Kumano Hongusha Shrine in Takadate, Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a shrine associated with Kumano Worship. What is called Kumano Worship is the faith in Kumano Sanzan, a set of three Grand Shrines located in the southeastern part of the Kii Mountain Range in Wakayama Prefecture; Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha and Kumano Nachi Taisha. It had spread all over the country in the late Heian period and onward.
Kumano Shrines have become located in various parts of Japan as Kumano Worship spread in the country; however, Natori is the only the place that has three Kumano Grand Shrines. It is said that in the late Heian period, a mountain practitioner visited an old shrine priestess in Natori and passed on a message from Kumano Gongen, the deity of Kumano Sanzan. To hear this, she decided to found the three Kumano Great shrines in Natori in 1123.
Comparing Mt. Takadate (Mt. Natori) to the Kumano Mountains, the Natori River to the Kumano River and Sendai Bay to the Kumanonada Sea, Natori Kumano Sanzan has become the largest-scaled sacred site of Kumano Worship in the Tohoku region.
Kumano Hongusha Shrine is located in the northernmost of the three shrines. Honden (the main hall) is a stately building with a Kokera-buki (thin wooden shingles) roof.
A Deer Dance, which is designated as an intangible cultural property of Natori City, has been handed down at this shrine. It is a traditional dance, in which dancers wear a deer head and carry the red and the yellow flags on their backs. The name of the shrine is written on the red flag, while the four-character idiom of kanji meaning “Hope for a rich harvest” is written on the yellow one.
Hanamachi Kagura used to be dedicated to the deities at Kashima Shrine in Iinozaka in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, and it was originally called Kashima Kagura. Since Kashima Shrine was integrated with Tatekoshi Shrine in the city in 1909, this kagura dance was renamed Hanamachi Kagura. It is now performed by a private dancing group, which does not belong to any shrine.
The name Hanamachi is derived from the town name. In the old times, when the domain lord passed by the town of Iinozaka, he took in the beautiful scenery of peach blossoms along the road. The town was called Hana-machi (Flower Town) since then, and the kagura dance at Iinozaka was also called Hanamachi Kagura.
Hanamachi Kagura is a kind of pantomime to offer a prayer to deities. After the Shinto purification prayer is addressed at the beginning, the dances are performed solemnly in silence.
Kumanodo Bugaku is a folk performing art performed at the annual spring festival of Kumano Shrine in Takadate Kumanodo, Natori city, Yamagata Prefecture. Bugaku is a repertoire of dances of the Japanese Imperial court, derived from traditional dance forms imported from China, Korea, and India.
It is said that the Bugaku dance was introduced to the Kumanodo area by the Hayashi family in Risshakuji Temple in Yamadera, Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture, but there is no precise records concerning its origin. The Hayashi family was the hereditary musician family serving the Japanese Imperial Court. As the Hayashi family moved to present Yamagata Prefecture before Bugaku was japanized in the mid-Heian period, the old dancing style of the imported dance has been precisely handed down in the Kumanodo Bugaku dance. It is designated as a prefecture’s folk cultural property.
In the Kumanodo Bugaku dance, neither dialog nor words are employed in the dances and songs. It is a kind of pantomime in dedication to the god. Although it has an origin in the Shinto dance, it also has several features of the dances performed by Shugendo practitioners.
The 3.6 m square temporary stage is built over the pond in the precinct. In back of the stage, the ensemble composed of one drum, one pair of large clappers and one Japanese flute play the music.
Akiu Shrine in Akiu-cho, Taihaku-ku, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a historic shrine founded in 1513. It is said that in this year Akiu Morifusa, the 15th head of the Akiu clan, transferred the deity of Suwa Shrine in Shinano province (present-day Nagano Prefecture) and founded Suwa Shrine to pray for his victory in the battle with the Nagai clan in Natori. It is said that he decided on this place because it was where Kumano Shrine founded by Sakanoue Tamuramaro used to have been located.
Being called “Osuwa-sama,” the shrine had been faithfully worshipped by local people since then as the guardian god of nearby five villages. In 1909, all the minor shrines in the Akiu area were integrated into this shrine and it was renamed Akiu Shrine.
Surrounded with old trees including the gingko tree, which is designated as a protected tree of the city, and weeping cherry trees, the precinct is filled with tranquil atmosphere. However, it is bustled with visitors on the days of Akiu Grand Festival held in September.
Yakutousan Myosenji in Akiu Town, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a temple of the Shingon sect, enshrining the Yakushi Triad as its principal object. It is said that Jikaku Daishi En’nin (794-864) selected this site as the susceptible place to the power of Yakushi Nyorai and founded this temple to guard Akiu Hot Spring. Since then, the temple is widely known as the temple to guard this hot spring town.
Akiu Hot Spring boasts a history of 1,500 years and has been called “Natori no Miyu (Honorable Hot Water of Natori),” as one of Japan’s three Honorable Hot Springs selected by the Imperial family.
Keeping the tradition since the founder of the sect, Kobo Daishi Kukai, “Kaji Kito,” the use of prayers for the healing of people’s ailments, is still practiced at this temple. It is said that the principal image of worship, the statue of Yakushi Nyorai, and the main attendants, Nikko and Gakko Bosatsu, and Juni Shinsho (twelve heavenly generals) protecting the triad are carved during the Heian period (794-1192) by a high-ranked priest at Mt. Hiei.
Akiu Onsen Child-Raising Yakushi Festival is held in the precinct on May 5 every year. Next to the temple is Akiu Onsen Communal Bathhouse, where local people enjoy soaking in a hot spring.
Kumano Nachi Shrine in Takadate, Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a historic shrine. The enshrined deity is Kotosakao no Mikoto and other six deities. Its origin dates back to 719, when a fisherman living in Yuriage in present Natori City discovered a sacred body at the bottom of the sea and enshrined it at the top of Mt. Takadate, naming it Haguro Daigongen Shrine.
Later in the late Heian period, an old shrine priestess in Natori received a message from Kumano Gongen, the deity of Kumano Sanzan in Kii province (present-day Wakayama Prefecture), and decided to found the three shrines composing the Kumano Sanzan in Natori. She transferred the deity at Kumano Nachi Shrine to Haguro Daigongen Shrine, and renamed it Kumano Nachi Shrine.
In the shrine office, about 160 wall hanging Buddha images and copper mirrors, which were made in the Kamakura period (1192-1333), are preserved. Of these, 37 hanging Buddha images and 4 copper mirrors are nationally designated Important Cultural Properties. In the precinct, a huge Japanese conifer tree called “Koya-maki” with a trunk diameter of 112 cm vigorously extends its branches. Presently, the shrine is famous for housing the god of a rich harvest and a bumper catch.
Koryuji Temple in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a temple of the Soto sect and is an historic temple pertaining to the Date clan. It was founded in 1467 by Date Mochimune, the 11th head of the clan. His fifth son, who had learned Buddhism at Kounji Temple in present Murakami City, Niigata Prefecture, returned to his hometown and served as the founding priest.
The temple is known for its stately main gate. It used to have been one of the gates of Shiraishi Castle, which was resided by the Katakura family, who served as the head retainer of the Date clan. It was moved to this place as the main gate of the temple at the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912). It is made of zelkova wood and has a tiled-roof in Kirizuma-style (the gabled roof). Its building style looks like the Yakui-mon style.
Two five-story pagodas to commemorate Mochimune and his wife are erected in the precinct and create tranquil atmosphere. Three peach trees produce cute white and pink flowers in spring.
Kumano Shrine is located in Takadate, Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture. The enshrined deities are Hayatamao no Okami, Izanagi no Okami and Kotosakao no Okami.
Natori is the center of Kumano Worship in the Tohoku region during the Middle Ages. Kumano Shrine in Natori was one of Natori Kumano Sanzan constituted of Hongu, Shingu and Nachi Shrines, which were founded by transferring Kumano Sansho Gongen (the great deities of Kumano in present Wakayama Prefecture) in 1123.
The Honden (main hall) building composed of three sections is a prefecturally designated cultural property as the oldest existing building in Kumano-Gongen-zukuri style. By the pond in the precinct is a kagura hall, a part of which protrudes over the pond. Kumanodo Kagura, and Kumano Bugaku (a court dance) have been handed down at this shrine and both are prefecturally designated intangible folk cultural properties. The kagura is dedicated in spring and fall and the bugaku is dedicated only in spring.