The only Manju shrine in Japan! Visit Rin Shrine in Nara to get to know the history of Manju.

Rin Shrine (林神社) enshrines Jōin RIN (林 浄因) who brought steamed bean-paste buns (Manju) from China, and it is located on the ground of Kongo Shrine (漢國神社) in Nara Prefecture. A Manju festival is held at Rin Shrine every year on April 19, the anniversary of Jōin’s death. Japanese confectioners across the country visit the shrine on this day and devote their manju for prosperity for confectionery industries. This shrine has a samurai warrior helmet dedicated by Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, who established the Edo shogunate (1603-1868).
What kind of person was Jōin RIN? Why did Ieyasu dedicate his warrior helmet to this shrine?
I will get the lowdown on a link between manju and Ieyasu, and a connection with the RIN family!

2017-02-10   Destinations, Foods & Drinks, Nara,


【 CONTENTS 】

Nara is the birthplace of manju.

Rin Shrine
Rin Shrine

Manju, or steamed bean-paste buns, are one of the most familiar confectioneries in Japan. Do you know who the first person was to make the present day manju with sweet bean paste in Japan?

Jōin Rin came to Japan from China in 1349 and took up his residence in Nara. He started making manju with sweet bean paste and selling them, mainly to temples.
He lived in front of the Kango Shrine and sold manju there. In 1978, Jōin was enshrined at the Rin Shrine on the grounds of the Kango Shrine. Since then, the Rin Shrine has been worshipped as the holy ancestry of manju.
A stone monument that says, “Rin Shrine, the holy ancestry of manju” is placed in front of the torii gate of the shrine.

The stone monument that says, “Rin Shrine, the holy ancestry of manju”
The stone monument that says, “Rin Shrine, the holy ancestry of manju”

Jōin RIN, the deity of manju

Jōin made manju based on Chinese Mantou, Chinese steamed buns stuffed with meat. He made it with sweet red bean paste wrapped in a white flour skin for Buddhist monks who didn’t eat meat.
Before Jōin came to Japan, there were Juji (steamed buns with a cross-shaped slash on the top) and Sai-manju (steamed buns stuffed with cooked vegetables).

Zen temples in those days had a role as a kind of salon for upper-class people, as well as a place to study religion.
Nara manju that Jōin made became very popular after it was offered to upper-class people through his master, Tokuken. Furthermore, he offered it to the Emperor Gomurakami and greatly pleased the Emperor. After that, he was granted a woman of the imperial court by the Emperor.

Kennin-ji Temple in Kyoto, where Tokuken was the first chief priest.
Kennin-ji Temple in Kyoto, where Tokuken was the first chief priest.

Manju tumulus: This is exact beginning of Kouhaku manju!

Kouhaku maju (red and white color manju) distributed at the time of a celebration. (Photo by: kagawa_ymg)
Kouhaku maju (red and white color manju) distributed at the time of a celebration.
(Photo by: kagawa_ymg)

In Japan, there is a custom to distribute Kohaku Manju (red and white color manju) when women marry into families, and at celebrations. The roots of this custom is Jōin Rin. When he got married to the court lady granted by the Emperor, he distributed kouhaku manju to many people at his wedding ceremony. It is said to be the origin of this custom.
There is an ancient burial mound called “Manju tumulus” beside the Rin Shrine. He’s said to have buried a pair of kouhaku manju under a rounded stone to pray for the prosperity of descendants. This stone is the manju tumulus.

Manju Tumulus
Manju Tumulus

The Rin Shrine has a two sets of stones, a small rounded stone on top of a larger rounded stone on the right and left of the main building at the shrine.

A two sets of stones
A two sets of stones

Praying for winning battles with his favorite sweets, manju!
Shiose, a Japanese confectionery shop that Ieyasu loved.

The statue of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA
The statue of Ieyasu TOKUGAWA

The descendants of Jōin took over his manju shop and they continued business in Nara and Kyoto. The Rin family in Nara changed their business to pawn broking. The other family in Kyoto did escape to Aichi Prefecture, because of the turmoil of war in 1467. They changed their family name to Shiose and opened a manju shop again in Kyoto.

Leyasu suppressed the turmoil of the Warring States (around 1467-1590) and established the Edo shogunate (1603-1868). He was a person who conquered the whole country, but was known to love the manju from Shiose’s shop.
The relation between Ieyasu and the Shiose family started because, Soji Hayashi (The letter “林” is read “Hayashi in Japanese) is the seventh generation of Shiose shop, and offered “Main Manju” to Ieyasu before Ieyasu led his army into battle in 1575. The main manju originated with Soji, which was a steamed bun stuffed with a lot of red-bean paste in a thin wrapping of dough.
Ieyasu offered the manju on a kabuto (warrior helmet) to the god of war, and prayed for his victory. This manju is also called “Kabuto manju”.

Armor and a helmet of Japanese military commanders in the period of warring states.
Armor and a helmet of Japanese military commanders in the period of warring states.

Remove calamity and bring good luck by confectionary! The observance on an auspicious day.

There was a reason that Ieyasu prayed for winning battles with manju.
During the period when Ieyasu was alive, there was an observance called “Kajo-no-Gi” (嘉祥の儀), which was eating sweets for good luck and warding off evil on June 16th on the old lunar calendar. To purchase sweets for 16 Kasho-tsuho (currency circulated in Japan at the time) was popular among the shogun families and samurais. They believed in the auspicious homophony between the words, “katsu” (嘉通), an abbreviation for Kasho-tsuho(嘉祥通宝), and “katsu” (勝つ:to win), which brought them luck. Sweets were considered to be lucky charms that bring good luck and victory of battles during this period.

Ieyasu’s legend and armor

An armor in Kagura-den (hall for Shinto music and dance)
An armor in Kagura-den (hall for Shinto music and dance)

Ieyasu dedicated his armor to Kango Shrine in 1614. A replica of the armor is displayed at the Kagura-den (hall for Shinto music and dance) on the grounds of the shrine. The real armor is kept at Nara National Museum.

Leyasu was badly defeated in the Siege of Osaka in the Winter of 1614. However, he narrowly escaped by hiding in a wooden bucket from a bucket shop located on the grounds of Kango Shrine. This is why Ieyasu worshipped at Kango Shrine the next day, and showed his gratitude by dedicating his armor.
When Ieyasu established the Edo shogunate after suppressing turmoil of the Warring States period, he held an observance called “Kajo-no-Gi” (嘉祥の儀), in which 20,000 manju were displayed in a state room at his Edo castle. They were then distributed on June 16. Shiose shop also moved to Edo during the beginning of the Edo shogunate and served as a shop holding the shogunate’s warrant.

Shiose manju and Japanese confectionary, widely loved by Japanese people to this day.

Manju (Photo by: vaboo.com)
Manju (Photo by: vaboo.com)

Although the observance “Kajo-no-gi” on June 16 became obsolete during the Meiji era (1868-1912), “Wagashi-no-hi” (the Day of Japanese Confectionary) was established by the Japanese Wagashi Association in 1979.
The main shop of Shiose still does business in Tokyo and has handed down the taste of 660 years of tradition.
You can buy main manju (kabuto manju) which Ieyasu offered to the god of war on a kabuto (warrior helmet) while praying for his victory.

Wagashi (Japanese confectionary)
Wagashi (Japanese confectionary)
Shiose (main shop)

  • Address:7-14 Akashicho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
  • Opening hours:9:00am-7:00pm
  • Closing dates:Sunday・National holiday
  • Telephone Number:03-3541-0776
  • Websitehttps://www.shiose.co.jp (Japanese text only)

Rin Shrine is not more famous than Todaiji temple and Kasuga Taisha Shrine, but is an interesting shrine to go and think about the relationship between Japanese people and manju and Japanese confectionary. It is also close to Kintetsu-Nara Station.

The entrance of Kango Shrine
The entrance of Kango Shrine

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AUTHOR

kyoami

kyoami

Writer/ Translator

I love Japanese folkcraft article, traditional handicrafts and antiques. I’m seeking the Japanese people’s religious outlooks and its origins that are behind Japanese people’s unique sense and techniques rooted in the ordinary life.

Information

Address 6 Kangokucho, Nara city, Nara Prefecture
Hours 6:00am-6:00pm
Price .
Close .
Access ●5-minute walk from Nara station on Kintetsu-Nara Line
●10-minute walk from JR Nara station
Phone 0742-22-0612
Website http://www.kangou-jinja.jp/ (Japanese text only)