Aoso Shrine in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, is the headquarters of Aoso shrines all over the country. It was founded in 852 by Hozumi Yasumasa, the ancestor of the current shrine priest’s family, who came to this area from Kyoto. He enshrined Amaterasu Omikami (the sun goddess), Ame no Minakanushi no Kami (the god of the universe), and Tsukuyomi no Kami (the god of the moon) in the cave where holy water sprang out; hereby the shrine is famous as the place where the sun, the stars and the moon are enshrined together.
Yasumasa taught the villagers how to grow hemp plants. It is said that the shrine name “Aoso,” which literally means Green Hemp, was derived from this episode. The shrine has been known for its divine power to cure and prevent palsy, and it is said that if you visit this shrine three times, you will never be stricken with palsy for the rest of your life.
As the Hozumi clan was involved in maritime industry, the shrine is also worshipped as the deity of navigation safety. The famous fine water “Osuzu” springs out in the precinct. A lot of visitors come to take a drink of this holy water.
Mouke Shrine is a historic shrine located in Shikano-cho, Tottori City, Tottori Prefecture. Although when it was originally founded is unknown, it has been called Myoken Daigongen and worshipped by local people as the guardian god of the village since the ancient times. According to the existing “tosatsu,” which is the wooden plate staked to a building’s ridgepole and stating details of the construction, the present shrine building was built in 1492. The shrine was renamed to Mouke Shrine in 1692. Since the word “mouke” can be punned on “moukeru,” meaning “to make a profit” in Japanese, the shrine is now visited by a lot of people in hope of their business success. Though it is located away from the town center and at the top of the 105 stone steps, the shrine is always crowded with visitors from all over the country.
Soma-Nomaoi is a Shinto ritual annually held for 3 days from July 23 to 25 in Minami Soma City, Fukushima Pref. In this historical event, 500 mounted horsemen in traditional samurai armor ride through the towns and head for the open field, where they scramble for shrine flags of the three Myoken Shrines in this region and pursue unsaddled horses to capture as offerings to a Shinto deity. Soma-Nomaoi has its origin in a military exercise done more than 1,000 years ago by General Taira no Masakado, the ancestor of the later holders of the Soma clan, in which he released wild horses on to the plain for his cavalry to pursue and capture. The residents of ancient “Go (an administrative territory)” act as samurai horsemen, and each “Go” belongs to one of the three shrines of Nakamura Shrine, Ota Shrine, and Odaka Shrine. Soma-Nomaoi was nationally designated as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 1978.
Kumohachiman Shrine located at Yabakei Town in Nakatsu City, Oita Pref. enshrines Kumo no Yahata no Okami and Myoken Okami. In the precinct stand a huge cedar tree, which is called “sennen Sugi (The 100-year-old cedar). The origin of the shrine dates back to the 3rd century, when legendary Empress Jingu, who was on her way back from the Korean invasion, took a rest on a huge stone at the foot of a mountain. Since then miraculous events including a white cloud rising up out of it had happened around this stone. In 703, a lot more clouds suddenly rose up from the stone and the light like arrows of lightening flashed and it took the shape of a small child-like god, which then disappeared. Having the feeling of awe at this miracle, the village people built a small purple shrine beside the stone and worshipped it respectfully. This is the origin of Kumohachiman Shrine and the Kumoishi Stone. The main building was relocated to the present place by Masataka Kiyohara (the lord of the province) later in 983. The shrine is famous for “Kappa Festival,” or formally named “Miyazonogaku,” in which traditional music is played to dedicate to the gods. The legend has it that Heike refugees, who had been defeated in the battle with Genji clan, transformed into a Kappa and brought harm to people, so the villagers began to play music to appease their spirits.
A festival of thanksgiving for safety in the past year and a time to wish for happiness in the coming year is held annually in November on the Day of Tori (roosters) at Juzai-san Chokokuji Temple, also called Otori Sama (Otori Shrine), in Asakusa, Tokyo, and at many other Otori shrines.
The origin of the festival dates back to the Edo period, when farmers thanked the harvest god and dedicated chickens to the Otori Daimyo god at Hanamatamura (the Otori shrine in Hanabatake, Adachi Ward).
Hanamatamura, Shosenji Temple (in Adachi ward) and Chokokuji Temple (in Asakusa), became famous as the birthplace of Tori-no-Ichi fairs.
In the 8th year of the Showa period (1771), the Buddhist statue Myoken Dai-Bosatsu was moved to Chokokuji Temple and the shrine there came to be recognized as the pre-eminent Torishrine. Myoken Dai-Bosatsu is supposed to be the Hagun star, the Seventh Star star of the Big Dipper. The Chokokuji Temple crests are also called ‘Moon crests’ or ‘Big Dipper crests’.
These ‘rooster’ fairs are known as ‘Good Luck Rake Fairs’ because a rake is supposed to rake in happiness, and to help wish for good luck and a prosperous business. It is typical of Edo people, who like jokes.