ISONOKAMI JINGU SHRINE
The god Futsu-no-mitama-no-ookami, enshrined in Isonokami Jingu Shrine, is the deification of the sword said to be owned by the god Takemikazuchi-no-kami. Futsu-no-mitama-no-ookami has been known from ancient times as the god who protects the state and keeps peace among the people, as well as being the patron god of the accomplishment of all things.
In Japanese mythology it is said that this god (the sword god) contributed to the subjugation of the country, and also defeated false gods and rebels on the eastern campaign of Emperor Jimmu (the mythological first emperor, said to have been enthroned in the 7th century B.C.) . Thereafter, Emperor Jimmu commanded Umashimaji-no-mikoto, the ancestor of the Mononobe clan said to be the head of the warriors, to enshrine this sword eternally within the imperial court. Later, during the reign of Emperor Suijin (around the 1st century B.C.) the sword was transferred from the court to Takaniwa of Isonokami-furu, the present site, and this was said to be the origination of Isonokami Jingu Shrine.
Since then the emperors worshipped this shrine, donated many weapons in preparation for any emergeney in the state and prayed for harmony in especially during times of war. The shrine also received the worship of famous generals and warriors. Many clans offered sacred treasures to the storehouse called Hokura and prayed for the safety of the imperial family and for the peace of the state.
The most sacred area within the compounds of Isonokami Jingu Shrine is the Kinsoku-chi (literally, “forbidden area”) , where the sacred sword was originally buried in its very center. In 1874 an excavation was conducted and many important ancient weapons and ornamental beads called magatama were unearthed, which were designated as national treasures or objects of important cultural property.
Isonokami Jingu Shrine enjoys very high status. The keys to the main building and gate of the shrine are kept in the imperial court. Also as with Ise Shrine, an imperial messenger representing the emperor was sent upon its construction. Furthermore, Ise Jingu Shrine and Isonokami Jingu Shrine were the only shrines allowed to use the title “Jingu” (grand shrine) before the Nara Period (710-784 A.D.) . Later, Isonokami Jingu Shrine was designated as a “large shrine”within the Meiji Era shrine system.
Main Buildings and Sacred Treasures
- Worship Hall (National Treasure)
It has been said that this building was the hall, called shinkaden within the imperial court, which was transferred to the present site in 1081 by Emperor Shirakawa upon the occasion of the Chinkon-sai festival. The architectural style is grand and sturdy, and is the oldest extant worship hall in Japan.
- Worship Hall of Sessha-izumo-takeo Jinjya Shrine (National Treasure)
This building, said to be constructed in 1137, was transferred to the present site in 1914．It was ogininally the worship hall of Chinju-sumiyoshi Jinjya Shrine in Uchiyamaeikyu-ji Temple. The style of this hall is called warihaiden, being where the center of the hall is earth-floored so the one can walk through the building. The earthfloored passage is 1.8 meters wide with curved gables called kara-hafu. The doors on both sides of the boards which swing both ways and those on the front and back are lattice doors of unpainted wood. This has undergone many periods of reconstruction, but its elegant form makes it an important example among worship halls.
- Nanatsusaya-no-tachi sword (National Treasure)
It has been said that this sword was presented by the King of Paekche in the 52nd year of the regency of the Empress Jingu (372) . This is a rare example of a sword with three blades branching out from both sides.
- Hokura Storehouse
Located to the east of Kinsoku-chi, this storehouse was used to store the treasures and weapons offered to the emperor. It has been said that it was also used as a storehouse for weapons to prepare for state emergencies. The present sacred storehouse is not only for the storing of the sacred treasures, but it also considered to be an abode of the gods. A festival called Hokura-sai is held each year on December 31 to pray for the safety of the sacred treasures.
- Main Hall
Constructed in 1913, the Main Hall is located in the center of Kinsokuchi.
There are also numerous objects designated as importan cultural properties such as a multiplestoried gate, a suite of armor and iron shields.