Posted: August 7
Kumihama’s Shrines and Temples
Continuing our series of the shrines and temples of Kyotango we come to Kumihama. Here we will take a look at 2 of the larger temples in Kyotango, a shrine with an astrological interest, and one of the more humble shrines in one of the most stunning locations.
Some of you might remember this temple from the “Nyoiji Temple Spring Flower Walk”. Please rest assured that it remains photogenic into the summer.
During the Tenpyo era (729-749) the boddhisatva Gyoki came to Kumihama bay and saw fire going from the the mountain top into the bay, and back. Taking this as a good omen he pulled on a net and received the wish-granting gem (nyoi-hojyu) from the reliquary of the seven previous incarnations of the Buddha. This inspired him to found the temple at the foot of the mountain, and call it Nyoi-ji (Nyoi temple).
The Gate faces Kumihama bay and while it is still the original gate it has had extensive renovations done to it during the Showa era (1926-1989). The two statues housed in the gate are called Kongorikishi, or guardian deva, they protect the temple from evil. They were established here between 1185 and 1333.
The Hexagonal Shrine
The hexagonal shrine contains a space for people to place their “ema”, wish plagues. It also contains the “1000 Crane Dedication”. In this tradition one folds 1000 paper cranes to bring good luck, happiness, health, or sometimes world peace.
The Fudo Shrine
Next to the Hexagonal Shrine is the Fudo Shrine. At a height of 26m it is the only multi-story pyramidal roofed shrine in Japan. It’s style is an unusual mixing of Japanese, Chinese and Indian elements. It underwent significant reconstruction in 1983.
The Main Shrine
The main shrine was built in the early Showa era (1920s-1930s), in the style of the Meiji era (1868-1912). There was some reconstructive work done in the middle of the Showa era. The Bodhisattva Juichimen-Kanzeon (buddhist deity of compasion) is enshrined here, and is the main subject of worship at Nyoiji Temple.
A Quiet Pond
Behind the main shrine is a small pond and walk which was renovated in spring 2020. It is perfect for quiet reflection, and appreciating the nature that surrounds the temple. It also contains a fountain which is said to bless the eyes.
Built in the Kamakura era, the main building is the oldest wooden building in Kyotango. It is also the only Buddhist temple building from the Kamakura era, making it very precious. Other temples may be older but the actual building itself will likely have been rebuilt on the same site several times.
The bell tower in Honganji temple is of the hakamagoshi type, and features sloping walls on the bottom level and the bell is suspended on the top level. The two buildings of the temple feature a walkway between them, no doubt very convenient in bad weather.
The temple was built here because the Bodhisattva Gyoki saw a tree swarming with sandpipers which flew as if they were chanting scriptures. He was so moved that he carved the tree to represent the Amida Buddha and 1000 Buddha Statues. The statue is housed in the center of the altar, and has been designated as the cultural property of Kyoto Prefecture.
Kamitani Shrine, often called Kamitani Tachinomiya, was established sometime around 1596 but the current main hall was built in 1781. Its construction was inspired by Taniwa Michinushi, the lord of the Tanba district who would later marry Kawakamino Masuno Iratsume, one of Kyotango’s Seven Princesses.
The Main Shrine
There are four deities enshrined within the main shrine including Taniwa Michinushi. The straw rope across the top is a shimenawa and is used to ward off evil spirits.
From the side of the main shrine the intricate carvings become visible. They are done in the Tachinomiya style and are more intricate than much of the other works in the area.
On one side of the main shrine is a smaller building with an Inari Shrine and a shrine to Sarutahiko. Inari shrines are traditionally painted red and associate with rice production, it is said that foxes are the messengers of Inari. Sarutahiko is seen as a symbol of strength and guidance.
Across the road from Kamitani Shrine is Kamitani Iwakura. While the shrine here can be appreciated in its own right the main draw is the set of observational stones, used to track the stars movements.
The slit between the stones is oriented north-south and is used to sight the pole star, which was the highest deity of the star faith. It is also used to mark the seasons, on the summer solstice the sun rises behind Mt. Kabuto and shines directly onto the heel stone.
While this shrine is the smallest subject of this blog, it commands the most dramatic location. Kumano Shrine sits on top of Mt. Kabuto which givesit a stupendous view over Kumihama Bay and Shotenkyo to the sea of Japan, and over the town of Kumihama itself.
Both Kawakamino Masuno Iratsume, who was the daughter of a wealthy trader from Kumihama and her husband Taniwa Michinushi, the lord of the Tanba area, are enshrined here.
As mentioned you can see the view from the top is stunning, and there is an observation platform to give the best views. It’s quite a walk to get to the top, but well worth it. Just make sure you take a bottle of water with you.
Kumihama’s Shrines and Temples
There are many more shrines and temples in Kumihama. However, by only focusing on a few, more detail can be given.