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Saturday, September 23, 2017

And so, today program is quite heavy.

  1. Visit Mitsue and its Jinja in the early morning

  2. Visit the Buddhist temple of Hase and the village born around it

  3. Visit the complex of the Oo-Miwa Jinja, or the set of Shinto Shrines at the foot of the Sacred Mount Miwa

  4. If possible, Climb mount Miwa.

So, I wake up early in the Hinotani resort, get my breakfast, have a fast visit in the onsen and check out by 9 am.

I dreamed of the trip between Misugi and Mitsue so many times while writing of it in my book... and here I am traveling this road. Here's how it felt:

I left the audio in, including the AM radio broadcast with the local interferences, to give you the full feeling of the trip.

In Mitsue, I wanted to visit the shrine of the Sacred Wand, of which I wrote about in my book. The legend of this shrine tells that it holds the sacred wand (mi - tsue) that Izanami threw away when he emerged from the Reign of Darkness, after he escaped the fury of his defunct sister and spouse Izanami. The wand broke in three (mitsu) parts, giving birth to three kamis: Kunado-no-kami, Yachimata-hiko-no-mikoto and Yachimata-hime-no-mikoto. All three the names are hard to decipher today, and from now on this is my speculation.

In ancient Japanese, Kunado sounds like "land of the people" and also "door to the land". It must have been the Kami protecting the dwelling of the humans, like their villages.

The suffix no-mikoto indicates a personified kami: we said the kami is not an entity, but an ability, the power to change, but when a creature has so much power it is defined by it, rather than having a kami, it is a kami. In this sense the Emperor is a kami. In the ancient Japanese chronicles, mainly in the Kojiki, the suffix "-no-mikoto" indicated being of divine or semi-divine nature, which being gods or immortals, had also enough kami power to be themselves kami. Notice that Kunado doesn't have this suffix: this means it is not a god, but a mere "spirit of thing", a "thing in essence".

Yachimata might have been the euphonic fusion of "yatsu" = eight and "mata" = again, repetition, see again. The number eight was euphemism for many, and had also a sense of perfect completion, like the number 7 in the Jewish culture. So, Yachimata = "many times come and go". The dualism of "-hiko" (prince) and "-hime" (princess), might have indicated the two ways of coming and going, and so, Yachimata-hiko and hime must have been the protectors of who goes and who comes.

And so, the wand of Izanagi, the "Mitsue", would have been the originator and guardian of the lands where the human dwells and the connection between the human dwellings, a guard against an outer hostile nature, and a blessing for their development.

I won't find this answer in the small Mitsue shrine, but I want to visit it nevertheless, to see how far was my imagination from the reality, as a relevant part of my book takes place in Mitsue.

Finding a place so small without network, only through the car navigator, is not a simple task. Another dream I had was that of exploring the Mitsue village, again to understand if it was like I imagined it; but also because Mitsue is exactly a "normal mountain little town" of Japan. Probably, one of the most representative. Here is how it feels to drive in this village:

Notice at 3:40 we meet the shrine; I continued the tour because when I shot this video I had already visited it:

And yes, the shrine is exactly as I imagined. Small but rich in its little size.

There is a pretty big haiden, with a small but significant kagura-jo and a pretty big festival room.


The receptacle for the prayers is well kept:

And the honden looks bigger than in many other shrines:

In the past, a place like this was probably occupying a larger area that has been turned into streets and fields through time, and its activity would have justified a couple of resident priests (not in the shrine -- kannushis never lived in the shrine like Buddhist monks did, they lived in nearby ordinary houses), and 4-8 mikos.

So, the road of my dreams, the perfect village and the perfect shrines in the same few hours.

But the day has just begun. Next, the visit at the Hase temple (and temple town), and then the shrines of the Mount Miwa. But they will have to be recorded under another entry, as this one has been taking already enough time.


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