Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Haruna Jinja

Haruna Jinja                                                                       UC

The sōryūmon of Haruna Jinja
Date founded: Founded in 586 according to shrine tradition.
Address: 849 Harunasan-machi, Takasaki-shi, Gunma Prefecture
Tel/Information: 027-374-9050.
How to get there: A number of trains stop at Takasaki Station. The Takasaki line runs from Ueno and other Tokyo Stations. Then board the Lake Harunako Bus from bus stop 2 at the West Exit of Takasaki Station. The bus takes 70 minutes and costs 1,100 yen one-way. The first torii is about 400 meters from the Haruna Jinja bus stop.
Enshrined kamiHomusubi no kami and Haniyama hime (Haniyasu no kami) and Toyokiirihiko in the kyohonenkan.
Prayers offered: Prayers for good rainfall and good harvests, fertility, success in business and marriage. 
Best time to go: The autumn color is beautiful. There is a fireworks festival on Haruna Lake on August 1st.

Haruna Jinja map courtesy of naoto001.com
Important physical features: Haruna Jinja is home to a number of Important Cultural Properties of Japan. The designation applies to the honsha, heiden, haiden combination reconstructed in 1806, a gakuden, two gaguraden, and and two gates – the soryumon and zuishinmon. The honsha and haiden are connected by the heiden in a form of Kasuga zukuri (actually more like gongen zukuri), painted in red with chidorihafu and karahafu roof details and extensive carving colored in white – reminiscent of Toshogu shrines.

Honsha of Haruna Jinja, all photos from here on courtesy of Japan Geographic
The honsha incorporates the Misugata Rock, which forms a cave and enshrines the goshintai of Haruna Jinja. To the left of the main shrine is the oldest of the buildings on the grounds, the kyohonenkan from about 1716. Before the forced separation of Buddhism and Shinto, this building housed a Buddha image. It is now said to be the home of the spirit of Toyokiirihiko, thought to be a son of Emperor Sujin (r.97-30B.C.). Also painted in red it is an irimoya-zukuri building with chidorihafu and karahafu.  Directly in front of and facing the honsha is the kaguraden of 1764, entirely painted in red.

Kaguraden of Haruna Jinja
These buildings sit on a sort of plateau approached by climbing two staircases and finally passing through the soryumon of 1855 and one final staircase. Perhaps more impressive than these interesting structures is the ancient landscape and the way in which the shrine has been incorporated into it. The shrine is virtually hidden within craggy rocks and tall cedars, giving it the feel of a secretive hideaway.  Haruna Jinja lies at the base of Mt. Haruna, one of the "Three Mountains of Jomo" which includes Mt. Akagi and Mt. Myogi. Jomo is the old name for Gunma, the prefecture in Eastern Japan where the shrine is located.

The area of the shrine is quite extensive with just the walk from the first torii to the main shrine being some 700 meters. Along the way are bronze sculptures of the "Seven Gods of Good-fortune" (shichifukujin), a pagoda (sanjunoto) and another building called the miyukiden.


A website I read claims the similarities between this pagoda and the famous one in Tokyo's Ueno zoo are "striking", this is a three-tired pagoda whereas Ueno's is five-levels. Like many religious sites in Japan, Haruna was a shinbutsu shugo site of combinatory practice until the Meiji period, and affiliated with Kaneji temple, which was located in Ueno, Tokyo, from the 14th to 19th century. The multi-level shrine grounds lies nestled in a cedar forest with streams and waterfalls. At about 860 meters above sea level, some of these falls freeze in winter. But perhaps most impressive are the fantastically-shaped rocks - including the Misugata-iwa - that form an impressive background to the shrine. Final mention goes to the towering cedars that dot the landscape. One of these is the Yatate Cedar – located near the hand-washing basin at the beginning of the final climb to the shrine – a Natural Monument of Japan.

Important spiritual features: A number of Haruna shrines are listed in the Engishiki of 927, a compilation of rights and prayers which lists 3032 shrines. The main kami worshiped here is Homusubi or Kagutsuchi the original kami of fire, whose birth caused the death of Izanami. This kami became the object of popular faith, conversely, as a tutelary for protection from fire. Recorded in Nihongi, Haniyasu no kami is a tutelary kami of earth that was produced by Izanagi and Izanami after they had completed giving birth to the "Great Eight-Island Country" (Ōyashimaguni-Japan). The name haniyasu is thought to mean "to knead earth so as to make it soft." Kojiki relates that the two kami Haniyasu hiko no kami and Haniyasu hime no kami were produced from Izanami's feces. It seems that after the medieval period, the shrines fortunes declined and was ultimately revived and strengthened by the Tendai monk Tenkai who was abbot of Kaneji Temple and a close advisor of Ieyasu Tokugawa. Tenkai was responsible for Ieyasu being enshrined as the kami Tosho Daigongen. Monks called betto ran the shrine from this time until the Meiji Period.

One of the many small falls in the vicinity of the shrine
Description: There is some conjecture that the shrine was founded in the sixth century during the reign of Emperor Yomei but the shrine website makes no mention of such an early date. Nevertheless Haruna Jinja is an excellent shrine in a beautiful natural setting. With craggy rocks, towering cedars, waterfalls, and mountain views, Haruna has much to recommend it. In addition to nature, a large number of man-made structures give the casual visitor or serious student much to explore. Beside the shrine grounds, nearby sites include Haruna Fuji and Haruna Lake, Mount Myogi and the very interesting Myogi Jinja. Mount Akagi and lake Ono complete the natural triumvirate. The entire area is thick with onsen hot springs. Although each season has much to recommend it, be aware that roads may be impassible in winter.