Posted: May 1
The Shrines and Temples of Amino – Part 1
Japan as a lot of shrines and temples dotted around towns and hillsides. They range from large grounds, where events can be held, to small huts, which you might not even give a second look, and everything in between.
The Difference Between Shrines and Temples
Historically, the two major religions in Japan have been Shinto, the native religion, and Buddhism, imported from India via China and Korea.
Shrines belong to the Shinto religion, a polytheistic faith, so there are lots of gods to go around. Whereas temples belong to Buddhism, of which there are several variations resulting in subtle differences.
They all have beautiful works of art and architecture within them. Typically they are open to the public walking in and taking pictures, and even saying a prayer if you are so inclined. However, the styles, and what they highlight, are very different.
A lot of shrines are placed at the top of hills so that the residing god can look out over the surrounding area. The temples tend to be located closer to where people live, and slightly more accessible. However, this is by no means a hard and fast rule.
As I’m not an expert on either Shinto or Buddhism I think I’ll leave it there and let the pictures speak for themselves.
The Sea Side Shrine – Shifuhi Shrine
Based in Yuhigaura this shrine is at the most North-Eastern end of Hamazume beach up a steep hill. When you’re at the top you can catch glimpses of the sea between the trees. It’s far enough away from the town that all you can hear are the birds and waves gently lapping at the rocks below.
On a Hill by a River – Kibune Shrine
This shrine has the longest set of stairs of any in Amino. It’s said that the god which lives here is connected to rivers, and there is a small river at the bottom of the stairs. The main shrine is surrounded by trees, so you quickly forget how close it is to the main road. There is another Kibune shrine in Kyoto, its pronounced Kifune their. It’s fairly common to have several related shrines located across the country.
One of the Seven Princesses – Shizuka Shrine
Named after Shizuka Gozen, one of Kyotango’s seven princess, this shrine is perched on the hilltop overlooking the sea near the village where she was born. It’s on the coast road from Amino to Yuhigaura, and while it doesn’t get much traffic, it is worth a drive. There are some beautiful views.
The Small One
I promised a small shrine at the top of this article, and there are shrines even smaller than this one. This shrine was hiding behind Fukujyu-in Temple. I don’t know what it’s called, but someone must service it as the shrine was in good condition despite the overgrown path.
In Yuhigaura the Fukujyu-in Temple greets you with a colourful display of flowers, and some statues before you even pass the gate. The giant carp flag is for children’s day which takes place on the May 5th. There were a few flying in Yuhigaura but its not such a common sight anymore.
Kibune Shrine might have had the most stairs of the shrines but Ryugon-ji might have the most overall. Although, there is an access road and parking going up the hill, so you can bypass most of them. The stairs are flanked by some very tall trees, making the approach very impressive. The temple holds zen meditation sessions twice a month.
More Shrines and Temples to Come
As I mentioned there are a lot of shrines and temples, and this list is only just scraping the surface of Amino, let alone Kyotango. I’ll be posting more pictures from the other parts of Kyotango, and a few more from Amino, over the next few weeks. Make sure you stay tuned.