Suwa Shrine is located in Nagasaki, Nagasaki Prefecture, and it is also commonly known as Chinzeitaisha. This shrine is the main shrine in Nagasaki that honors the Suwa, Morisaki and Sumiyoshi Deities.
During the Koji Period (1555~1557), a part of the holy spirit of the deity at Suwa Shrine in the Shino region was transferred to a newly-built Suwa Shrine in Nagasaki. Oomura Sumitada, the local lord, who had been converted to Christianity, however, had donated the City of Nagasaki to the Society of Jesus and so he destroyed almost all the Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in the city. In 624, due to the efforts of Aoki Kensei, the chief priest of a shrine in the Hizen Karatsu region, the Suwa, Morisaki and Sumiyoshi Shrines were all combined into one shrine. It was in 1648 that this shrine was built at its current location. It was destroyed by fire in 1857, but it then restored in 1869 after 10 years of rebuilding. The shrine became as we see it today in 1984, when major repairs were done to commemorate its 360th anniversary.
The Suwa shrine was affectionately called “Osuwa-sama” by the locals and every autumn it holds the Nagasaki Kunchi Festival, one of the Three Greatest Festivals in Japan.
Suwa Taisha Grand Shrine, located in Nagano Prefecture, is comprised of four shrines. One of the shrines, Kamisha Honguu, is situated in Nakasu Miyayama, Suwa City. The other three shrines are Kamisha Maemiya, Shimosha Akimiya and Shimosha Harumiya. The deity enshrined here are Takeminakata-no-Mikoto and Yasakatome-no-Mikoto. The shrine was ranked the most important in Nagano region.
Suwa Taisha is one of the oldest shrines, its name first appearing in Engishiki Jinmyouchou (edited in 927). It is the head shrine and represents more than 10,000 Suwa Shrines nationwide.
Onbashira Festival is an awe-inspiring grand festival held once every six years in the Year of the Tiger and the Year of the Monkey. The festival is designated as an intangible folklore cultural asset by the prefecture.
In the festival, participants cut down sixteen gigantic fir trees 16m high and 1m diameter in the mountains and take them down to the shrines. The participants then erect one tree trunk at each corner of the four shrines.
The festival takes place on two separate occasions over the course of two months. The first part of the festival called “Yamadashi” is held in April and the giant fir trees are brought down from the mountain down steep slopes and hauled with straw ropes across Miya River.
The second part is held in May and called “Satobiki” in which the logs are paraded along with the cavalry and are then erected in the shrines. For these two months, Suwa region is in a continuous state of festivities.
Onbashira Festival at Suwa Taish Grand Shrine is one of the foremost Japanese festivals with its long history and grand scale.
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.
Myoken Festival is held on November 22 to 23 at Yatsushiro Shrine in Yatsushiro City, Kumamoto Prefecture. Together with Kunchi Festival at Suwa Shrine in Nagasaki and Hojoya at Hakozakigu Shrine in Fukuoka, it is counted as one of the three greatest festivals in Kyushu.
Since founded in 1186, Yatsushiro Shrine has been popularly called Myokengu as it enshrines Myoken Bosatsu or Amenonakanushi no Kami as a Shinto deity; thereby the festival is named Myoken Festival. Legend has it that the deity Myoken traveled on Kida (a fabulous animal with a serpent's head and a turtle's body) and landed on Yatsushiro about 1,300 years ago. The first festival was held in the early Edo period (the early 17th century) by Hosokawa Tadaoki, the lord of the Kumamoto domain according to this legend.
The parade of mikoshi (portable shrine) followed by the colorful floats decorated with hooded halberds, gigantic Kidas, the lion dancers, men in the costumes of samurai’s male-servants, a gun troop and spirited divine horses, all make this festival pompous and splendor. The divine horse valiantly gallops on the riverbank, while Kidas perform humorous dances. It is a very amusing festival.
The origin of the handmade fireworks of Seinaiji Village in Nagano Prefecture goes back to the middle of the Edo period, when a villager who had gone to peddle the local product, leaf tobacco, brought back a secret recipe for firework production from the Mikawa district (present-day Aichi Prefecture).
The handmade fireworks were set off to celebrate the completion of the shrine building of Suwa Shrine in 1731. Since then fireworks have been displayed in dedication to the shrine for more than 270 years. Presently, the displays of handmade fireworks are dedicated to Kami-Seinaiji Suwa Shrine on October 6 and to Shimo-Seinaiji Suwa Shrine on October 8 every year.
Today, there are more than 50 fireworks manufacturers who have obtained necessary licenses in the village. They begin to produce many different kinds of fireworks including traditional tube-typed fireworks as well as innovative ones more than one month before the festivals. It is famous that their handmade fireworks were displayed at the closing ceremony of the Nagano Winter Olympic Games in 1998.
The Omagari Fireworks Competition is held in Omagari, Daisen City in Akita Prefecture on the 4th Saturday every year. It started in 1910 as a local fireworks display of the annual festival at Suwa Shrine. In 1915, the association of fireworks manufactures in 6 prefectures in the Tohoku region hosted the fireworks display to raise the level of fireworks technology, changing the name to the present one.
The competition is held on the banks of the Omonogawa River. The most overwhelming is the association’s display of 1,500 fireworks, which are shot up into the night sky with powerful sparks. Solemn back ground music increases the magnificence.
Many prizes such as the Prime Minister’s Award are given to the excellent fireworks manufactures. The best of the best fireworks manufacturers come from all over Japan and battle for the title of “Best in Japan.”
The Isshiki Giant Lantern Festival takes place at Suwa Shrine in Isshiki, Hazu-gun, Aichi Prefecture. The shrine was established as a branch temple of Suwa Taisha (in Nagano Prefecture) in 1564.
Back then, a monster known as Kaima used to appear and ransack the land and its crops. The villagers offered an Evil-Repressing Sword in front of their household altars and prayed for the monster to be expelled.
The monster did disappear and the ritual became an annual event. Gigantic lanterns about 4m round and 6m high are hung in rows. The people of the area form associations of 6 groups each, which compete with their lanterns. The Isshiki Giant Lantern Festival is held on August 26 and 27 every year.
This huge cedar tree stands in the precinct of Suwa Shrine at Yamakuni-machi-Nakama in Nakatsu City, Oita Pref. There are many old and huge trees in this spacious shrine area with a width of 126 m and a depth of 180 m according to the ancient shrine record. Among them the cedar tree standing behind the main shrine is so remarkable that it is unparalleled in the northern part of the prefecture. The tree is presumably 500 years old, 9 m in circumference at the height of eye, 10 m in circumference at the bottom, and about 50 m in height. It is the second largest cedar tree after Oni-sugi (Demon Cedar Tree) in Mt. Hikosan, but some say it is the best in Kyushu in fineness of bark surface. Its imposing but elegant figure fascinates visitors. Some mysterious air flows around the tree as if a holy spirit resides in the tree. If you look up at the top of the tree, you will be overwhelmed by the branches strongly spreading out in all directions. This cedar tree was designated as a Specially Protected Tree by the prefecture in 1975.