Kazan Shrine located at the ruins site of Demaru (the outermost compound) of Tahara Castle in Tahara City, Aichi Prefecture is a shrine enshrining Watanabe Kazan, a Japanese painter, scholar and the senior councilor of the Tahara domain in the late Edo period (1603-1868).
The local people planned to build a shrine to honor Kazan’s virtuousness in 1941; however, as it was during World War II, they could not commence the construction. In 1946, they bought a temporary pavilion used for a shrine in Inasa Town in Shizuoka Prefecture and founded Kazan Shrine at the present site. The shrine pavilion was destroyed by Ise Bay Typhoon in 1959 and reconstructed later.
Born at Kamiyashiki (the main resident) of the Tahara domain in Edo in 1793, he first served the domain lord’s little son at the age of eight. He started to learn Confucianism of Mencius and Zhu Xi at the age of 13 and became a great scholar in Confucianism as well as Rangaku (Western learning), from which it is believed that the one who visits this shrine will be able to improve his /her learning ability.
On the memorial day of Kazan on October 11, the annual festival is held at this shrine. The memorial service is held in front of Kazan’s grave located in Johoji Temple in the city and the Shinto ritual is performed at Kazan Shrine. Kazan’s portrait is drawn on the Ema-plates provided at the shrine.
Ose Shrine is in Nishiura Enashi in Numazu City, Shizuoka Prefecture. As it enshrines Hikitajikara no Mikoto, it is formally named Hikitajikara no Mikoto Shrine. It is also called Ose Myojin Shrine.
The origin of the shrine is not identified, but, according to one story, the shrine was founded because, when an island called Biwashima emerged by the elevation of the sea bottom due to a big earthquake in 684, the local people believed that the god had pulled land from Tosa province (present-day Kochi Prefecture), where a lot of land sank into the sea by the same earthquake.
The enshrined deity, Hikitajikara no Mikoto, is known as the guardian god of the sea and has been worshipped by fishermen in Suruga Bay. A lot of Ema-plates depicting fishing activities in the old days and model fishing-ships made by ancient fishing people preserved at the shrine. These votive items are considered historically precious and prefecturally designated as a tangible folk cultural property.
Kami-ike Pond in the precinct is counted as one of the Seven Wonders in Izu because it is a fresh-water pond in spite of being located just by the sea.
Tenkasai Festival is a naked festival held at Matsudaira Toshogu Shrine in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, in February every year. It is said that the festival was originally held to pray for stability and peace of the country during the Nanbokucho period (1336-1392). It was discontinued in the Meiji period (1868-1912) and revived in the recent times as the valiant and dynamic naked festival.
Matsudaira Toshogu Shrine is well-known as the birthplace of the Matsudaira clan, the ancestors of the Tokugawa clan. It enshrines Matsudaira Chikauji, the founder of the clan. The water in the old well named “Ubuyu-no-ido (First Bath Well)” has been famous for its holy power since Chikauji’s days. When Tokugawa Ieyasu was born in Okazaki Castle, the water for his first bath was taken from this well in accordance with his family custom.
The festival is held to protect men of the unlucky age of 41. On the festival day, local men of this age get together wearing only a loincloth. They run into the shrine precinct, where they fiercely struggle with one another to touch the wooden ball called “Mizu-dama (Water Ball),” which was purified with the holy water in the well on the previous evening. It is believed that if they can touch the ball, their bad luck is purified. The precinct is filled with air of excitement.
There are a lot of stalls and open booths for visitors, who can also enjoy other events such as the service of the Senjin-nabe stew (Battle Field Stew), hana-mochi rice cake making, the dedication of a large Ema-plate, performance of Japanese drums and the demonstration of Bo-no-te (stick weapon techniques).
Himuro Yakushi, or formally named Murakamiji Temple, is a historic temple founded by Sakanoue Tamuramaro in 807 to pray for safety of his soldiers. The temple has been worshipped by local people for its divine power to bring national safety and people’s happiness.
Yakushi Nyorai at this temple is especially famous for curing eye diseases. Votive tablets, on which faces with big black round eyes are drawn, are hung at the side of the Yakushi Hall. Also, many pieces of paper, on which pictures of eyes are drawn, are dedicated and hung inside the hall. You will feel strong religious faith dedicated to the temple from these votive articles.
There is an interesting legend about this temple. Once upon a time, there lived an extremely cowardly warrior in a nearby village. He wanted to cure his cowardice and visited the temple on 100 consecutive nights. On the 100th night, a specter appeared in front him. Then he gathered his courage and struck at it with his sword only to find that it was a pillar of the hall. Visitor can see the scar made by him even today. It’s a heart-easing story for a temple with such a solemn atmosphere, isn’t it?
Egaraten Shrine located in Nikaido, Kamakura City, Kanagawa Pref. is one of Japans three largest Tenjin shrines. Enshrined is Sugawara no Michizane, the courtier-scholar who is believed to be the deity of learning after his death. The legend has it that in 1104, Tenjin ( the spirit of Michizane) dropped from the sky and the villagers, who were awed with Tenjin’s miraculous power, built a shrine at this place. After Minamoto no Yoritomo established his Shogunate government in Kamakura, the shrine was worshipped as the guardian of kimon (the ominous direction) for the government. The name “Egaraten” comes from the place name “Egaya,” which turned into “Egara” in the later periods. Haiden (the hall of worship) stands in the center of the precinct, and Honden (the main hall) is located in back of Haiden. At the present time, a lot of visitors come to pray for academic achievement, and there are a lot of Ema (wooden plaques with prayers or wishes) hung outside Haiden hall. White and light red plum blossoms, which Michizane loved, are in full bloom in spring. Egarate Shrine is visited by a lot of people who seek for success in school entrance examinations and harvest of dilligence.
Kifune Shrine, located at Sakyo in Kyoto City, is the headquarters for 500 Kifune shrines located all over Japan. It is dedicated to the god of water, Takaokamino-kami.
The shrine is said to have been established 1500 years ago. Legend has it that Tamayoribime, the goddess of Kamomioya Shrine (Shimogama Shrine), boarded a yellow boat, arrived there and enshrined the god of water.
For its long history, it has been famous as the shrine used to pray for rain. When the rain was scarce, a black horse was dedicated and when it rained too much, a white or red one. Instead of live horses, sometimes, wooden plaques with the picture of a horse were dedicated; this is the origin of 'Ema', using a wooden plaque to make a wish. Banchohime, famous as the goddess offering good marriages is dedicated in the shrine. Also the shrine is known as the place for Ushinokoku-mairi, praying for a curse on someone in the middle of the night.
According to the fairy tale 'Kifune's story', in the dream of Fujihara Isejin, the god of Kifune Shrine told him to build Kurama Temple. It also mentions that Setsubun, the ritual of driving demons away, and Gosekku, five special days for Japanese traditional annual events, originated in Kifune Shrine and Kurama Temple.
Goou Shrine in Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto enshrines Wake no Kiyomaro and his elder sister Wake no Hiromushi. It is also called Kosodate Myojin (child-raising god). The precise time of its establishment is unknown. It was originally located in the precincts of Jingo Temple, but in 1886 removed to the present place. It was one of the government managed shrines under the old system of shrine rankings (shakaku). The deity, Princess Hiromushi was very affectionate and earnest over fostering orphans in town, so people began to call the shrine “Kosodate Myojin” and worshipped as a deity of child raising. Instead of usual koma-inu (lion-dog guardian), a pair of stone-carved wild boars is set out in front of the main shrine. A wild boar is the symbol of the shrine because the legend has it that when Wake no Kiyomaro was exiled to Kyushu, a pack of wild boars appeared and protected him during the journey. So people also call it “Inoshishi Jinja (wild boar shrine)” and a lot of items such as clay bells, figurines, writing cards and ema (wooden plaques with prayers or wishes) concerning wild boars which were dedicated by nationwide worshippers are displayed. It is said that a person born in the Japanese zodiac year of a wild boar can get the fortune at this shrine.
Ema are wooden plates on which people write their prayers. Then they are hung up at a shrine as offerings to the gods. Ema usually take a shape of pentagon because the plates used to have roofs on them. Ema have a history going back to the Nara period (710-794), when a picture of a horse was offered to a shrine instead of a real horse. Each shrine uses its unique and traditional Ema. At Fushimi Inari Shrine, for example, the face of a fox is painted on the plate because a fox is considered to be the god’s messenger. On Ema for the wish of preventing eye diseases, a Japanese hiragana letter of “me (meaning an eye in Japanese)” is written. Or the inverted letter of “me” is written on some plates. Those who want to prevent their husbands’ flirtation use Ema with the Kanji meaning “heart” and the picture of the lock and key drawn on them. In the present days people also like to attach miniature Ema to their key chains or cell phones as bringer of good luck.