Category Archives: Hida

Himukae Ceremony on Winter Solstice 2017

Asadori ritual

Chika-san attended the Asadori Myoujin Himukae ceremony for the revival of the sun’s power. It took place as the sun rose in the south-east on the morning of winter solstice, shining directly into the center of the altar. Below is the altar before the sunrise, and then immediately as the sunlight illuminated the sacred object within.

Above is a photo of the priest explaining the ritual. He shouted the cock-crowing “Ko-ki-ko!” three times as a greeting to the sun. The group recited “Oh!”. This is a cry of joy that the sun is returning. Chika-san said that this ritual that musters life-force is very moving. The bright lights are the flashlights people are holding while it is still dark before sunrise.

Sun stones.  Once, there were behind the hokora, a Sun Stone and five stones behind it. Now there are only three, because two of them were moved. The two men who touched the stones were subsequently afflicted with illness. That is why there are only three stones behind the Sun Stone, and no one is permitted to move the other two back. Lining up each of the three stones with the Sun Stone is the way to view sunrise at three distinct times of the year. In the photo below, the Sun Stone is indicated by a red dot, and the three alignment stones are marked with blue dots.

太陽石と3つの石

 

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Gifu Castle

DSC04533 Gifu-jo in clouds

We wrote about Jomon rebel Ryoumen Sukuna in an earlier post.  We mentioned that the warlord Oda Nobunaga acquired Gifu Castle (岐阜城, Gifu-jō). Gifu-jō was built on Mt. Kinka in 1201 in the Kamakura Period. It was originally called Inabayama Castle in the town of Inokuchi. In 1567, Oda Nobunaga launched an attack on Mino Province and attacked the castle on 13 September. After two weeks, Nobunaga claimed the castle and made it his own. He renamed the castle Gifu-jō, and the town Gifu. The castle has been damaged and destroyed several times, including during World War II. The current version of Gifu Castle is a cement structure that was built in the 1950s. What we see today is the donjon, the castle keep (tower). Gifu is the name of the capital city of Gifu prefecture.

These photos were taken early in the morning when the castle on the top of Kinka mountain was shrouded in clouds. When the mist dissipated, we could see the donjon. For 800 years the castle has been siting majestically high over the town and the Nagara river below.

DSC04534 Gifu-jo on hill

For those who want to know what the donjon looks like close up, here is a photo from Wikimedia.

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The Nagara-gawa is one of the major rivers of Gifu-ken. Here it is by day and by night.

 

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Okuhida Sake and Vodka in Autumn

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Okuhida Sake Brewery continues to produce top quality sake. For this autumn season, there are two special sakes. They are announced on their shop window, to the left of the sugitama cedar ball. One is a newcomer with an attractive harvest moon label, and it is called Aki Agari. It can be served cold or warm. Either way, it has a taste entirely appropriate for autumn.

2017-10-19 17.06.39 Aki Agari

The other selection in the Hatsumidori series is the classic Yamahai. Yamahai is created lovingly with extra care, rice being polished up to 55%, and it takes three times as long to make. The recipe is 150 years old! When you taste this fine sake, you will know why it has been popular for such a long time. The Yamahai will be your choice for your autumn sake.

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Lest you forgot that Okuhida Sake Brewery produces an acclaimed vodka, here it is again. Our earlier report was posted prior to Putin’s visit to Japan.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin in December 2016, was presented with Okuhida Vodka by former Prime Minister of Japan, Junichiro Koizumi. This vodka is made from premium Miyama Nishiki rice and the clear, pure water of the Maze river of Hida, plus it takes six long years. Okuhida ran out of stock recently because of increased demand. It’s no wonder that Okuhida Vodka is a tremendous success!

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Shichifukuzan Minshuku

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If you want lodging in a traditional home in Hida Kanayama, Shichifukuzan is the place to stay. Shichifukuzan 七福山refers to the mountain (san 山) of the seven (shichi 七) lucky (fuku 福) kami. The building is from Edo jidai, 1603-1868. This minshuku guest house is run by the proprietress who is called Okami-san.

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Here is a view from the room on the ground floor of the building which is in a grove of trees. And here is the room itself.

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There is a rushing river across the street. There are additional rooms on the second floor. Breakfast and dinner meals are cooked by Okami-san. You have the opportunity to taste real mountain food, fresh from the rivers and mountains of Kanayama.

One night, several of us gathered and asked Okami-san to prepare a dish of nabe. On a crisp evening in autumn, what could be better? After the nabe veggies had been consumed, a wonderful broth remained. Okami-san brought out rice and two eggs. They were mixed into the broth and the result is called zousui. The perfect way to end a meal!

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2017-10-22 19.00.29 nabe pot

 

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Kuraiyama

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Kuraiyama.  Kuraiyama is the sacred mountain to people of Hida. Myths and legends about Kuraiyama abound. Kuraiyama: 2,900m =  9,505ft. This sacred mountain has been defaced by a ski resort called Mont Deus. However, it still retains powerful energy. There have been rumors of strange happenings such as mysterious people, UFOs, electromagnetic effects, and the like. 

DSC04469 On Kuraiyama

When we got to Kuraiyama it was drizzly. So foggy that we were in the clouds most of the time. There was a kind of auto event going on in the parking lot of Mount Deus, ski resort. We found the road up the mountain to our right. We went up a scary mountain road and we had to back up when cars came down. We lost a hubcap temporarily. We finally got to the parking lot. From there we would have to walk. We tried to get a GPS signal but could not.

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We walked to the first megalith on the trail, the Misogi Iwa. It is made of two or more megaliths (not so huge) with a triangular opening in between. We wonder what direction the opening faces. It was too wet to try a compass reading, and we decided to go back to the car.

Misogi Iwa Megalith

At the foot of Kuraiyama, in the paring lot at 888m = 2,980ft elevation, we were able to get a GPS reading. Why not on the mountain? After leaving Kuraiyama, we saw a temperature reading of 9C.

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Minashi Jinja

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View from grounds of Minashi Jinja

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Minashi Jinja  水無神社. The formal name is Hida Ichinomiya Minashi Shrine (飛騨一宮水無神社 Hida Ichinomiya Minashi Jinja). Minashi means mizu-nashi, without water. It refers to the fact that this is the divide, the bunsui or suibun,  where the waters divide. Here, to one side rivers rush to the Pacific Ocean, while on the other side, the rivers drain to the Japan Sea. This is a very sacred place. Minashi Jinja is Hida’s Ichinomiya, the first shrine of Hida Province. The sacred object is Mt. Kuraiyama. Thus, Kuraiyama watches over Minashi and Minashi honors Kuraiyama. Together, they are the must-visit places of Hida.

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It was drizzly when we arrived at Minashi Jinja. Minashi Jinja has a forest behind it and is adjacent to homes next to the river. We started at the bridge over a tributary of the Miyagawa, and then turned toward the shrine. The shrine was facing northwest, between 305 to 320 degrees. The goshintai is Mt. Kuraiyama which is to the shrine’s left (right as we face the shrine), namely southwest. 

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Minashi Jinja is an important Ichinomiya shrine, medium sized, and yet not ostentatious. It feels very comfortable to be here. When we enter the grounds, on our right is an unusual tree that grew in a neji spiral fashion. It is considered sacred because it represents a spiraling energy. 

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DSC04458Off the grounds, on our right we can see the red torii of an Inari shrine. As we wash our hands at the temizuya, we notice that there is a ceremony going on in the haiden.   At first, we thought that there was a blessing ceremony for a worshipper, but it looked more like a regular morning purification ritual by the guji-san priest and a miko shrine maiden.

On our way out we asked the man raking the gravel where is Mt. Kuraiyama? He pointed to the side which would be the southwest direction. In this photo Kuraiyama is topped with clouds; it was only 7km away. We would go there next. Chigi: Male.   

DSC04468 View Kuraiyama

 

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Nichirin (Hinowa) Jinja 

DSC04388 Nichirin yama

Nichirin (Hinowa) Jinja      日輪神社  にちりん(ひのわ)じんじゃ

This ancient shrine of Hida is on a small yama or a steep hill in Nyuukawa, near Hidakinomiya shrines, although it is not one of them. Its origin is unknown. Some say it is a pyramid mountain. We’re inclined to this possibility, as perhaps our photos will show. Its height is 728m. It is right off Route 158. You can’t miss it. What you’ll see is a conical hill covered with trees, and a kaidan going straight up. The kaidan turns into a tree-root kaidan, and it is a long climb up to the keidai  shrine grounds. The keidai is not at the top of the yama, but near the top. There is a flat area for the haiden prayer hall, honden behind it, and other buildings.

DSC04401 Nichirin haidenDSC04418 Hinowa no Miya

This is said to be a pyramid yama power spot. 16 pyramid yama surround Norikuradake, and megaliths and pyramids radiate from Nichirin. It may be a pyramid because of its conical shape, steep sides. See photos. There is a sazare-ishi, a boulder formed from pebbles and a symbol of unity, one out of many.

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Nichirin にちりん is the onyomi Sino-Japanese reading of 日輪.  Hinowa ひのわ is kunyomi, the original Japanese. Hi ひ, of course, is Sun. The other kanji means wheel or circle, and is read wa わ. Thus, hinowa is very meaningful in this sun-oriented culture. The word, hinowa, has ancient origins. It is found in the Hotsuma Tsutae:  

ame tuti no      hirakeru toki no

hi to iki ga:      me wo to wakarete

wo ha ame ni,      me ha tuti to naru.

wo no utuho      kase umi, kase mo

ho to wakare.      uwose no mune ha

hi no wa naru.      i me no minamoto

tuki to naru.      tuti ha hani mitu;

katu hani ha      yama sato to naru.

This beautiful verse is speaking of the beginning of sky and earth. In particular, it states that the breath of the great uwose (male) energy becomes Hinowa, Sun, while the essence of ime (female) becomes earth.

The goshintai sacred body of this shrine is the mountain itself, and the gosaishin enshrined kami is Amaterasu, kami of Sun. The haiden and the kaidan face the general west direction of the summer setting sun, around 300 degrees. This means that the worshipper will be facing east. The origins of the Hinowa Shrine are very ancient. Perhaps people gathered here even before Shinto began and the kami Amaterasu was introduced. We can imagine that there may have been winter solstice sunrise ceremonies, now lost to us.

This place feels very mysterious. When in front of the haiden, we are are in deep shadow of sugi trees. The grounds are not large, and so we feel enclosed with the circle of trees, with the sides of the yama falling steeply downward. With the sun setting near the kaidan, we feel that this is a strange time when it is neither day nor evening, but kataware-doki, as they say in the Hida dialect for twilight. when all things are possible.

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