I was cycling back from visiting a couple of historic sites in the south of the city, when I unexpectedly arrived at this enormous shrine complex: the Osaka branch of 出雲大社 Izumo Taisha.
It was a festival day (1st of the month), and a sunny Sunday, so there were a lot of people about, and a market with stalls selling fruit and vegetables, plants and so on. I liked this bronze statue depicting the story of Daikokuten and the hare.
There is a smaller and more humble shrine just behind our house called 八坂神社 yasaka jinja – 8-slopes shrine.
A shrine is a place where Shinto gods or 神 kami reside. Our local shrine is home to Susanoo and Uke Mochi. There are two huge old くすの木 kusu no ki—camphor trees that are designated by the city as “important old trees” (Thanks to Yuko for finding out this information).
Back in the Meiji era, there was a programme of rationalisation of shrines, and the little yasaka jinja was merged with the more important 金岡神社 kanaoka jinja nearby. Some years later that merger was reversed and the gods came home to be re-enshrined at our little shrine.
This afternoon we went out to visit kanaoka jinja to see what it was like. The 2 km walk from our house took us through the park and into an old part of town. Arriving in the grounds of the shrine we saw a man leaning with his hand against a camphor tree to draw power from the sacred tree.
When you visit a shrine you are supposed to wash your hands and your mouth at the font.
The 本殿 honden or main building of the shrine is not a place of worship, but a sanctuary or dwelling-place for the kami.
The honden is guarded by a pair of stone koma-inu or lion-dogs. The one on the right has his mouth open saying “A” and the one on the left has his mouth closed saying “N” (the alpha and omega of the Japanese syllabary).
A note on the word of the day:
The first kanji in 神社, 神 is pronounced shin, jin or kami, and means “god”, or “spirit”. The second kanji, 社 sha, means “shrine” in this context. It is also the character used in the words 会社 kaisha—company and 社会 shakai—society.