A few days ago, while visiting the Ginkakuji temple in Sakyō-ku, Kyoto, I noticed a large Torii in a side street. When you leave the Silver Pavillion it’s to your right for about 100 meters. It’s very quit there, there is no-one there and the only sound is the birds chirping. The Hachi Shrine (八神社) is situated on a small hill and a flight of stairs brings you to the main area. Both the Kaguraden (神楽殿) and Shamusho (社務所) are decorated with paper lanterns. At first sight it seems to be just a small local shrine, but don’t be deceived, its rich in history. Apparently the shrine was built the from 9th century through 10th century. The guardian for the Hachi Shrine (八神社) is called "Jodo". Locals believe the guardian protects the people around the shrine from any disaster or bad luck. This guardian is considered as the defender for Jodo Temple and Ginkakuji Zen Temple. A fire destroyed this local village and Hachi Shrine in 1853. Many documents related to the history of the Hachi Shrine where lost in the fire. According to "Sho-sho Kongen-ki" or "The Origin of Shrines (in Japan)" written in 16th century, the shrine used to be the place where people did the preparation for the starting fire for “Bon Festival” in Kyoto in 905. The “Bon Festival” (Obon) is an annual Buddhist event for commemorating one's ancestors. It is believed that each year during obon, the ancestors' spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives. Traditionally, lanterns are hung in front of houses to guide the ancestors' spirits, obon dances (bon odori) are performed, graves are visited and food offerings are made at house altars and temples. At the end of Obon, floating lanterns are put into rivers, lakes and seas in order to guide the spirits back into their world. The customs followed vary strongly from region to region. Here in Kyoto the Daimonji Gozan Okuribi are lit on August 16th at around 20:00. These huge symbol fires, unique to Kyoto, guide the ancestral spirits back to where they came from. This event, which marks the end of Obon in Kyoto, should not be missed. The first fire, and the most famous one, is daimonji (big character). It is lit high up the slopes of Mount Daimonji on the East side of town, above Ginkaku-ji Temple. The other fires are myo (life), ho (Buddhist law), funagata (ship), and hidari daimonji (the left daimonji fire). If you are visiting Ginkakuji, why not stop by and take a look at this old Shinto shrine.
Category:Travel and Places
Keywords:Hachi, Japan, Kyoto, Sakyō-ku, Shinto, Shrine, 八神社