- The oldest Shinto architectural structure
- What is the sand in front of Haiden for?
- The Kiriharamizu Spring is the last of Uji’s 7 springs!
- What’s the meaning of the large tree, tied up with a sacred rope and a large stone?
- Rabbits’s oracles and amulets
The oldest Shinto architectural structure
Byodoin is a famous place drawn on the 10-yen coin. Ujigami shrine is located near Byodoin, and is only about a 10-minute walk.
The main hall, Honden, looks very simple and is designated as a national treasure of Japan.
The building was presumably built in 1060 and has been kept much the same, without any damage from fire or war. Shrines are very susceptible to fire, and you can see a “honkaeru-mata”, the charm for protection from the fire, at the Honden.
Believe it or not, the building has been kept the same since the Heian period (794～1185).
What is the sand in front of Haiden for?
You’ll see two piles of sand in front of Haiden.
This is called “kiyome-suna”, or sand for purifying and is dedicated by a monk at the Hassaku festival on September 1st. The sand will be on display for a year from that day. On New Year’s Day, or on a festival day, this sand will be spread around the grounds to purify the area. You might the similar piles of sand at other shrines and they are usually a place for a god to dwell in, but the piles of sand at Ujigami are used to purify the grounds.
The Kiriharamizu Spring is the last of Uji’s 7 springs!
Uji is famous for its green tea production and great springs are everywhere.
However, 6 of the famous springs in Uji are now gone, except for the Kiriharamizu Spring. It is used to provide purifying water for people who visit the shrine. Some people even drink this water, but it actually needs to be boiled first.
What’s the meaning of the large tree, tied up with a sacred rope and a large stone?
On the right hand side of Haiden, there is a sacred tree.
This tree is a Japanese zelkova and is about 330 years old.
This sacred tree is derived from Japanese Animism or Shintoism. The large stone next to the main hall is a sign of the shrine’s remains.
The large stone is set on the ground so that people will not step on it, because it’s a sacred area. The stone is also called “Iwagami-san”.
Rabbits’s oracles and amulets
The enshrined gods in Ujigami shrine are Uji-no-Waki-no-Iratsuko-no-Mikoto, Emperor Ojin, and Emperor Nintoku. Uji-no-Waki-no-Iratsuko-no-Mikoto is a son of Emperor Ojin who became a prince, but committed suicide to give up his position to Emperor Nintoku who is a brother in law. For these reasons, Uji-no-Waki-no-Iratsuko-no-Mikoto is deeply connected to the Uji area, and the area used to be called, “Usagi-no-michi”, or rabbit road. The rabbit symbolizes the idea of, “not missing any information”, due to its large ears, and “proceeding”, because rabbits don’t step backwards. It also means “leaping”.
Why not get your fortune from a rabbit oracle to start your New Year?
Yamada, Uji, Kyoto 〒611-0021