Saturday, October 24, 2015

Mononobe Shrine


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By mid afternoon on the second day of my walk along the Iwami Mandala Kannon Pilgrimage, I came to Mononobe Shrine, the Ichinomiya (highest-ranked shrine) of old Iwami province.

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The first time I came here I was struck by the huge Chigi on top of the roof. Originally used to help stabilize thatched roofs, on shrines they are now only decorative, but fulfill a symbolic function. If the ends of the cross pieces are cut vertically, like here, then the kami enshrined is male. Conversely, a horizontal cut means a female kami.

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The ema. votive plaques, are not the usual 5-sided shape, but in the shape of a rice scoop. Called sukuu in Japanese, sukuu also means "save" as in salvation. The temizuya is also distinctive, carved out of a massive rock and adorned with carvings.

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The main kami enshrined here is Umashimade no mikoto, the ancestor of the Mononobe clan, considered by some to be the precursor to the samurai. Umashimade was made head of the Imperial Guard by the mythical first emperor Jimmu. Umashimade's tomb is on the hillside above the shrine.

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For more about why he was here and the fascinating history of the Mononobe, I will save until the next post

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