Looking as if it has no connection to this world, Kannonshoji Temple stands quietly near the top of Mt. Kinugasa, a 433 meter high mountain located on the eastern side of Lake Biwa. The temple is the 32nd of the Saigoku 33 Pilgrimage Temples, which are located in 6 prefectures in the Kinki region and Gifu Prefecture. This pilgrim route is said to be Japan’s oldest pilgrim route.
According to the temple record, Kannonshoji Temple was founded by Prince Shotoku (574-622). Then, in the Kamakura (1192-1333) and Muromachi (1336-1573) periods, it thrived under the protection of the Rokkaku clan and gained power of influence. During these periods, there were as many as 33 attached temples in the mountain.
In the later periods, the temple was involved in wars and relocated to another place. However, in 1597, it was moved again to its original location. Though having receded into the background today, the temple is visited by a lot of worshippers who offer prayers for good relationship in life.
Chiryuu-juku is the 39th post town along Toukaidou highway, one of the Five Major Highways of Edo period, and located in present day Chiryuu, Aichi Prefecture.
Since ancient times, the post town area had been called “Chiryuu” written as 知立 in kanji, however, because the Chiryuu Shrine in the post town had a pond full of carps and crucians, people started to use a different kanji, 池鯉鮒 (translated as “pond of carps and crucians” also pronounced “Chiryuu”). Thus, the present day Chiryuu City is written知立and the post town for池鯉鮒 while they are both pronounced “Chiryuu”.
The Chiryuu Shrine has an even longer history than the post town dating back to the reign of Emperor Keikou Era (241~310, according to records), who was the father of Yamato Takeru no Mikoto.
Chiryuu -juku became an important trading route town when tie-dyed cotton cloth made in neighboring towns such as Naruto-juku and Arimatsu-juku was in high demand, and the town held huge horse fairs attracting hundreds of traders and their horses. Andou Hiroshige, a famous woodblock print artist, captured a scene from the horse fair in his masterpiece, Fifty-three Sations of the Toukaidou.
Chichuu-juku was once a quiet farming village until it was designated as a post town after the Battle of Sekigawara.
Visitors can take an interesting walk through the town imaging the hustle and bustle of the crowds hundreds of years ago.
Hikawa Shrine, or generally called Omiya Hikawa Shrine, located in Takahana-cho, Omiya-ku, Saitama City, Saitama Prefecture is one of the largest shrines in the prefecture, which receives more than 100,000 visitors on New Year’s Day every year.
The enshrined deities are Susanoo no Mikoto, Inadahime no Mikoto and Onamuchi no Mikoto. The shrine is so old as to be listed on Jinmyocho (the list of deities) of Engishiki (codes and procedures on national rites and prayers written in the Heian period). It is Honja (the head shrine) of more than 280 Hikawa shrines in Saitama, Tokyo and Kanagawa prefectures.
According to the shrine record, this shrine was founded about 2,400 years ago during the reign of Emperor Kosho. The area around the shrine was developed by the Izumo tribe and the name “Hikawa” is said to have been derived from the town of “Hikawa,” a part of present-day Izumo City.
Hikawa Shrine was designated as chokusaisha (the shrine attended by imperial envoy) by Emperor Meiji when the capital was relocated to Tokyo in 1868. In this year, shinsai (an Imperial Household rite) was held by the Emperor himself. Since then utamai (music and dance) performed by the music department of the Imperial Household Agency has been dedicated at the annual festivals.
Kinomiya Shrine is a historic shrine located in Nishiyama-cho, Atami City, Shizuoka Pref. The enshrined deities are Yamato Takeru no Mikoto, Iso no Takeru no Mikoto, and Onamuchi no Mikoto. The foundation date is unknown, but according to the shrine record, it was built in 711, when a fisherman pulled up a fishnet and found a wooden image of Buddha. Then a boy calling himself Onamuchi no Mikoto appeared and said that if he was enshrined in the hollow of a camphor tree, he would guard the village. In the Nara period, Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, who he was appointed shogun and given the task of conquering the Emishi, transferred the deities of this shrine to many places including the Tohoku district to pray for his victory. In back of the main hall stands a large camphor tree, which is a designated Natural Treasure. It is presumed to be over 2,000 years old and is said that the one who makes a circuit of the tree will live one year longer. The name “Kinomiya” originally means “the shrine of a tree,” which indicates that the tree had been worshipped by people in the ancient times.
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.
Kotonomama Hachimangu Shrine located in Yasaka, Kakegawa City, Shizuoka Pref. is a historic shrine surrounded with serene forest. Enshrined here area Okinaga Tarashihime no Mikoto, Hondawake no Mikoto, and Tamayorihime no Mikoto. Although the shrine record says it was founded at some time during the reign of Emperor Seimu (84-190), its exact foundation time is unknown. The shrine is listed on Jinmyocho (the list of deities) of Engishiki (codes and procedures on national rites and prayers) in the Heian period (794-1192) as Kotonomachi Shrine. It is said that It was transferred to this place under the direct order of Emperor Kanmu in 807 by Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, when he set out for the East to conquer the Emishi. The shrine is referred to in Makuranososhi (the Pillow Book) as a shrine that “has the power to fulfill any wish.” In 1062, Minamoto no Yoritomo invited the deities of Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine here, and since then the shrine has been referred to as Hachimangu. In the large precinct grow a lot of old and huge trees including the sacred cedar tree and a huge camphor tree, which are about 1,000 years old.
Akiha Shrine located in Haruno-cho, Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Pref. is a shrine with a long history of worship for the deity of fire prevention. Located on the upstream of the Tenryu River, which runs through Akaishi Mountain Range, it has enshrined Mt. Akiha (866 m) as the sacred body of the god. This shrine is the headquarters of all the 800 Akiha shrines in the country. It is said that the shrine was established in 701 by the Buddhist priest Gyoki; however the first hall was built in 709 according to the shrine record. The enshrined deity at Honden Hall is Hi no Kagutsuchi no Okami, or generally called Akiha Daigongen, which is the god of fire prevention and extinction. Assimilated with various fire deities all over the country, Akiha worship become popular in the Edo period (1603-1868). It is well known that the town name of Akihabara in Tokyo also comes from one of such local Akiha shrines.
Oyama-Afuri Shrine is located in Oyama, Isehara City, Kanagawa Prefecture.
The shrine's main deity, the god Oyama, is originally a mountain god, but also a sea god. In olden times, during droughts, sea people prayed to Oyama for rain.
The deity in the subsidiary shrine, Takaokami, is popularly known as a Tengu (long-nosed goblin), one of the 8 major Tengu.
The shrine was said to have been built in the reign of the Sujin Emperor. In the fourth year of the Tenpyoshoho period (752), Roben built Afuri-oyama temple, a Buddhist place of worship, yet a part of the shrine.
After the Middle Ages, Oyama Temple became popular as a center of esoteric Buddhism and many samurai worshiped here. In the Edo period, groups of Oyama commoners visited and worshiped here, too.
In the Meiji period, Buddhist and Shinto gods were separated, and Oyama temple was rename Afuri Shrine, its original name.
Oyama-Afuri Shrine is a commoners shrine that many people have been visiting since the Edo period.