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Precinct Guide

12-Hongu 本宮 (Main Shrine)

Enshrined kami:

Emperor Ojin
Empress Jingu
Main Annual Rite:
15th September

Emperor Ojin was the 15th Emperor of Japan according to the traditional line of succession, and is regarded by some historians as having reigned in the 5th century.

The main shrine has three halls: the Main Sanctuary (本殿, Honden), the Offering Chamber (幣殿, Heiden), and the Worship Hall (拝殿, Haiden). These three halls are connected to each other. This style of shrine architecture developed in the Edo period (1603 to 1867).

The buildings were re-constructed in 1828 by Tokugawa Ienari (the 11th Tokugawa shogun), after a fire in 1821 destroyed the original buildings. The entire main shrine complex is designated a nationally important cultural property since it is a typical example of Edo-style architecture.

Whlist in front of the main shrine buildings,you may wish to join in with the other worshippers and pray at the shrine. There are no restrictions based on religious faith.

How to: “Two-Two-One” Ritual

Alternatively, you may want to present your prayers to the kami more formally, which you may do by applying at the shrine office. This is the offering of tamagushi to the kami. In order to perform this ritual, you will enter inside the shrine buildings, into the Worship Hall.

Tamagushi offerings 玉串拝礼

After offering prayers or performing rites, supplicants share the rice wine and food offerings that were offered before the kami. In Shinto, people can receive the blessings of a kami in return for making such offerings of drink and food. These feasts serve the vital function of dividing sacred time from secular time. The feast marks the end of the ritual, and allows participants to relax after the concentration of the ritual.

To drink wine, known as miki, hold the wine cup in both hands, raise to your mouth and after drinking and putting the wine cup down clap once to express your thanks.

Having finished praying at the shrine, let us explain a little about the buildings.

Hongu Decorative Scheme

As is the case with most of the other buildings in the complex, the three main shrine buildings are lacquered. You may notice if you move to the side of the building that the main shrine itself, where the kami resides, is higher than the worship hall, and that the decorations are more elaborate, to reflect the greater religious importance of the main sanctuary. For example, the worship hall eaves are decorated to represent metal fittings, whereas the eaves of the main sanctuary have gilded metal fittings.

Both the inside and the outside of the main shrine buildings are decorated with many carvings and paintings.

On the front of the Worship Hall building there are carvings of a tiger and an eagle taking a monkey. The monkey-eating eagle is an old name for the Philippine eagle which are not native to Japan and were falsely believed only to feed on monkeys. It is regarded as one of the strongest extant eagles. This carving is flanked on either side by tigers.

To the right of the front of the shrine building, you may also see a large carving of eagles. The strength and braveness of the eagle was believed to have the power to expel evil spirits. In front of the large carving of eagles at the side of the shrine, on the right side of the worship hall building, you will find a white rabbit combined with bellflowers and Japanese lilies, which is an Autumnal design, again a turtle with waves (a symbol of long life), and a tiger with bamboo grass, . It is said that the bellflower was considered lucky since the two Chinese characters for bellflower can also be read to mean “even luckier”.

On the left-hand side of the worship hall, you may be able to pick out an eagle with peaches, (which were believed to expel evil), and a white rabbit again with bellflowers, . Since rabbits have short front legs and long back legs, they were believed to be better at going uphill than down, used as a reference to things going well.

Again at the rear of the worship hall, is a very large carving of an eagle projects at a right angle from the side of the building. Behind this large screen, between the worship hall and the main sanctuary building, you will find more carvings including three more birds of prey: a white falcon, a white eagle and a white hawk. It was considered good luck to find three different types of white bird together. At the corner of the building there is a gilded Chinese lion and a carving of peonies. This is a combination of the king of animals and the king of flowers, and is thus considered auspicious.

Mikoshi 神輿 (Portable Shrine)

To the left of the main shrine building, you will see the entrance to the museum, and three large portable shrines belonging to the Main Shrine, and four portable shrines belonging to the Wakamiya Shrine. The three portable shrines to the left are designated as Prefectural Cultural Properties and are typical examples of portable shrines of the Muromachi period (1336-1573) to early-Edo period (1603-1868). The four Wakamiya Shrine portable shrines are dated from the beginning of the Kan’ei period (1624-1645). The kami are transferred to these portable shrines during certain festivals when the kami are transported out of their shrines and into the town.

From the inside of the museum you can see the side and the back of the main sanctuary. You will see a number of animals carved along the back of the shrine. From the right, a deer which is a symbol of Autumn, and is thus combined here with red maple leaves. Next to that is a young wild boar. There are also carvings of a turtle amongst waves, a hen and chick with plum blossoms, a blue and white fly-catcher amongst pines, a red-cheeked myna and a cockerel with a drum.


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