Aug 22, 2010

Kimpo Shrine: A Site of Shinto-Buddhism



Kimpo Shrine's Main Structure


Kimpo Shrine is one of the oldest shrines in Tazawako Area, founded  in the 8th century. It is known for the giant rows of Sugi, so-called Japanese Cedars (Cryptomeria), which are registered as a Prefecturally Designated Natural Monument.


Walkway to the main shrine along the cedar rows.

The Shrine’s uniqueness lays in that, despite of being a Shinto Shrine, traces of Buddhism and Pre-Buddhist Worship of Mountains could be found as well.


The name, Kinpo Jinja, is the most apparent example. “Jinja” is, as commonly refers to, a Shinto Shrine: “Kimpo” refers to an existing holy mountain in Nara Prefecture that is said to be a sanctuary for Sangaku Shinko (山岳信仰), Pre-Buddhist Worship of Mountains. Mt. Kimpo is also closely associated with Zen Buddhism as it also considers mountains as sacred place.

The shrine is located on a hillside embedded in a deep forest. Upon arriving, the Sanmon Gate (山門) welcomes you with a pair of magnificent wooden statues: The Guardians of Buddha, The Nio Statue and The Kenchiku Rikishi Statue. These are quintessential symbols of Buddhist temples. This gate was created in 1857 and has been designated as Semboku City’s Important Cultural Properties.



Gates after gates..

After the Sanmon Gate is the cedar rows.



The Guardian of Buddha, Nio.


Another Guardian, Kenchiku Rikishi, or the Building Sumo Wrestler.


Up on the staircase for about 5 minutes through the overwhelming cedar rows, another gate will welcome you-- the torii gate, a symbol of Shinto Shrine. A stone monument inscribed as “Kimpo-Zan” (金峰山;Mt. Kimpo) tells you that you are now in the holy site for the Sangaku Shinko.

Historians say the Shrine served as a significant site for both Shintoism and Buddhism probably up until the Meiji Era (1868- 1912).

The religious complex among Japanese people seems to confuse many non-Japanese people. Perhaps, a visit to such Shinto-Buddhism site as this Kimpo Shrine in Tazawako could give you a clue to solve your mystery.


Finally reaching to the precinct.




A Stone Monument.


Now you see a pari of Komainu, Lion-Dogs, are the Guardians of the Shinto Site.


On your right.

On your left.


Oops-- so at this shrine, it was actually not only a pair of big Komainus AND a little one.

Temizu-ya, or a place for purification before you enter the holy site.


Goshinboku, the Holy Tree, stands so magnificently. Wonder how old..


Just when we were talking about the holiness of the site, a snake (?) appears from the holy tree!
Wow.  (Or, is it a snake?)




A statue is being enshrined in the box.




The door of the building is open when there is an event.


This structure, Haiden, was built in 1752.


ACCESS: Kimpo Shrine is located in Jindai Area, in-between Tazawako Station and Kakundoate off Route 46. From the nearby station, a taxi is recommended since it is not within walking distance. For More information, contact Folake. A parkig lot is available next to the gate.

ALSO: A small park with a fish pond and a public restroom is available adjacent to the parking lot.

The pond and public restroom.


The pond.

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