Kannonji City in Kagawa Prefecture uniquely has two Holy Sites of Shikoku in one premise; Jin’nein Temple (the 68th) and Kannonji Temple (the 69th). These temples were originally a part of Kotohiki (Harp Play) Hachimangu Shrine founded in 703 by Priest Nissho, who had received a divine message from Hachiman Daimyojin with the tune of Japanese harp heard from a boat on the sea. Jin’nein was also built at this time as an attached temple to the shrine.
In the Daido era (806-809), Kobo Daishi enshrined Amida Buddha、which was Honjibutsu (Buddhist counterpart of the deity of the shrine) and designated the shrine as the 68th of the 88 Holy Sites of Shikoku. Then he carved Sho Kanzeon Bosatsu (Sacred Form of Kannon) and built the formal seven buildings of a temple in the nearby mountain, and named it Kannonji Temple, which was designated as the 69th.
Later in the Meiji period (1868-1912), when temples and shrines were separated according to the Shinbutsu Bunri policy of the national government, Honjibutsu Amida Buddha of Kotohiki Hachimangu Shrine was removed to Nishi-Kondo Hall of Kannonji Temple, which became the main hall of Jin’nein Temple; hereby two temples has been located in the same premise since then. Jin’nein temple is up the stone steps from Kannonji Temple.
Kawarage Jigoku located at the foot of Mt. Takamatsudake in Yuzawa City, Akita Prefecture, is one of Japan’s three great spiritual places; others are Mt. Osorezan in Aomori Prefecture and Mt. Tateyama in Toyama Prefecture.
Kawarage Jigoku is the ruins of the sulfur mine, which had been flourished since the Edo period (1603-1868). It is said that the mountain was first trekked by the priest Doso in 807. Fumes of hot water gush out of the mountainside covered with grayish white lava, giving off strong smell of sulfur. The desolate scenery of naked hillside evokes us of the horrible images of Hell.
There are as many as 136 small and large Jigokus (geothermal pits) in the mountain area, 800 m above sea level. Jigokus include Chinoike Jigoku (Blood Pond Hell), Tsurugi Jigoku (Sword Hell), Bakuro Jigoku (Horse Dealer’s Hell), Hariyama Jigoku (Pincushion Hell) and Nusubito Jigoku (Thief Hell).
This high-temperature hot water flows down into 20 m high Kawarage Oyutaki in the downstream. The waterfall then flows into the basin in the huge rock, where people can enjoy soaking in a natural hot spring.
Nichirinji Temple was established by Priest Kukai about 1300 years ago. He sculpted himself the image of Juichimen Kannon (eleven-headed Kannon) and placed it as the main object of worship. Then he lit a holy fire to pray for the national prosperity and rich harvest in the morning and prayed for the souls of the dead in the evening. The temple was flourished as the ascetic training center of the northern Kanto and the southern Tohoku regions. In 989, it was counted as the 21st temple of Bando Kannon Pilgrimage. In 1880, the temple buildings were destroyed by a mountain fire, but the image of Kannon miraculously escaped damage. In 1915, the present temple buildings were built at the site where Kannon had been placed. From the observatory to the left of the main hall, you can see Mt. Fuji on a fine day. If you drive up the mountain for about 5 minutes, you will reach Yamizo Mine Shrine, which is said to have been established by Yamato Takeru.
Akagi Shrine in Fujimi-mura, Seta-gun, Gunma Prefecture is a historic shrine, which has been the center of mountain worship to Mt. Akagi. The enshrined deities are Akagi Daimyojin (the spirit of Mt Akagi), Okuninushi no Mikoto, Iwatsuo no Kami, Iwazume no Kami and Futsunushi no Kami. It is one of the shrines that are presumed to have been Kozuke-koku Ninomiya (the second-ranked shrine in Kozuke province).
The foundation time of the shrine is unknown because Mt. Akagi and its caldera lakes had been worshipped since the ancient times. The shrine was relocated from the mountainside of Mt. Akagi to the southern side of Lake Onuma in 806, the first year of Daido (大同) era. Then the village where the shrine is located was named Daido (大洞) after the era name and the shrine came to be known as Daido Akagi Shrine. With patronage from the Tokugawa Shogunate in the Edo period (1603-1868), the shrine had many branch shrines all over the Kanto region.
The torii gate erected at the start of a trail up Mt. Akagi was dedicated by the nearby villagers. The main hall was constructed in 1642 by the order of the 3rd Shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu. In 1970, the main hall was dismantled and reconstructed when the shrine was relocated to the present place.
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?
Meguro Fudoson is a popular name for Ryusenji Temple, an old temple of the Tendai sect, located in Shimo-meguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo. It is said that the town name “Meguro (black eyes)” originates in the principal image of this temple, the statue of Fudo Myoo with black eyes. The temple is said to have been established in 808 by the priest Jikaku Daishi Ennin, who placed the statue of Fudo Myoo at this place on his way from Shimotsuke province (present-day Tochigi Pref.) to Kyoto. In the precinct flows down the Tokko Waterfall, which sprang out of the spot where Jikaku Daishi threw his tokko (a tool for priests) to decide the location of the temple. The temple name “Ryusen (waterfall and spring)” is said to be originated in this episode. It is believed that one can be cured of a disease if he stands under the waterfall. In the Bunka-Bunsei era (1804-1829) of the Edo period, the temple was a popular place to get “Tomi-kuji (fortune lotto).”
Ryusenji Temple is the oldest Fudo temple in Japan and counted as one of Japan’s three largest Fudo temples, the 18th temple of Kanto 36 Fudo Pilgrimage Temples, one of Edo Goshiki Fudo (Five Different-colored Fudo statues in Edo) to guard Edo Castle. It also enshrines Ebisu (god of fishers and merchants) as one of Yama-no-te Shichifukujin Temples (Seven Gods of Fortune in Yama-no-te area).
Onikenbai or Demon Sword Dance is a folk performance passed down through generations in Kitagami region of Iwate Prefecture.
Its origin is not clear and there are a few different theories. One of them is that the dance was started during Taihou era between 701 and 704 when Enno-ozuno, who was believed to be the founder of Shugendou religion, danced while chanting. According to another theory, the dance dates back to Daitou era when a priest of Haguro-yama was initiated into the dance by the deity, Arasawaoniwatari, who was the incarnation of Mahāvairocana.
Dancers wear masks, which are said to be the embodiment of a Buddha, as well as a breastplate, chain mail and red cord to tuck up the sleeves. They dance to music performed by a band consisting of drums, flutes and tebiragane, a small hand chappa cymbal.
The dance, categorized as a chanting sword dance, is characteristic that it employs Henbai walk style performed in a shrine religious event to drive away evil spirits. It is conducted to perform salvation for all creatures and to terminate demons.
The Demon Dance has been passed onto many different regions of Iwate prefecture and developed and preserved in many different versions.
Yamamiya Sengen Shrine located in Yamamiya, Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka Pref. is a shrine full of legends. The enshrined deities are Konohana Sakuyahime no Mikoto and Asama no Okami. According to the shrine record of Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha Shrine, it was built by transferring deities from this Yamamiya Shrine in 806. There is no historical evidence, but Yamamiya Shrine is presumed to be an outer shrine of Hongu Sengen Taisha Shrine. That is, Yamamiya Shrine was the mountain shrine and Hongu Taisha Shrine was the village shrine. There is no Honden (the main hall) at Yamamiya Sengen Shrine, because it is believed that the hall would be blown down by the wind. Like ancient shrines, only the altar is located in the precinct. If you stand in front of it, you will feel some mysterious awe and sacredness.