Friday, March 5, 2010

Kashima Shrine - Intro to Report on 14th Shinto Seminar

Dr. Trouble has the floor today. Consider yourselves warned.

As Ms. Trouble demanded, here is part one of the report on 14th Shinto symposium at Kashima Shrine, an Ichinomiya Jingu (yep, this shrine is not a “Jinja” but a “Jingu”) in Hitachi (old name of Ibaraki Prefecture). 


Entrance to Kashima shrine. This type of torii is even called "Kashima style". Doesn't take a genius to figure out how it got its name, right?

What is an Ichinomiya (一の宮) shrine? 

An Ichinomiya shrine is considered to be the most prestigious shrine (number one shrine) within a particular district. For example, in Utsunomiya that would be Futara Yama Jinja – that shrine up on the hill in front of Parco. And Futara's official title is “Ichinomiya”.

Descending shrines in a district are named Ninomiya (二の宮) – number 2, and Sannomiya (三の宮) – number 3. 

Here are a few indicators by which you can figure out whether a particular shrine is an Ichinomiya.

Normally, an Ichinomiya shrine:

1. worships local pioneering deities who are classified as Kunitsu-kami (国津神),
2. is considered by the locals to be the most familiar shrine in the district,
3. is listed in Engishiki-jinnmyo-cho (延喜式神名帳), which is a list of shrines published in 927 (yeah, that’s not a typo, we’re talking 10th century here).

However, it does not necessarily mean that an Ichinomiya worships a prestigious deity.

But what it does mean is that Kokushi should visit the number one shrine on his arrival in the district. Kokushi is a Pontius Pilate type of official who is sent from the central government to oversee a province, collect taxes, deal with local matters, etc. So it was only sensible that Kokushi had to pretend that he admired the local deity regardless of his (Kokushi's) greediness and brutality toward the natives. All in a day’s work in politics, you know… And if you are smart, you can easily figure out now that Kunitsu-kami is a god version of Kokushi. 


Shrine building 

Major big-name gods such as Amaterasu, who are classified “Amatsu-kami” (天津神) cannot be worshiped at Ichinomiya based on the above reasons. In other words, most Kunitsu-kami variety of gods are an offspring of one god, Ohkuninushi, meaning “Great Land Master”, and who is the ruler of Izumo Province

In ancient Japan, we had many provinces and they all needed their own local gods, but don’t worry. The Great Land Master was such a fertile deity that he had, at least, six wives and 180 or 181 children. No, no, no, he was not a Mormon.

Was Takemikazuchi a fat sumo wrestler??? 

Among approximately 600 (give or take a dozen here and there) Kashima shrines, here, in Kashima, is THE Kashima Shrine. All the Kashima Shrines worship the same deity, Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto (武甕槌神). 



 image: Kashima shrine website


 He was born from the blood splashed onto rocks when Izanagi chopped Kagu-tsuchi’s head off, because Kagu-tsuchi caused his mom's, Izanami, death by burning her private parts while he was being delivered (because he was a god of fire). So his papa, Izanagi, killed him, and voila, from the blood of Kagu-tsuchi Takemikazuchi was born. All this mess is described in a chapter called Kami-umi, a.k.a. Creation of Deity, 神産み, in collections of Japanese myths - Kojiki and Nihon shoki. 

He appeared in Ashihara-no-nakatsukuni (葦原中国), which according to one interpretation means Japan itself, or Izumo (出雲) district, based on another interpretation - heitei (平定= Conquering) part of the myths mentioned above. 

While he was trooping on hostile ground (= Ashihara-nakatsukuni, 葦原中国), he had a fight with Takeminakata-no-kami (建御名方神), one of the sons of the fertile Great Land Master, Ohkuni-no-nushi (大国主). 

This event is considered to be the origin of the fighting tradition between two nearly-naked-fat-guys-sweating-and-trying-to-push-one-another-outside-a–circle, a.k.a. Sumo 


Image: wikipedia

Our pal, the god of Kashima was the winner of this first sumo fight and because of that, he is worshipped as a patron deity of anything related to martial arts. 

What to see at Kashima-jingu

The bit “mikazuchi [雷]” in the name of the Kashima god means “thunder”, and a “thunder god [raijin/雷神]” is believed to be equivalent to a sword god. And so in Kashima they have a holy sword called Futsu-no-mitama” or “Kuro-urushi-hyoumonn-tachigoshirae" 黒漆 (black Lacquer) 平文 (a technique to inscribe letters on thin-layered gold or silver) 太刀 (sword) 拵 (make). 


image: Kashima shrine website 

Among the old swords in Japan, this is the longest one (2.71m) and one of the oldest (late 8th century). Because of its ridiculously long size, it was actually combined at four junctions. (Be sure to ask Ms. Trouble about her theory regarding the size of the sword and its owner's penis.)

Behind the shrine building in the forest, there is a stone called “Kaname-Ishi”. Although this stone is tiny, it's buried damn deep inside the ground, and it is believed to be the lid to keep a giant catfish causing earthquakes steady.

The spirit of Kashima god being delivered by deer express to Nara.

Kashima_deerSince Kashima Jin-gu occupies about 700.000m2, approximately 30 deer enjoy their life under the divine patronage on the shrine grounds, similar to what you can find at Kasuga Taisha (春日大社) in Nara. 

It makes sense because Kasuga Taisha was built by the Fujiwara clan (藤原氏), descending from the Nakatomi clan (中臣氏). Nakatomi no Kamatari (中臣鎌足) was the founder of the clan and he was a Kashima native. And both Kashima and Kasuga worship the same god, Takemikazuchi-no-kami. 

Note that when Takemikazuchi-no-kami was sent to Ashihara-nakatsukuni by Amaterasu-ohmikami, another deity, Amenokaku-no-kami (天迦久神), was a messenger to deliver orders from Amaterasu to Takemikazuchi-no-kami. 

Amenokaku-no-kami is a deity of deer. And thanks to that, at Kashima Jingu (shrine), deer is considered as a messenger of god. It is also believed that the spirit of god (Takamikazuchi-no-kami) was sent to Kasuga Taisha in Nara by taking a year-long ride on a white deer’s back. 

Some readers might be familiar with Japan’s professional soccer league, called “J League”. Kashima city has its own team - Kashima Antlers. And yep, it was named after the deer at Kashima Jingu. Brazilian soccer legend, Zico, used to belong to the team. The sponsor of the team is Sumitomo “METAL” industries, and not a wimpy Softbank or some newspaper company.


They're very proud of their deer in Kashima.

And the "Ka"- 鹿 - in "Kashima" means deer.

And that is pretty much it about Kashima Jingu. 

Although it is said that the shrine’s history goes all the way back to 7th century BCE, that statement is controversial. Very much so. 

When considering those Japanese myths and the character of the deity worshipped at Kashima, we sort of can agree that Kashima Jingu was like a forward player in a soccer game, attacking local independent poobahs in yet-unconquered parts of northern Japan, called Emishi/Ebisu/Ezo (蝦夷). 

In fact, according to wiki in Japanese, Kashima Jingu has Aterui's (アテルイ) head (Aterui was one of the generals from Emishi). No wonder that a god of martial arts is worshipped there! 

And that’s why we had a meeting about Shinto and Bushido in Kashima on a stormy, rainy, snowy day (with a tsunami thrown in for good measure). 

Confused yet? No? Don't worry, you will be.

The story will continue in part 2…

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