As I have written in the previous post, hubby and I had been to hubby’s ancestral home in Ichinomiya City of Aichi prefecture during the New Year holidays. We enjoyed our stay at home and celebrated the holidays with many unique customs. One of the customs and traditions during the New Year is to visit a shrine or a temple. This first trip to a shrine or a temple is known as Hatsumode. Hatsumode festivities are held at practically every shrine and temple across the country. People often visit a shrine after midnight on December 31st or sometime during the day on January 1st. It is also a sort of annual ritual and tradition for us to visit a nearby shrine wherever we are during the New Year holidays. This year, although we were unable to visit a shrine on the first day itself, we visited Masumida Jinja Shrine located in the city in the afternoon of 4th January.
Masumida Jinja is a Shinto shrine located in Ichinomiya City. The shrine had the highest shrine rank called Ichinomiya of the former Owari province. In fact the city got its name Ichinomiya from the rank of this shrine. The date of the foundation of the shrine is unknown but the historical Kujiki records indicate that the shrine was founded in 628 BC. The shrine is also mentioned in the early Heian period Engishiki records and was styled as the highest ranked Ichinomiya shrine of Owari province since the end of the Heian period. The shrine enjoyed the support and protection of Oda clan followed by Tokugawa Shogunate until the end of Edo period. After the Meiji Restoration, the shrine was granted the status of second ranked national shrine called Kokuhei Chusha in 1875. The primary god or Kami of the shrine is Amenohoakari no Mikoto who appears in the Kujiki records as a descendant of Amaterasu, and the ancestor of the prehistoric Owari clan.
Hubby and I visited Masumida Jinja Shrine in the afternoon of 4th January. We borrowed my father-in-law’s car and left our home at about 2 pm. The shrine is located about 5 kilometers east of our home and it took us just 10 minutes to reach there by car. After parking the car at a parking lot, we walked along a street for about 10 minutes and reached the shrine. We saw that a huge crowd had come to do Hatsumode ritual that day. At the entrance area of the shrine, we saw a stone monument called Shagohyo with the name of the shrine inscribed on it. After the collapse of an earlier stone monument in July 1929, the present one was built in August of the same year. The calligraphy inscription on the monument was done by a person named Oshima Kimikawa of Nagoya City. Shagohyo monument looked so exquisite. We also saw a huge elegant stone Torii Gate located at the entrance of the shrine precinct. In addition, we saw a pair of Kadomatsu displayed on either side of this gate. A Kadomatsu is a traditional decoration of the New Year placed in front of homes or shrines to welcome the ancestral spirits or the god of the harvest.
I am standing in front of Masumida Jinja Shrine precinct. Shagohyo monument is seen on the right side of the photo (red arrow).
I am standing in front of the stone Torii Gate of the shrine
I am standing next to a Kadomatsu decoration
We walked past the Torii Gate and saw a makeshift bamboo water house named Temizuya located right in front of us in the shrine precinct. At Temizuya we washed our hands and rinsed our mouth before offering prayers at the shrine. It is a symbolic act to clean the mind and body of impurity. It should be mentioned that there is a Temizuya located further inside the shrine precinct and this makeshift bamboo Temizuya was constructed just for the purpose of catering to the huge crowd visiting the shrine for Hatsumode celebrations. As we continued walking towards the shrine buildings, we saw a huge banner with ‘Hatsumode route’ written on it. Because of the large number of visitors to the shrine during the New Year holidays, this banner served as a sort of route guidance to the worshippers. After walking for a few more steps, we saw a sacred bridge named Shinkyo Soribashi. It is a very short stone bridge with a steep graceful arch. This bridge is traditionally and customarily the gateway from the real world to the sacred premises of the shrine. Visitors are not allowed to walk over the bridge. So we walked along the pathway adjacent to the bridge. Walking further for a few more steps, we saw a huge wooden plaque board called Ema with the picture of a monkey displayed on it. Monkey is this year’s zodiac animal. The front of the shrine precinct looked so elegant and peaceful.
I am washing my hands at a makeshift Temizuya
Hubby and the huge banner with ‘Hatsumode route’ written on it
Shinkyo Soribashi arched stone bridge
I am standing near a wooden Ema plaque with the picture of a monkey displayed on it
Hubby standing at the front side of the shrine precinct
Next we saw a beautiful huge wooden main gate named Romon. The present gate structure was constructed in 1961. It is decorated with gold accents and projects an imposing, strong, and protective quality. We also saw an elegant crest engraved on both the doors of the gate. The crest has nine leaves of bamboo inside a wheel of bamboo. The crest reminded us of the ancient Samurai history of Japan. We appreciated the gate and its architecture for some time and took a few photos of the gate from various positions and angles. Afterwards we passed through Romon Gate and stood in the most sacred premises of the shrine.
I am standing next to the crest engraved on one of the doors of the gate
Backside of the gate as viewed from inside the sacred premises of the shrine
Backside of the gate as viewed from further inside the sacred premises
After passing through Romon Gate, we saw the main buildings of the shrine right in front of us. The main buildings consist of Haiden Prayer Hall in the front and Honden Main Hall behind (north of) Haiden Hall. The construction of these two buildings was completed in 1957. Kami god is enshrined inside Honden Main Hall. This Main Hall is not visible from the front side of the shrine precinct and people are generally not allowed to enter inside this hall. Worshippers pray at Haiden Prayer Hall. The Prayer Hall is a wooden building with intricately carved ornamented roof. Beautiful rotund braided rice straw rope called Shimenawa hangs at the entrance of the Prayer Hall. The Prayer Hall building looked so simple, elegant, and graceful. We loved the architecture of the Prayer Hall and took several photos of the building.
I am posing in front of Haiden Prayer Hall
Enlarged view of the Prayer Hall
People waiting patiently in front of the Prayer Hall
Intricately carved ornamented roof of the Prayer Hall and rotund Shimenawa rope hanging at the entrance of the hall
There was a big crowd of people in front of us waiting to offer their prayers at Haiden Prayer Hall. We had to wait for almost an hour to offer our prayers. Finally when we reached the altar of the Prayer Hall, I offered some coins into the offertory box, clapped my hands twice, and prayed. I prayed for the well being of my family as well as friends. While praying I noted that two priests were performing some ceremony inside the hall.
I am praying in front of Haiden Prayer Hall
Priests performing some ceremony inside the hall
Next we leisurely walked around inside the sacred premises of the shrine. To the east of the main buildings, we saw a beautiful statue of a horse called Shinme that is considered to be sacred and divine in Shinto religion. Afterwards we walked towards the west of the main buildings where we saw a well called Shinsuisha. When Emperor Meiji visited this shrine on 25th October 1878, he drank this well water during luncheon. We loved seeing this historical well. Next we went to a shop located near Shinsuisha, and bought a pair of cute monkey dolls which are supposed to beckon better luck. Monkey is this year’s zodiac animal.
I am standing in front of the statue of Shinme horse
A pair of cute monkey dolls
Afterwards we came out of Romon Gate and left the most sacred premises of the shrine. Outside this gate, adjacent to the makeshift water house Temizuya, we saw a decoration of several huge barrels of Sake rice wine called Kazaridaru. The Sake barrels were wrapped in straw blankets, and were stacked and bound together by rope on a wooden frame. These decorative barrels are offerings to the god of the shrine.
I am standing in front of several huge barrels of Sake
Hubby and I loved visiting Masumida Jinja Shrine for Hatsumode festivities during the New Year holidays.