4 days in Japan -05/19/ - 5/23-2018
Tsurugaoka Hachimangū is the most important Shinto shrine in the city of Kamakura. The shrine is dedicated to Hachiman, the patron god of samurai, this beautiful shrine has existed for over 800 years. Its extensive grounds contain a number of sub-shrines and several museums.
Torii gate at entrance to the shrine.
After entering the Torii gate, you will see an arched bridge (left) and a regular bridge (right).
In the era of the shōgun (supreme military leader), the arched bridge (called Akabashi) was reserved for the shōgun. The shōgun would leave his entourage and proceed alone on foot to the shrine.
The regular bridge (flat one on the right) was for common people to use.
This is the flat bridge spanning over a canal that joins together by two ponds called Heike pond to the left of the gate and Genji-ike pond to the right of the torii gate.
View of the Heike pond from the bridge
Welcome billboard to Tsurugaoka Hachimangū.
Path leading to the Genji-ike pond.
Genji-ike pond with water lilies.
View of the pond from the bridge.
Hata-age Benzaithen Shrine. The shrine was re-built on the isle on the east side of the Genpei ponds in 1980 based upon the old design drawing dating from the Bunsei period of 1818-1929.
In the back of the shrine you can see a bunch of white flags (more details below).
Many people offer prayers written on a white flag with two black lines. The design of these flags used to be the flag that the warriors of Yoritomo's army took into battle in 1180, identifying them as being members of Yoritomo's army. Yoritomo used this banner because his ancestor had used it when he suppressed the 1051 rebellion in the North-East Japan.
Next to the shrine is a small souvenirs shops.
The path leading to the shrine is called Dankazura. This approach to the shrine was originally constructed on behalf of Minamoto Yoritomo's wife, Masako, to pray for a safe birth. In spring, Cherry trees and azaleas in full bloom form a flower tunnel leading to the shrine.
Minamoto Yoritomo was the first Shogun of the Kamakura military government which lasted from 1192 until 1333.
Other structures on the shrine grounds include the Wakamiya Shrine, a secondary shrine to the right of the stairway and various auxiliary buildings.
Getting closer to the Mai-Den.
The Mai-Den is an open pavilion where throughout the year various rituals are performed here.
This is a building of symbolic importance since it was here that the legendary dance Shizuka performed here dedicatory dances.
This is the back of the Mai-Den Pavilion
The building is lacquered in red and black, built entirely using wood with the exception of the use of metal that are painted in gold.
On the left hand side of the shrine you can see a large number of round empty barrels of sake stacked on top of each others.
These are casks of sake given in offering to the shrine and offered to the Kami during the many rituals performed daily at the shrine.
In Japan, sake has always been a way of bringing the gods and people together. People would go a shrine festival and be given rice wine to drink, and they would feel happy and be closer to the gods.
In some of Japan's oldest texts the word used for sake is , written with the characters for god and wine.
A large stone stairs with 61 steps take you to the Honggu shrine.
Looking down at the Mai-Den pavilion from above the stairs.
On top of the steps is the Romon (Great gate). The gate was rebuilt in 1930 after the great Kanto earthquake in 1923.
On either side of the entrance gate you see tow large statues representing two Kami that is supposed to protect the gate from evil spirits.
Hongu Main shrine has three halls: the Main santuary-Honden, The Offering chamber Heiden and the Worship hall-Haiden. These 3 halls are connected to each other. The shrine was constructed in 1828 by Tokugawa Ienari (11th Tokugawa shogun) and the entire shrine is designated a national important cultural property as it represent the Edo style architecture.
Worshipping hall-Lots of people praying.
Lots of miniature altars on display.
The inner court with Takeuchisha Shrine in the back. This small shrine is covered in paintings and sculptures.
Souvenirs shop next to the shrine.
Ema are small wooden plaques on which Shinto worshippers write their prayers or wishes. The ema are then left hanging up at the shrine where the kami (spirits or gods) receive them.
Ema comes in different shapes and form but they are often shaped like animals or other Shinto imagery. Sales of Ema help support the shrine financially.
These are paper fortunes known as Omikuji that predict the purchaser's luck for the year ahead.
Once you read them you can tied them on the display.
A lot of people are buying Ema and Omikuji from the souvenirs shop.
This is the back side of the shrine.
Red torii gate close by the shrine and leading to Inari shrine.
More torii gate along the way to Inari shrine
Maruyama Inari shrine is associated with success in business, a good harvest. The two foxes (next and below the 2 stone lanterns) are messengers of the Inari shrine Kami
Ema in the shape of red Torii.
We are now done with the tour and we are now leaving the shrine back to