The Main Shrine at Hakone Jinja

The Main Shrine at Hakone Jinja

Last week, I started a virtual tour of Hakone Jinja (Shrine), one of my favorite Shintō shrines in Japan – and today, we continue that tour with a look at the shrine’s main courtyard and worship hall. In some ways, the layout of Shintō shrines varies more than Buddhist temple architecture, in part because of the way Shintō attempts to integrate the shrine with the natural landscape. Hakone Jinja is no exception. The main courtyard, where the worship hall stands, sits uphill from the entrance. Because of the distance, and the fact that several paths lead up to the worship hall

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Visiting Hakone Shrine: Subshrines & Komainu

Visiting Hakone Shrine: Subshrines & Komainu

(To read this series from the beginning, click here!) Hakone Shrine sits on the shore of Lake Ashi, in a grove of massive, sacred trees. The scents of pine and cedar follow visitors up the shaded paths. In winter months you may also catch a whiff of wood smoke in the air. After visiting the purification fountain, most visitors either head down to the water gate on the shore of Lake Ashi or up the steps to the shrine’s main worship hall.

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Komainu: Sacred Lion-Dogs of Japan

Komainu: Sacred Lion-Dogs of Japan

Many Japanese shrines and temples feature guardian komainu.  These lion-dog statues, commonly carved from stone, watch over the entrance to the inner shrines at many Shinto holy sites. At some, the statues are hidden from view, but others, like Fushimi Inari Taisha, have komainu on display as well. In addition to guarding the inner sanctum, many shrines and Buddhist temples have komainu on display at the entry gates. Traditionally, komainu are placed at the entrance to a holy site to ward off evil spirits. Some of the statues have open mouths, while other komainu‘s mouths are closed. The open-mouthed statues, known as a-gyō, are saying “a,” the first letter of the Sanskrit

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