The Water Gate at Hakone Shrine

The Water Gate at Hakone Shrine

Today we continue the virtual tour of Hakone Shrine with a trip to the water gate. In the Shintō faith, torii (the red-orange gate in the images) mark the boundary between the secular and the sacred – though on occasion, it often seems that the areas on both sides of the torii are equally sacred. The water gate at Hakone Shrine is one of those places.

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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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Tonosawa’s Secret Benten Shrine

As I mentioned in Friday’s post, Tonosawa Station is a tiny stop on the Hakone Tozan Railway between Hakone-Yumoto and Gora. For most people, the station is either a one-minute stop where the train takes on new passengers before continuing its run up the mountain or else a place to disembark and head for one of the nearby ryokan. However, Tonosawa Station also has a lovely secret–a Shintō shrine called Tonosawa Fukazawa Zeniarai Benten, that sits just off the train tracks on the “uphill” side of Tonosawa Station. In the photo below, the entrance to the shrine is just to the left

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Kanda Myojin – the Tutelary Shrine of Edo

Kanda Jinja (also known as Kanda Myojin) is one of Tokyo’s oldest Shintō shrines. Founded in 730, the shrine was originally located in Chiyoda-ku, near the Imperial palace; it was moved to its current location in 1603, when Tokugawa Ieyasu moved the Japanese capital from Kyoto to Edo (now Tokyo). The shrine’s entrance is unassuming–in fact, you could easily miss it if you didn’t know what you were looking for.  The torii that marks the official approach stands on a downtown street, between a pair of buildings. The shrine’s main entrance gate sits just beyond the torii. If you visit, don’t rush past the

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Stairs to the Summit: Musashi-Mitake Shrine

(Click here to start from Part 1 of this series on hiking Mount Mitake.)  High atop Mount Mitake, northwest of Tokyo, Musashi-Mitake Shrine offers gorgeous views of Chichibu Tama-Kai National Park, home to a number of sacred peaks (including Mitake). The entrance to the shrine looks much like many other Shintō holy places, with a purification fountain: and a torii marking the formal entry to the sacred space: Carved stone lanterns (toro) and ceremonial stones flank the flight of steep stone stairs leading up to the shrine’s main gate. On the day I visited, cool breezes fluttered the flags beside the stairs. Although the clouds obscured my view of

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The Path of 1,000 Torii (Fushimi Inari, Part 3)

(Click here to start the series from the beginning.) Near the base of Mount Inari (Inariyama), past the stairs that lead from the Hondo (worship hall) to the path that climbs the sacred mountain, lies the famous “Path of a Thousand Torii” – a tunnel made of sacred gates that has become a familiar, iconic image of Japan: At the start of the path, enormous torii tower twenty and thirty feet high, dwarfing visitors. Inside the path, the gates are placed so close together that the light takes on an orange hue:

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