about twelve kilometers from Lake Biwa. 

Important spiritual features: The male kami Izanagi and the female Izanami are the mother and father of all the gods after the first six generations. They were charged by these original deities with the creation of earth (Japan) and the creation of all the other deities. After the creation of the fire deity, Izanami died and went to "the land of the dead" (yomi). The aggrieved Izanagi went after her and tried to bring her back. After returning from yomi, Izanagi bathed to rid himself of the pollution of death, and from these ablutions other kami were born—including Amaterasu Omikami. When he was done, the Kojiki says that Izanagi “hid himself away in Taga of Omi.” Omi is the old name for Shiga and “hid away” is a euphemism for died. However the Nihon shoki mentions Awajishima as the place where he went to dwell and therefore both places have a claim to this heritage. In either case it infers the establishment of holy ground from as early as "the age of the gods." The existence of the shrine is first confirmed in the engishiki written in the tenth century. Taga Taisha, is the origin of over two-hundred Taga shrines throughout the country. Taga branch shrines developed due to the popularity of confraternities (ko) and the guides (oshi) who escorted visitors to shrines and temples.  
            Taga Taisha also has a long history of Shinto-Buddhist syncretism and had a jinguji (a temple on shrine grounds) from the eighth century. The monks who worshipped here were called shaso or shimbun dosha—monks specifically appointed to say prayers for the enlightenment of the kami, which were collectively known as Taga Daimyojin. At these temples, sutras were chanted in front of the kami with the goal of releasing them from their unenlightened condition. Taga Taisha still has a temple on its grounds and has been at the forefront of a new rapprochement between Buddhism and Shinto.

Description: Taga taisha is situated close to the eastern side of Lake Biwa, on the old Tosando Highway between Kyoto and Nagoya. This is one reason it was visited by nobility from ancient times. Approaching the entrance to the shrine grounds, an arched bridge crosses a small moat just inside the first torii. Like so many other arched bridges throughout the country it is no longer used, but it creates a picturesque sight especially in the snow. Passing round it to the left or right, you enter through the roumon into the shrine grounds proper. You will notice the chrysanthemum motif of the Imperial Household on the lanterns and noren hung over the entrance. This shows that Taga Taisha was designated a kanpeitaisha (imperial shrine) which means it considered an ancestral shrine of the emperor and is one of ninety-seven shrines that received offerings from the emperor in the Meiji era. Only kanpeisha and kokuheisha (national shrines) were allowed to display the chrysanthemum motif.
            The grounds are rather large at about fifteen acres. The sando leads past the teimizuya and directly to the kagura stage in front of the haiden. After paying your respects to the kami, you can continue to walk around the grounds to the left of the haiden. The grounds are abundant with tall conifers, giving the impression of a forest clearing. In the spirit of shinbutsu shugo, the grounds contain both a Buddhist temple and Shinto shrine.
            In pre-modern times, the shrine was strongly linked to other major shrines, such as Ise Jingu, through its association with Izanagi as the father of Ameterasu Omikami and Susano-o. Especially during  time when patronage of the emperor and other elite families was lost due to civil war. Buddhist organization and oshi guides became essential to the financial wellbeing of shrines. The words of one folk song went, “If you visit Ise, then why not Taga? Ise is a child of Taga.”  Another popular expression said, “Go at least three times to Kumano [Susano-o] and at least seven to Ise but visit Taga once a month.”

Taga Festival
Festivals: Korei Taisai, 22 April. (Also called the Taga Festival, Uma [horse] Festival, and the Batoshin Festival) This is the shrines oldest festival, originating sometime in the Kamakura period. It includes a procession of about 500 figures dressed in period costume, representing the procession of a feudal lord. Traditionally a koreisai was a festival to commemorate the imperial ancestors on the day of the spring equinox. A taisai was a special rite lasting a full month and presided over by the Emperor. Events leading to this festival begin on 12 April and include a sort of play/ritual with two members of the community, called the batoin (a peasant) and the otsukai-den (a samurai), who make offerings to the kami

Otaue (rice-planting) Festival, 1 June. Fifty-five rice-planting girls (saotome) in traditional garb, perform a ceremony accompanied by music and dance.

Taga Taisha Lantern Festival (Mantosai), 3 to 5 August. Probably the most visually exciting festival held here, 10,000 lanterns are lit on the shrine grounds along with drum performances and a dragon dance, as well as more popular entertainers.

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