Date: 24th November 2018
Continuing on from Part 1 of my coverage on the Yamanobe no Michi hike, lets look at the rest of the shrines and temples along the trail. As mentioned in my previous post, I skipped the tombs along this trail, but you can read about it at other sites through the links at the end of the post.
Sai Jinja (狭井神社), Genpian (玄賓庵), and Hibara Jinja (桧原神社)
Sai Jinja is known as a shrine of healing due to the “medicinal water” from a well on the left of the worship hall. From the olden days, the water was known to have healing effects. The entrance to Mount Miwa is at Sai Jinja, and this is where visitors apply to enter the sacred mountain.
I was supposed to visit Genpian next, however due to being a little too early (8 a.m.), the temple was still not opened. Genpian was established in 782 where the monk Genpin lived here in rejection of earthly life. He was a high monk who was previously serving the emperor at that time. The autumn colors as seen from outside the temple looks beautiful, however it will need to wait another day before I can explore this temple further.
Hibara Jinja is the first Motoise (Original Ise) where Amaterasu was enshrined before the deity was moved to the famous Ise Jingu. Similar to Omiwa Jinja, Hibara Jinja also lacks a main hall. Mount Nijo can be seen from the other side of the torii which is especially stunning during sunset. During the spring and autumn equinox, the sun will set between the two peaks of Mount Nijo. The mitsu-torii can also be seen here in Hibara Jinja in case it is too much of a hassle to view it at Omiwa Jinja.
Sumo Jinja (相撲神社), Anashiniimasuhyozu Jinja (穴師坐兵主神社),
Chogakuji (長岳寺), and Yatogi Jinja (夜都伎神社)
Before reaching Anashiniimasuhyozu Jinja, I passed the Sumo Jinja which is easily identifiable by the Sumo statue. The origin of Sumo can be traced back here when Nomi no Sukune (said to be the ancestor of Sugawara no Michizane) and Taima no Kehaya duelled a Sumo match for Emperor Suinin around 2000 years ago. Sumo was not as how it is today, in those days it was more of a kicking match. Nomi no Sukune, considered to be the founder of Sumo, broke Taima no Kehaya’s back with his kick, ending the latter’s life.
Chogakuji was founded by the founder of Shingon sect of Buddhism, Kukai in 824. The bell tower gate here is the oldest in Japan. The Amitabha triad is worshipped here, sculpted in 1151 and is known as the oldest sculpture to use eyes made of crystal. In May, azaleas adorn the pathway to the temple while irises surrounds the pond in front of the main hall in summer.
The autumn colors here were blazing red, so I took my time to capture the fleeting colors.
You can tell that Yatogi Jinja shrine is very old, especially with the thatched roof which is unusual in this area. The same deities worshipped in the famous Kasuga Taisha are enshrined here – Takemikazuchi no Mikoto, Himegami, Futsunushi no Kami, and Amenokoyane no Mikoto.
Isonokami Jingu (石上神宮)
Finally, the most peculiar shrine is the Isonokami Jingu thanks to the presence of free-roaming chickens in this shrine. The shrine which used to be the family shrine of the Mononobe Clan is one of the oldest in Japan and the chickens are here as they are believed to be messengers of the deities of this shrine. The shrine worships the site where the legendary sword “Fustunomitama no Tsurugi” is said to reside. The sword is believed to have been used by Emperor Jimmu to unify Japan. Isonokami Jingu used to not have an inner shrine until an actual sword was uncovered during an excavation in 1874. The shrine where the sword is housed is now the inner shrine.
The worship hall here was relocated from the imperial palace via a donation by Emperor Shirakawa in 1081. Another worship hall, the Izumo Takeo Jinja which was built in 1137 was relocated from the now-lost Uchiyamaeikyuji in 1914. Isonokami Jingu is also home to a shichishito (seven-branched sword) which was created in 369 and is one of the few legendary swords mentioned in the Nihon Shoki which actually exists. The sword though is not shown to the public.
I am not particularly fond of feathery creatures and as I was getting hungry, I hurriedly explored the shrine before making my way to Tenri station to end the hike. On my way back to Tenri station, I passed the Tenrikyo Headquarters and though it is opened to visitors I opted out as there was some event going on there at that time.
Opening hours: Always open, unless stated otherwise
- Genpian: 10:00 – 15:00
- Chogakuji: 09:00 – 17:00
- Isonokami Jingu: 05:30 – 17:30
Admission: Free, unless stated otherwise
- Genpian: 200 yen
- Chogakuji: 350 yen
Other great blogs covering this:
If you are starting from the south i.e. Omiwa Jinja, the nearest train station is the JR Miwa Station, though a start from Sakurai Station is technically the right starting point. If you are starting from the north i.e. Isonokami Jingu, the nearest train station is the Tenri station which serves both JR and Kintetsu-Railway trains.
- Sakurai Station (30 mins to Omiwa Jinja)
- From JR Nara Station: 30 minutes, 320 yen, every 40 minutes
- From Kintetsu Yamato-Yagi Station: 6 minutes, 210 yen, every 10 minutes
- From Kintetsu Osaka-Uehommachi Station: 40 minutes, 620 yen, every 30 minutes
- Miwa Station (10 mins to Omiwa Jinja)
- From JR Nara Station: 25 minutes, 320 yen, every 40 minutes
- Tenri Station (35 mins to Isonokami Jingu)
- From Kintetsu Yamato-Saidaji Station: 20 minutes, 350 yen
- From JR Nara Station: 15 minutes, 210 yen, every 40 minutes
- From JR Sakurai Station: 15 minutes, 240 yen, every hour
2 thoughts on “Yamanobe no Michi, The Oldest Road in Japan: Part 2”
Hi, Jennifer, excellent photographs and writing. I’ve also written a guide called “The Poet’s Realm; Japan’s Oldest Road,” which cover the route from Tenri City to Sakurai. It’s available through Amazon. If you’d like to talk about it, I’m on FaceBook under my full name.
Richard E. O’Hara
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