Category Archives: Shrines

Himukae Ceremony on Winter Solstice 2017 – Part 2

IMGP0691Winter solstice sunrise at Asadori Myoujin by Chika

Chika-san has provided additional photos from the Himukae ceremony on the morning of winter solstice. Above is the splendid view of the sunrise, looking from Asadori’s torii.

The head priest who conducted the ritual had a very old scroll in his hands, so old that it was quite in tatters. And yet, this ceremony to greet the sun has come down through the ages from prehistoric times. We are fortunate to be able to participate even today with a precious activity of the Jomon people of Hinomoto.





Nangu Taisha


Nangu Taisha Entrance Gate


View from gate: Haiden of Nangu Taisha, with kagura den in front

Nangu Taisha is Ichinomiya of Mino. This is a grand shrine painted in vermillion. The gosaishin of Nangu Taisha is Kanayama-hiko, kami of metal-working. 

We were interested in visiting this taisha because we had been to Nangu Jinja in Hida Kanayama. We found that Nangu Jinja faced the sunrise of winter solstice. We wondered if these two shrines are related and wanted to measure the taisha’s orientation.


Elegant altar in haiden


Kagura den in front of haiden


View from haiden through kaguraden to entrace gate and winter solstice rising sun

We verified that the shrine faces the azimuth direction of 120 degrees. This means that the winter solstice rising sun penetrates the gate, the kagura den, and finally strikes the altar of the haiden. We have found the east, the sunrise direction, to be the most preferred orientation of jinja, and especially the sunrise of the winter solstice. In latitudes around 35 degrees North, as such here in Gifu, that direction is about 30 degrees south of east, namely 120 degrees. Which is exactly what we found at Nangu Taisha and at Nangu Jinja.




Taki Jinja


Taki Jinja 瀧神社(たきじんじゃ)

Taki means waterfall. This is a Seoritsuhime shrine in a truly lovely secluded place. This shrine is simple and mysterious, in a shady forest. It is very peaceful here, listening to the sounds of birds and running water. This site is located in Mino, in Gifu Prefecture.

The shrine grounds are a level area with a slope to the right as we face the buildings from the parking lot. This is the slope from which the taki falls to the valley below, which its waters have created so long ago. Surely, the sacredness of this site was recognized by the ancient people. The taki itself is the goshintai sacred body. The named kami is Seoritsuhime, the guardian spirit of waterfalls and white water streams. There is another Taki Shrine in Kyoto, also dedicated to Seoritsuhime. The river formed by this taki is Itadori-kawa, a tributary of Nagara-kawa


The waterfall was the original sacred object and then the spirit of the waterfall was identified as Seoritsuhime no Mikoto. Other gosaishin are identified as Minasame no Mikoto, and Yaoroyorozu no kami, a panoply of kami. There is no chigi on the prayer hall. The direction is 263 degrees, which does not seem to be significant. After all, the main sacred object is the waterfall itself.





Minashi Jinja


View from grounds of Minashi Jinja


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.


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. 



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. 


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






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.


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.





Hidakinomiya Shrines: Norikura Jinja and Amaterasu Koutai Jingu

DSC04326 Norikura J


In the previous post, we described the practice of Hidaki ひだき in the Hida area of Nyuukawa 丹生川. There used to be many Hidakinomiya日抱宮 shrines in Jomon times; now there are just a handful and they are hard to identify and to find. We visited the Shiroi Hidaki Jinja日抱神社 (岐阜県高山市丹生川町) a few years ago. This year, we sought to find others. For this series of posts on Hidakinomiya shrines in Nyuukawa, you may like to refer to our earlier six-part series of which the first is this link. 


Poster of Norikuradake Mountain Range

Hidakinomiya 日抱宮 were sacred places with a pond around which people would sit and meditate on the reflection of the sun. It was a simple act of nature practice of calming the soul and connecting with sun and sky. Mt. Norikuradake 乗鞍岳 was considered the goshintai sacred vessel of the kami nature spirits. Ryoumen Sukuna was a Jomon of the fourth century who practiced Hidaki in Nyuukawa and at Mt. Norikuradake. Most of the Hidakinomiya lie near Route 158.


Hidakinomiya 日抱宮 along Route 158


Norikura Jinja 乗鞍神社

DSC04348 Norikura haiden

There is an okumiya on top of Norikuradake, called Norikura Honguu Okumiya 乗鞍本宮奧宮. However, Norikura Jinja is the shrine down below. We thought it would be easy to find, but no. A blogsite said that there would be a seki-dan, a stone kaidan. We went back and forth three times. There was a small cemetery where dark pink dahlias and white flowers were blooming amongst the headstones. The kaidan, when found, was covered with vegetation (photo left). We took an unmarked boggy path up to the shrine. We still had to climb up the upper half of the kaidan. Here it is, looking down.

DSC04356 Ichii-no-ki

The jinja is in a forest. Here is the haiden nestled next to an old sacred ichii scepter tree. The gosaishin enshrined kami are Norikura O-kami and Itakiso O-kami. Norikura O-kami is the spirit of Mt. Norikuradake. Itakiso-kami will be explained below. The chigi crossbars on the roof of the prayer hall is cut vertically in the male fashion. The shrine faces in the direction of the winter solstice sunset, which is very significant. This was a preferred direction of the Jomon.


Amaterasu Koutai Jinguu 天照皇大神宮、伊太祁曽宮

DSC04370 road below


The keidai grounds of this shrine are surprisingly down from street level. After we parked the car, we could see a white torii below. Possibly, before the street was put in, the worshippers came from the valley below. The torii is pure white and stands out against the wooden building in the dark copse of trees. A stream flows below thegrounds. We could see a taki waterfall, the source of the stream. (The taki, shown below, is barely visible in the center of the upper left photo.) The chigi is male-cut, for Isotaki no kami. There is a shrine to Amaterasu inside the haiden prayer hall, and the outside sign reads Amaterasu Koutai Jinguu. A Jinguu is supposed to be grander than an ordinary jinja, and koutai means imperial. This is probablyDSC04385 view out the earlier name of the shrine. It is also called Itakisou Miya. Isotaki kami was a later addition, as we will explain.

DSC04376 taki





DSC04379 stream below






From Hidakinomiya to Itakisou Shrines

Hidakinomiya are very ancient places of meditation from the early days of Hida. How early? Possibly ten thousand years ago when Hida was being settled by the indigenous Jomon. As we saw in the story of Ryoumen Sukuna, the people of Hida had a peaceful culture in the mountains and valleys where food was abundant and life was good.

Later, this peaceful life ended when newcomers arrived from the Asian mainland and gained social and political power in Nara and Kyoto. An imperial court system was established, kanji writing replaced Woshite, and indigenous people were considered an inferior class. The court expanded its power over the archipelago, and reached its arm to take over Hida. Even though the people under Ryoumen Sukuna resisted, they were overcome by imperial forces. Hidakinomiya began to disappear and a new kami from the Kii region replaced the old ones.

Many of the Hidakinomiya were renamed Itakisou jinja. Hidaki and Itaki sound alike, don’t they? No doubt, that’s where “Itaki” came from. And a new kami was introduced called Isotaki. We note that this name is a re-arrangement of “Itaki-sou.” Isotaki no kami was brought to Hida from Kii and named as the enshrined kami in many of the Itakisou jinja, including the two Hidakinomiya that we visited. Isotaki is said to foster the growth of trees and cultivation of paddy crops. Interestingly, when we mentioned this name, people in Hida Kanayama had never heard of him. 


We found and visited two more Hidakinomiya shrines in Nyuukawa. To think that they have existed for two thousand years is awesome. Yet, it is sad that their original Nature spirituality as Hidaki places of honoring the Sun has been hidden.

2018.01.08 Links added.

2018.08.09 Revised.



A Visit to Asadori Myoujin

DSC04552 hokora & stones

October 16, 2017.  This is the report of our visit to the Asadori Myoujin shrine. We have reported that a Himukae winter festival takes place here on winter solstice mornings to welcome the sun. Our specific purpose was to study the layout of the stones which are said to mark directions to sunrises on solstices and equinoxes.

We visited Asadori Myoujin in the rain. The site is raised slightly above the surrounding plain. We parked in the lot with a sugi grove to the southeast. We turned to face the torii, and we could see that the path led straight to a second torii on the grounds. This would be the path of the sunlight on winter solstice morning. The azimuth angle was verified by our analog and digital compasses.

DSC04541DSC04556 copy


We pray at a small hokura in front of a mound. See photo at top. Directly in front of us is the sun-stone draped in shimenawa. Beyond it we see the top of another stone. Here is a close-up so that you can see the stone behind the shimenawa sun-stone.

DSC04552 hokora & stones copy

Distance measurements were taken with a laser measure. The distances found are:  from second torii to hokura base, 5.1m; to the sun stone,  11.0m; and to the winter solstice stone, 19.0m.

It has been reported that there are four or five stones lined up in a row, the one furthest west of the winter solstice stone would be the summer solstice stone. We are unable to see the other stones due to the topography and the growth of plants, plus the area behind the hokura is cordoned off with bamboo. We would have liked to take measurements of the distances between the stones. Unfortunately, we could not do it. So we will have to return another time when there is less vegetation and we can see the other stones.

This is the alignment on winter solstice morning: sunlight streams through the first torii, the second torii, the hokura, the sun-stone, and the winter solstice stone. Here is the view looking from the inner torii to the place where the winter solstice sun will rise. 


We noticed that the rising winter solstice sun would be blocked by the grove of tall sugi on the other side of the parking lot, in the background of the above photo. Perhaps the winter Himukae festival takes place after the sun has cleared the trees.