Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Yamamiya Sengen Jinja                                                       UC
View of Mount Fuji from Yamamiya Jinja
(all photos by Joseph Cali)

Date founded: During the reign of Emperor Keiko (A.D. 71–130) at the behest of Yamato Takeru, according to shrine tradition.
Address: 740 Yamamiya, Fujinomiya-shi, Shizuoka 418-0111
Tel/Information: (no phone).
How to get there: About twenty minutes by car or taxi from Fujinomiya Station on the JR Minobu Line.
Enshrined kami: Konohanasakuyahime no mikoto, Asama no okami (Sengen no okami).
Prayers offered: Successful childbirth. 
Best time to go: Mid-October to May to see the snow covered version of Mt. Fuji which is the most famous view. Avoid mid-August when the crowds are the biggest.

First torii of Yamamiya Jinja

Important physical features: In Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion, I have listed this shrine as a sub-entry under Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha, considered the main shrine for Asama (Mt. Fuji) worship. However, Yamamiya is considered the first place from which Mt. Fuji was worshiped. There are no shrine buildings here. Instead, there is only a tree and stone lantern-lined road that begins at a stone torii at a modern crossroad. Walking under the torii starts you down the narrow tree-lined path that leads to a second torii where the stone lanterns begin. This part of the path leads to a wooden gate where the collection box (saisenbako) stands. Continuing through the gate, just past the entrance, is a stone which is said to be the original place from where the mountain was worshiped. Now you find yourself on the last narrow path which leads to a stair that brings you to a sacred ground (yaniwa) from which the mountain was worshiped. This space contains a few trees and a stone alter and is surrounded by a low stone fence. This ground faces directly to Mt. Fuji which looms up behind it. The area is set to be moved to allow for a more direct view of the mountain. As it is, you may be able to walk to the back side of the fence and further up the slope for a magnificent view. The trees have been removed for some distance to afford a full view of the peak.

The road lined with stone lanterns and the entrance gate in the background

Important spiritual features: (From Shinto Shrines: A Guide to the Sacred Sites of Japan's Ancient Religion.) "Although both the Kojiki and the Nihon shoki attribute Yamato Takeru’s deliverance from a burning field to the sacred sword kusanagi no tsurugi, shrine tradition says that he prayed to Asama no okami and that it was this deity that saved him. As a result, the origin of Asama worship is said to be here at Yamamiya Sengen Jinja. It is recorded that the deities of Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha were moved to the present location from the Yamamiya shrine in 806." Yamato Takeru is a legendary figure who seems to represent the Yamato governments efforts to subdue the various tribes that existed even through the Heian period. Various stories in the Kojiki and Nihon shoki depict him subduing the Izumo tribes and the so-called kumaso in Kyushu, before being sent east where he was finally killed by an offended kami. He is in fact credited with so many major adventures and depicted in so many different places that whatever truth the legends may be based on is heavily obscured. More likely, Fuji san, also known as Asama, was worshiped from as early as the the Jomon period (14,500 to 300 BC). If not actually worshiped, it was no doubt revered and feared for its enormous power. The added dimension here is the beauty of the graceful slopes formed by ages of continued eruptions and weathering. This may be the main reason why the kami worshiped here came to be accepted as Konohanasakuya, said to be a beautiful young woman and herself the daughter of a mountain kami. However it is likely that the mountain was worshiped from many points on its circumference and the only reason Yamamiya is said to be the first is that some textural evidence remains from the eighth century.

The stone said to mark the original point of worship.
The sacred ground at the top of the stairs
Description: I go into detail about Mt. Fuji and its worship in my book. There are also a number of entries on this blog which may be of interest. For more information please view the entries for Shizuoka Sengen Jinja, one of the other main shrines for Fuji worship, and Mount Fuji and its Religious Traditions, which lists a number of important research articles on various aspects of the cult of Mt. Fuji, as well as some information on its popular climbing trails.
View of Mt. Fuji from the sacred ground without aid of a zoom lens.