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PostSubject: Shrines   Wed Aug 29, 2007 10:41 am

Hachimangu Shrines worship the 15th Emperor, Ojin, who was long ago deified as the god Hachiman (lit. "eight banners" which supposedly fell from heaven in legends involving Ojin). These shrines typically deify three figures -- Emperor Ojin, his mother Empress Jingu, and Ojin's wife Himegami. Hachiman is worshipped as the god of archery and war and later became the tutelary deity of the Minamoto Clan (esp. Minamoto Yoritomo, founder of the Kamakura shogunate). The Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura ranks among the most prestigious shrines in Japan, and many of the photos on this page were taken here. There are approximately 30,000 Hachimangu shrines nationwide, with the head shrine at Usa Hachimangu in Oita Prefecture, where Ojin, his mother, and his wife were first enshrined.

Tenjin Shrines. Deceased individuals are sometimes deified and thereafter worshipped as Tenjin (lit. "heavenly spirit" or "heavenly god"). Shrines devoted to Michizane Sugawara (845 - 903 AD) and to Emperor Meiji (1852 - 1912 AD) are the two most prominent examples of Tenjin shrines. Michizane (courtier in the Heian period) was deified after death, for his demise was followed shortly by a plague in Kyoto, said to be his revenge for being exiled. Michizane is the patron deity of scholarship, learning, and calligraphy. Every year on the 2nd of January, students go to his shrines to ask for help in the tough school entrance exams or to offer their first calligraphy of the year. Egara Tenjin (in Kamakura) is one of the three most revered Tenjin in Japan, and among the three largest. The other two are Dazaifu Tenmangu (near Fukuoka; Dazaifu is where Michizane was exiled), and Kitano Tenjin in Kyoto (Michizane's birthplace). Of a total of about 90,000 Shinto shrines in Japan, there are about 11,000 Tenjin or Tenmangu shrines. Around January 15 each year, shrine decorations, talismans, and other shrine ornaments used during the local New Year Holidays are gathered together and burned in bonfires. They are typically pilled onto bamboo, tree branches, and straw, and set on fire to wish for good health and a rich harvest in the coming year. At these events, children throw their calligraphy into the bonfires -- and if it flies high into the sky, it means they will become good at calligraphy.

Jingu Shrines are associated with the Imperial Family. Most notable are Meiji Jingu in Tokyo, Ise Jingu in Ise (dedicated to the Shinto Sun Goddess Amaterasu), Heian Jingu in Kyoto, and Atsuta Jingu in Nagoya.

Inari Shrines. Inari (also called Oinari or Oinari-sama) is the god/goddess of rice and the harvest, and is popularly associated with the kitsune (fox) deity, said to be Inari's messenger. Characteristics of Inari shrines are vermilion torii (gates) protected by a pair of fox statues, one on the left, and one on the right. There are more than 20,000 Inari shrines nationwide (says the Wharton School). Curiously, most Japanese no longer distinguish between the god (Inari) and the messenger (fox or kitsune) -- for all practical purposes, the two have been amalgamated into one deity. Inari lore is quite complex and confusing, and some say Inari represents a hybrid Shinto-Buddhist deity.

Ujigami Shrines. Clan-specific, or family-specific, shrines. The Ujigami are clan or village deities who are responsible for a particular community or locality, and in many cases, they represent the ancestors who founded the village (e.g., Fujiwara Shrine, Kasuga Shrine, Tachibana Shrine, Umemiya Shrine). The protective deity of one's birthplace is called ubusunagami, and all the people living in one locality worshipping the local deity are called ujiko.

Suitengu Shrines
Devoted to the Deity of Water, known as Suijin or Suiten or Mizu no Kamisama. This Shinto deity, often a goddess, protects not only fishermen but also serves as the patron saint of fertility, motherhood, and easy childbirth. She is mostly worshipped at "Suiten-gu" Shrines throughout Japan, and votive stone markers devoted to her can be found frequently in the countryside. The Suiten-gu Shrine in Kurume (Fukuoka) is the main shrine of all Suiten-gu Shrines in Japan. It is especially famous to those praying for safe and easy childbirth.


Mt. Fuji & Sengen Shrines
Sengen Shrines (also read "Asama") are dedicated to the mythical princess Konohana Sakkuya Hime (also spelled Konohanasakuya; also known as Koyasu-sama), the Shinto deity of Mount Fuji and of cherry trees in bloom. The Shinto goddess Koyasu-sama is also revered as a goddess who grants easy childbirth. But after Buddhism gained a strong foothold in Japan, Koyasu-sama was supplanted by her Buddhist equivalents, known as Koyasu Kishibojin, Koyasu Kannon, and Koyasu Jizo. For more, please see Guardians of Children. More than 1,000 Sengen Shrines exist across Japan, with the head shrines standing at the foot and the summit of Mount Fuji itself.

Hie Jinja Shrines
Says James-san: "This shrine is dedicated to Sanno Gongen 山王権現, which translates literally as "Mountain King." This deity dwells on Mt. Hiei, between Kyoto and Lake Biwa. That is also the home mountain of the Japanese Tendai Sect (Chinese: Tien-tai). Many of Japan's 3,400 Hie Jinja shrines are built in proximity to Tendai temples, and serve to protect those temples. The female monkey on the left cradles a baby in her arms; male (not shown in above photo) and female both hold implements used in Shinto rituals. The monkeys -- especially the female -- are considered the patrons of harmonious marriage and safe childbirth.

Benzai/Benzaiten Shrines/Temples
BENZAITEN is a major goddess in Japan. She is one of the SEVEN LUCKY GODS (the only female in the group), one of many TENBU (天部 celestial beings; known as DEVA in Sanskrit), and among the top goddesses in a group known as the TENNYO 天女 (celestial maidens). She is associated with the snake and DRAGON -- both creatures are members of the NAGA family. On days of importance to the serpent in Japan, one can find many festivals at the numerous Japanese shrines and temples dedicated to Benzaiten, in which votive pictures with serpents drawn on them are offered. It is also said that putting a cast-off snake skin in your purse/wallet will bring you wealth and property. Finally, during the Kamakura Period, artists for the first time began to create "naked" sculptures of Buddhist and Shinto deities (see above photo). The object of their artistic talents was often Benzaiten, although other deities, like Jizo Bosatsu, were also sculpted in the nude. More often than not, shrines dedicated to Benzaiten are found within the compounds of Buddhist temples. One of her main sanctuaries is on the island of Enoshima (江の島) in Sagami Bay, about 50 kilometers south of Tokyo, and she and a dragon are the central figures of the Enoshima Engi (江嶋縁起), a history of the shrines on Enoshima written by the Japanese Buddhist monk Kokei (皇慶) in 1047 A.D.

http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/shrine-guide.shtml

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