Thursday, August 8, 2019

Kinpu Jinja

Kinpu Jinja     (Kimpu, Kinbu, Jinja)                                                     UC
Kinpu Jinja, photo courtesy Kansai Explorer

Date founded: Date is unclear but mentioned in the Eiga Monogatari written between 1028 and 1107.
Address: 1651 Yoshino-yama, Yoshino-cho, Yoshino-gun, Nara 639-3115
Tel/Information: 0746-32-8167(3032) (Yoshino Tourism Office) Admission of 300 yen for the tower where Yoshitsune Moritomo hid from the Taira.
How to get there: Take the Kintetsu Yoshino Line to Yoshino Station. Then take the Yoshinoyama rope way to Yoshinoyama Station. From there take the Yoshino Omine Cable-car minibus headed to Okusenbon Kuchi and get off at the last stop. Then walk about 15 minutes.
Enshrined kami: Kanayamahiko no mikoto.
Prayers offered: Good fortune and protection against danger.
Best time to go: Late March to early May for the cherry blossoms.

While you're here, any readers who are interested in having a kamidana of their own, or would like to send one to a friend or family member, please check out this post:

Important physical features:  Physically, Kinpu Jinja is a very modest construction of heavily weathered wood, belying the image of its name – Gold Ridge. (It is not to be confused with Kinpusen-ji, a very large Buddhist temple, also in the Yoshino area – though somewhat distant from Kinpu Jinja – and also considered a center of Shugendo.) Passing through the first torii, you travel along an ascending paved road to the second torii at the very front of the jinja. The shrine itself is a square structure, three bays wide and deep, with a chidorihafu roof and no walls. From the rear of the shrine a stone stair leads further up the mountain: a clear indication that this is the home of a mountain kami. The present form of the shrine is probably from around 1613 when it was rebuilt after a fire. A pine tree on the grounds is thought to be more than 1,000 years old.
    Another important structure is found following the narrow path past the shrine. The so called Yoshitsune kakure-to is a one story pagoda. No more than a simple one room "box" with a cypress-bark roof, as architecture it's neither particularly interesting nor even typical of one-story pagodas. The interest here is related to the historical myth. An 18th century print by, Utagawa Toyohara, depicts an elaborate three-story building which was likely pure imagination on the part of the artist. The title of the print comes from a tale about Yoshitsune no Minamoto, one of many tales related to the Minamoto clan and locations from Kinki to Kanto. Yoshitsune spent years on the run from his jealous and rivalrous brother, the first shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo, who had previously spent years in hiding from his enemy, the Taira clan.  One such tale has it that Yoshitsune hid out in this pagoda and, when discovered and surrounded, escaped by kicking out the roof and running away. Therefore, the title of the print and an alternate name for the pagoda, Kenuke-no-to (literally ‘kicking and escaping pagoda’).

Kenuke-no-to, print in the possession of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

     However, as with so many shrines and temples in Japan, the real physical attraction is in the surroundings. The Yoshino and Omine mountain ranges in southern Nara prefecture present a breathtaking and generally unspoiled environment. Kinpu Jinja is near the famous Okusenbon area of some 1300 cherry trees (the entire Yoshino area is said to contain some 30,000 trees), which bloom between April and May. The area is best seen by hiking its many rugged trails – between 100 and 600 meters above sea level – stopping to refresh at one of the many onsen, or by joining an ascetic practice group and staying in a shukubo accommodation.

Important spiritual features: The true significance of this shrine is in the history of combinatory gods and religious practices that was once the hallmark of Japanese religion. When the feudal system of government and social organization finally toppled in the late 19th century, it was replaced by a combination of enlightened, Western ideologies – public education, Western medicine, a semi-representative form of government, modern transportation and industrial systems – and a rigid ideology based on the image of a modern European-style monarchy, with a strong military and a God-like Emperor at its head. That ideology demanded that Buddhism and Shinto be completely separated and that Shinto become "what it had always been" – a philosophy of state control and protection. In such an environment, the combination of Buddhas and Kami that had been practiced since the 7th century, was abruptly destroyed. Places such as Kinpu were forbidden from continuing their former practices and Shugendo – an ideology developed from a combination of ancient native gods and sacred sites, overlaid with Buddhist iconography and esoteric spiritualism – was outlawed.
    Still today, religion in Japan is basically the Meiji construct that it became at the beginning of the 20th century. But believers are now free to practice as they wish and Shugendo continues to exist at the margins. 

Description: Now part of the United Nations designated World Heritage site formally called "Sacred Sited and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range, Kinpu Jinja is an important stop on the Omine Pilgrimage route (Omine Okugakemichi). The World Heritage groups together the Koyasan route, the Kumano Kodo routes, and the Yoshino and Omine routes. I have detailed the history of the pilgrimage routes in other posts such as Tenkawa Jinja and Yoshino Mikumari Jinja. The essential thing to note is the influence of Shingon Buddhism, also known as Mikkyo. This esoteric Buddhism was brought to Japan by the priest Kukai, or as he was known later in life, Kobo Daishi. As a scion of the Saeki family of Shikoku, he traveled to Nara for study and eventually was selected to travel on a government sponsored pilgrimage to China in the year 804. In 805 he was introduced to Master Huiguo who initiated him in the esoteric teachings of Indian Mahayana Buddhism at the Qinglong Monastery. Huiguo died shortly after and Kukai returned to Japan in 806 to establish Shingon Buddhism.
     Quoting from Oliver Statler's Japanese Pilgrimage, in 816 Kukai petitioned Emperor Saga (786-842) to be given Mount Koya saying, "It is regrettable that only a few priests practice meditation in high mountains, in deep forests, in wide canyons, and in secluded caves. This is because the teaching of meditation has not been transmitted, nor has a suitable place been allocated for the practice of meditation." This is probably the beginning of the pilgrimage routes that started in the capital of Kyoto and ended at the tip of the Kii Peninsula in modern day Wakayama Prefecture. Early pilgrimage was often an elaborate months-long affair, including Emperors and a retinue of hundreds. As a result, an entire pilgrimage enterprise developed with small temples, shrines, and lodgings popping up along the route. The practice of mountain asceticism became key to both Shingon and Tendai Buddhism from this time. Pilgrimage is still very much alive in these mountains with thousands walking the various routes each year.

Festival: Hanakueshiki Festival, April 10 to 12. Take the Kintetsu Line from Osaka to Yoshino Station. Then take the ropeway to Yoshinoyama Station. Actually a festival closely associated with Kinpusen-ji Temple, flowers are offered to the statue of En no Gyoja, the father of Shugendo, in front of the temple. On the 11th a grand parade departs from Chikurn-in Temple and makes its way to the Zao-do of Kinpusen-ji, amid the sound of the conch and an array of brightly costumed shugenja. 

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