Kandaten Shrine located in Koshu City in Yamanashi Prefecture is a shrine pertaining to the Takeda clan. Enshrined are Susanoo no Mikoto and other seven deities. It is said that the shrine was founded in 842 by the provincial governor, Fujiwara Iseo, by the Imperial order. When Sugawara no Michizane was enshrined together in 1004, the kanji “suga (菅)” was borrowed and the shrine came to be called Kandaten (菅田天). In the precinct is the statue of Zagyu (lying cow), which is believed to be the messenger of Sugawara no Michizane.
During the Warring States period (1493-1573), the shrine was protected by the Takeda clan as the god to guard the ominous direction of the provincial capital. The shrine is known for the possession of Kozakura Kawaodoshi Yoroi, which was one of the 8 armors handed down to the descendants of the Genji (the Minamoto clan). This armor was so strong that the one who wore it didn’t have to use a shield, so it was called “Tate-nashi-no-yoroi (the armor without a shield).” It was handed down to the heads of the Takeda clan, one of the rightful descendant family of the Seiwa Genji, as the family treasure together with Japan’s oldest Rising Sun flag.
Kinshoku-ji Temple was founded by Jikakutaishi, who was the third head priest of Hiei-zan Enryaku-ji Temple. It is said he followed a vision received in a dream and discovered a pine tree in which the spirit resided. He built the temple from the tree and placed a statue of Bishamonten there.
In 1235, more than three hundred years later, Shinran renovated the temple and installed Amida statue. According to a legend, during the renovation of the temple, a heavenly maiden descended on the temple and offered the brocade woven with lotus threads to the statue. Upon hearing the story, the imperial Court gave the temple a name, “Tenjingohou Kinshoku-no-ji”, roughly translated as a brocade temple protected by the heavenly gods, thus, the temple became known as Kinshoku-ji.
In the vast precinct of the temple stands the Amida-dou building in which the main Buddhism statue is enshrined and is designated as a Shiga prefecture important cultural asset. Other notable buildings are Goei-dou where Shinran’s portrait is kept, a treasure storage, a study room, a lecture hall and a bell tower.
Despite the fact the temple was destroyed by fires on numerous occasions, Miyagoden, made from a part of the imperial palace given by Emperor Higashiyama, survived and is intact today along with many valuable artifacts kept inside. One of such artifacts is the portrait of Shinran who just finished writing his masterpiece, “Kenjoudo Kyougyoushoumonrui”. The portrait reveals his profound sense of satisfaction.
Takatenjin Castle located in Kakegawa City, Shizuoka Pref. was a field of fierce battles fought between the Takeda clan and the Tokugawa clan during the Warring States period. The castle ruin is a nationally designated Historic Site. Its construction year is unknown, but it is said that the castle was built in the early 16th century by the Imagawa clan as the military base to combat with the Shiba clan in Totomi. In the Warring States period, the castle was considered so important a strategic point as to be said “The one who takes over Takatenjin can take over Enshu province (present-day the western part of Shizuoka Pref.).” In 1569, when the Imagawa clan declined, the castle was occupied by the Tokugawa forces, and Ogasawara Tadanaga became the castellan. The castle fell by the attack of Takeda Katsuyori in 1574. Tokugawa Ieyasu, however, succeeded in taking it back in 1581, but he moved the bases of this region to Yokosuka Castle, and Takatenjin Castle was abandoned. At the present time, the castle ruins are in a good state of preservation.
The Hiwatari ritual is performed as a part of Tenjin Festival held on February 25 every year at Sugahara Shrine in Yasu City, Shiga Prefecture. The ritual has been performed to pray for prosperity and good health in the new year on the lunar calendar, which has begun at around the beginning of February. It marked the 30th anniversary in 2007.
In a Hiwatari ritual, mountain practitioners and worshippers walk through the burning fire to purify themselves and bring good luck. The Hiwatari ritual at Sugahara Shrine is one of the rare cases in that it is performed at a Shinto shrine, for Hiwatari is usually performed at Buddhist temples in Japan.
After the goma stage is purified with a sword and an arrow is shot in hope of the god’s guard, mountain practitioners throw torches into the huge goma stage built up of more than 10,000 wooden tablets inscribed with wishes. Then a set of purification rites are performed in front of the holy fire.
When the fire burns down and coals are flattened into a 3 square meter stretch, the mountain practitioners start to walk on the burning ashes. After that, general worshippers walk on the ashes.
Carefully walking on the burning ashes, fire walkers have a piece of paper called “Ashigatafu (footprint paper)” in their hands. After completing the toasty walk, they apply Japanese ink on the bottom of their foot and press it on the footprint paper. It is said that, if you put up your footprint talisman on the wall of your bedroom, your wish will be fulfilled.
Kofuku (Good Luck and Wealth) Shrine in Hyuga City, Miyazaki Prefecture, was founded in 1776 by Ibi Tomijiro, the magistrate of Hida Magistrate’s Office, which managed “tenoryo (the Tokugawa Shogunate’s landholdings)” in Hyuga province (present-day Miyazaki Prefecture) as the guardian god of the branch office in Takatomi village. The deities of shrines ranked Sho-Ichii (the 1st of the 1st) in Fushimi (in present-day Kyoto) were collectively transferred as the main deity.
Later in 1868, the minor deities of local shrines were collectively enshrined and also Okuninushi no Mikoto, Kotoshironushi, Uka no Mitama (Inari God), Sukuna Hikona no Kami, Iwanagahime no Mikoto and Sugawara no Michizane were transferred. Of the shrine name, “ko (good luck)” derives from Inari God, the god of food and agriculture and “fuku (wealth)” from Okuninushi no Mikoto, the god of wealth.
A pair of camphor trees, which are said to be several hundred years old, stand in the precinct. They are called “Meoto Kusunoki (Husband and Wife Camphor Trees),” which finely matches the shrine name. As the symbol of the shrine, they are worshipped by visitors who wish a happy life.
Akasaka Dolls are clay dolls made in Akasaka, Chikugo City, Fukuoka Pref. It is designated as a prefectural specialty craft product. Three is no record about a precise history of this handicraft and its origin is unknown but it is presumed that those dolls were first made as an odd job of the potters who worked for the official kilns of Arima Province in the middle of the Edo period. The most famous one is an ocarina called “Tette-Poppo (meaning an awkward man in the local dialect), which was popular among children in those days. Now there are more than ten kinds of dolls including Fukujin (a lucky god), Tenjin (a god of scholarship), and a monkey. The doll is made by applying white pigment made of burnt seashell to a simple brown ware, to which colorful painting is given. It is a very simple clay doll but its simplicity reminds us of childish innocence. It is the representative traditional folk craft in Chikugo area.
Kiryu Tenmangu Shrine in Tenjin-cho, Kiryu City, Gunma Prefecture is a historic shrine founded during the reign of Emperor Keiko (reigned 71-130) as Isobe Myojin Shrine. The enshrined deities are Amenohohi no Mikoto and Sugawara no Michizane. Later in the Kan'o era (around 1350), it was relocated to the present place, where the deity of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in Kyoto was transferred, and renamed Kiryu Tenmangu Shrine. The shrine thrived during the Edo period (1603-1868), when it was designated as the oratory of the Tokugawa family and the textile fair was regularly held in the precinct.
The shrine building was constructed in 1793. As is called “the shrine on the rock,” its Honden (the main hall) and Heiden (the votive offerings hall) stand on the rock stratum. All the main buildings of the shrine (Honden, Heiden and Haiden) are collectively designated as a prefectural Important Cultural Property “Shaden (shrine buildings) of Kiryu Tenmangu” in that the best techniques in architecture decoration of the time were gathered in those buildings.
Kosenji Temple in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, is an historic temple pertaining to the Taira clan. In 1321, after the fall of the Taira clan, a descendant of Taira no Shigemori, known as Komatsu Naidaijin (Inner Minister), disguised himself as a mountain practitioner and came to this village, escaping from his enemies. He founded a temple named Komatsu-dera Temple, where he placed the statue of Amida Nyorai, which was his family’s guardian Buddha, and held memorial services for his deceased ancestors. Later, the temple was changed its name to Kosenji Temple.
The principal object of worship, the statue of Amida Nyorai, was presented to Shigemori by the temple in Auyung in present Ningbo City in China, and treasured as the guardian of the family. After it was enshrined at this temple, it has been named Komatsu Nyorai after Shigemori, and worshipped by local people.
The temple possesses a lot of cultural properties such as the statue of Idatenjin, the Jizo statue carved by Kaikei and the 12 ancestral tablets including the one for Shigemori, which make us think of the rise and fall of the Taira clan, who once ruled the country.