A Visit to Itsukushima Jinja (part 2)

During last summer’s research trip to Japan, I visited Itsukushima Jinja, an important Shinto shrine on Miyajima island in Hiroshima Prefecture. (If you’d like to start from the beginning, you can find part 1 here.) The approach to the shrine follows the island’s shoreline to the natural inlet that protects the shrine from the strait beyond. Today, visitors approach the shrine by land. Visitors enter the shrine itself. Like most Shinto shrines, there is no admission fee (though donations are happily accepted, and freely given by most of the visitors). Here’s the view from the entrance hall, looking out toward the shrine’s main buildings: In

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A Visit to Kasuga Shrine (part 2)

Last Monday, we walked along the approach to Kasuga Shrine, which winds through Nara Park (in Nara, Japan). This week, we pass through the massive wooden gates: To the right of the heiden, a garden contains a number of smaller (but still important) shrines:   Kasuga Shrine honors four of Japan’s most important Shinto kami: Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto, Futsunushi-no-mikoto, Amenokoyane-no-mikoto, and Himegami. The deities are enshrined within a part of the shrine not normally open to visitors; only the emperor of Japan and the kannushi, or high priest, of Kasuga Shrine are allowed to enter the sacred space. Kasuga Taisha (“Shrine”) is a lovely example of the way Shinto

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Climbing the Lower Slopes of Mount Inari

As the god of rice, merchants, swordsmiths, fertility, foxes, and many other things, Inari Okami’s presence is ubiquitous in Shinto worship. Over ten thousand Japanese shrines have altars dedicated to Inari, but Fushimi Inari Taisha, south of Kyoto, is Japan’s largest and most important Inari shrine. For the last few weeks, I’ve been blogging an extended “visit” to Fushimi Inari, starting at the shrine’s main entrance, proceeding past the main altar, and finally (today) starting the climb up Mount Inari itself. Fushimi Inari is famous for its thousands of bright red torii – gates that traditionally mark the entrance to a Shinto sacred space.  The entrance

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Along the Philosopher’s Path

During my research trip to Japan last summer, I spent a lovely morning walking the Philosopher’s Path, which runs along a tree-lined canal:   from Ginkaku-ji (in the north):   to Nanzen-ji, at the southern end of the canal, a distance of just under two miles. My son and I walked the path together, and though a determined traveler can cover the distance in under an hour, the wise visitor takes much longer, and stops to see the various shrines and temples along the way. Our afternoon on the Philosopher’s path took almost four hours, start to finish, and though the larger

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