The Land of Hida
Iwaya-Iwakage of the Kanayama Megaliths lies in the land of Hida, which is very old and mysterious. We are posting some articles to acquaint you with Hida. There was an ancient practice in Hida called Hidaki no Mitama-shizume. This may be the origin of the name, Hida.
Nyuukawa. It was a lovely day in November when three of us started out from Takayama east to 丹生川 Nyuukawa on the road to Norikuradake. From our Hida roots study, and our Hida Koku posts, we knew that the original settlers of Hida began living around Mt. Norikuradake and spread to valleys such as Nyuukawa. The Hida people practiced a meditation known as Hidaki no Mitama-shizume, calming the spirit by embracing the sun. We learned from Yamamoto’s book that there are 19 Hidaki no miyas, shrines marking the places where Hidaki took place. We were looking for them.
Our first stop was a shrine off the main road but it did not seem likely to us, since it was on a hill with no flat space for meditating around a pond. We tried again. By asking around, we were directed to a public school where we parked, for fortunately school was out at the time, mid-afternoon. A bit early for getting out of school, we thought. The first thing we noticed was the fenced area under the sugi – a good sign! There was a totally red maple in the corner of the schoolyard. You can see part of the shrine behind it.
Shiro-i Jinja. We made our way around toward the street. Yes, the nameplate on the haiden said, 日抱宮 Hidakimiya! Through an opening in the front, we could see inside. There were two guardians flanking the altar. The largest sugi indicated a venerable age, and was wrapping its roots around the large boulders. One of the boulders showed ancient tool marks.
There is a view of the Hida mountains to the northwest. This interesting shrine is slightly above street level.
Looking around the grounds, we felt that there could have been a place for sitting around a pond to meditate, and there was evidence of a well. The place name is, after all, 白井 “shiro-i” which means white spring.
This shrine is on the northern bank of the river, and has a nice southern exposure. In fact, it faces the direction of the winter setting sun. There is also a view of the rising sun in summer. See the map for the location of the 白井日抱宮 Shiroi Hidaki-no-miya, the fourth shrine on the northern bank below the mountains on the west. And notice that the river valley has a very favorable axis that lies on the solstice line from summer solstice sunrise to winter solstice sunset.
Now, what is 丹生 nyu as in Nyuukawa 丹生川 ? The first kanji 丹 is read “ni” or “tan” which means red. The first two kanji together 丹生 are read “nyu” which means a place where red is obtained, i.e., where 水銀 suigin mercury is obtained for making 朱色 shu–iro vermillion paint. 辰沙 shinsha (HgS cinnabar), an ore of mercury, is found in red sand. In the Yayoi period, shinsha began to be used to avoid insects in stone coffins, for medicine, and for red lacquer. Kokougan granite is also associated with suigin. A commercial method for obtaining HgS for making vermillion was developed by the Buddhist monk Kukai after his trip to China in 806. He became rich enough to build the temples at Koyasan. Thus there is a link between Hida and Koyasan.