Monday, December 17, 2012

Ube Jinja                                                                                                              UC
Gate and haiden of Ube Jinja
(photos courtesy of the shrine)

Date founded: Founded in 648 according to shrine tradition. The present main shrine building dates from 1898.
Address: 651 Miyashita, Kokufu-cho, Tottori-shi, Tottori-ken 680-0151.
Tel/Information: 0857-22-5025 English omikuji fortunes are available.
How to get there: Take the JR Chizu Kyuko Line from JR Shin-Osaka Station to JR Tottori station.  Then by taxi or by the Nakagawara Line Bus to Miyanoshita Jinja-mae bus stop.
Enshrined kami: Takenouchi no Sukune no mikoto.
What to pray for: Longevity, protection of children, prosperity, and success.
Best time to go: 21 April for the Miyuki Matsuri, early November for the autumn color.

Important physical features: The honden of Ube Jinja is a modest two-bay nagare-zukuri structure of unpainted wood, with gold-colored metalwork, chigi and katsuogi and a cedar-bark roof. The haiden is an irimoya-zukuri structure set perpendicular to the honden with the entrance on the gable side and latticed doors on all sides. An equally modest, 4-legged gate with a curved roof acts as an entrance, set close to the haiden at the top of some stone steps. The twin rocks called souri seki, where Takenouchi no Sukune is said to have left his sandals and ascended to become a kami, are located on the grounds behind the honden.

Important spiritual features: The deity enshrined at Ube Jinja, Takenouchi no Sukune, is a legendary figure said to have lived for 280 years, and served every Emperor from Keiko (r. 71-130AD) to Nintoku (r. 313-99). Because of this, he is famous as a kami of longevity. He accomplished this feat by drinking from a well (shipo sui) that helped prolong his life. This miracle water is said to be the same as that which flows into the current hand-washing basin on the shrine grounds, and visitors are invited to drink their full. Takenouchi is most famed as the saniwa (spirit medium) for Jingu Kogo when she received a takusen (oracle) from the Suminoe deities that commanded Emperor Chuai to take charge of Korea. Chuai refused this oracle from the mouth of his wife Jingu, and was struck dead. Jingu, we are told by the Kojiki, went on to conquer Korea with the help of the faithful general Takenouchi who is also thought of as the first prime minister of sorts. Takenouchi was also a mentor to the son of Jingu, the young Emperor Ojin, and thus also gained a reputation as a protector of children and a connection to the “Boys Day” celebration on the fifth day of the fifth month. The story is told that when Jingu returned from Korea, she faced a rebellion from two of Emperor Chuai's children by another consort. She used a ruse of claiming the young Ojin had died and launching a funeral ship in which her troops hid. This gave Jingu's forces a chance to attack and quash the rebellion. In the meantime, Takenouchi  had spirited Ojin away to the Kii peninsula (present day Wakayama Prefecture). One generation later, the son of Ojin, Emperor Nintoku, took a granddaughter of Takenouchi as his wife, and she became Princess Iwa, the mother of three emperors (Richu, Hanzei and Ingyo).

Description: Ube Jinja is listed as one of the 353 taisha (Grand Shrines) in the Engishiki's list of 2,861 shrines, and is most important shrine in the Iwami district of Tottori prefecture. The enshrined deity is the legendary general to the equally legendary Jingu Kogo who, as the story goes, conquered Korea around 211AD. Takenouchi is one of the most often depicted figures of Japanese mythology and is the subject of many ukiyo-e. Depictions usually show him in Chinese-style robes with a long beard. He has appeared on numerous Japanese bank notes from 1 to 5 yen (from before the turn of the century). For this reason he also came to be regarded as a kami of prosperity. He is also regarded as the ancestral kami of twenty-eight clans including the ancient and powerful Soga, Ki, and Katsuragi clans, as well as a relative of Jingu Kogo. 
As an interesting if unrelated aside, one of the most well known Japanese composers of the twentieth century, Akira Ifukube, who is especially known as the composer of the soundtrack for “Godzilla”, was a scion of the Ifukube (Ihokibe). This was a powerful clan of the Inaba region (present day Tottori) who were also priests of Ube Jinja.

Festivals: Miyuki Matsuri, 20 to 21 April. This festival includes the Kirinjishi (“Kirin dance of Inaba”), a performance particular to the Tottori area begun in the Edo period. The Kirin is a mythical creature like a dragon but said to be based on the imagined image of a giraffe. This dance is similar to a lion dance but the movements are slower.

Mitokusan Sanbutsuji
Address: 1010 Mitoku, Misasa-cho, Touhaku-gun, Tottori 682-0132
Tel/Information: 085-843-2666
How to get there: Bus service is available from JR Kurayoshi Station on the Sannin Main Line to Mitokusanji-mae bus stop. Busses run almost hourly (except Saturday, Sunday and 8 thru 15 August. Admission to the mountain is 600 yen for adults, 300 yen for children. Appropriate footwear for climbing is required.

Nagerido od Mitokusan Sanbutsuji
(photo from the website
If you travel to Ube Jinja, I would also recommend a visit to another spiritual landmark of Tottori, Mitokusan Sanbutsuji temple. Though not Shinto and not very close to Ube, it is a complex of temples and hermitages on Mt Mitoku that is on the candidates list to become a World Heritage site. A steep and rocky mountain trail takes you up the side of the 3,000-foot mountain. The farther into the complex, the more the temples are built on increasingly precarious slopes, until they are against the shear rock-face of the mountain. The highest one is named Nageiredo, a small kakezukuri building from the Heian period that is designated a National Treasure. According to temple lore, En no Gyoja founded the temple in 706 by throwing three lotus petals in the air and vowing to build temples where they fell. Mt. Mitoku was one such place. The story goes that he threw the temple up from below, hence the name nageire which means, “to throw in.” This is a good example of mountain asceticism and the whole-hearted devotion of the ancients. It is a mystery as to how these perches were built on the shear rock and managed to endure the harsh winters on the Japan Sea coast. In celebration of the 1300-year  (in 2006) anniversary, the sight has undergone extensive repairs. The three Buddha images, from which the temple takes the name san (three) butsu (Buddha) ji (temple), were donated by Ennin (794-864), the fourth leader of the Tendai sect. The Tendai sect played a major role in the amalgamation of Shinto and Buddhism (shin-butsu shugo). These and a number of other wooden and ceramic statues, especially of Zao Gongen the frightening shugendo god who was revealed to En no Gyoja on Mt. Kinpu, are on display. Zao is said to be a Shinto avatar (gongen) of a combination of the Buddha’s of the past, present, and future.

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