|Address||1499-1 Anamushi, Kashiba City [MAP]|
Nijo Station, Kintetsu Osaka Line
5 minutes from the station, about 400 meters
24 hours /365 days
Many things remain unknown about the Osaka Yamaguchi-jinja Shrine, including the year of its foundation. However, the Nihon shoki (or Chronicles of Japan, a history completed in 720) mentions the god of the shrine as well as the tenth emperor of Japan, Sujin, who is said to have reigned from the late third century to the early fourth century (another opinion says his rule might have been from 97BC to 30BC).
The shrine is not only old but has a great significance. It is located at the foot of Mt. Nijo, which produced sanukite, material to create stone implements such as knives and spears in ancient times, as well as emery, sands to polish balls. Since prehistoric time, people have lived there and made their living using materials from the mountain. It is not hard to believe that people admired and respected the mountain, watching over them and protecting their lives.
It is also important to understand how rice cropping was related to the power of emperor in the Yayoi period (1000BC to 300AC). Around that time, the most crucial political issue for emperors was having enough knowledge to control farming; Mt. Nijo was a great help for them.
The palace of Sujin, the tenth emperor, mentioned earlier, was located around Mt. Miwa in Sakurai City. From there, if you look at Mt. Nijo, the sun sets precisely between the two peaks on the spring and autumn equinox. This informed the emperor when to tell people to start planting and gathering rice. This knowledge allowed the emperors to keep their authority; therefore, Nijo-zan had a great significance for emperors to maintain their authority; therefore, Mt. Nijo had a great significance for the emperors. Osaka Yamaguchi-jinja Shrine is located at the foot of this holy mountain. The name of shrine is listed in Engishiki, an ancient list of government regulations completed in 927.
People may pray for the god for different reasons, but to expel difficulties and hardship, such as sickness, as has been a common wish throughout history. Gozu-tenno (牛頭天王) or Susanoo-no-mikoto is the god who controls human’s good luck and bad luck. He gained nationwide popularity after the middle of the Heian period (901-1068). This shrine was no exception. Although the god of this shrine used to be the god of mountains, as 山口 (Yamaguchi) means “the entrance of the mountain," Gozu-tennno became its main god and continued to be so until Meiji period (1868-1912).
It was probably in the late Muromachi Period (1336-1573) that people started to dedicate sumo matches to Gozu-tenno. Because people were suffering from a severe epidemic and other hardships at the time, they dedicated sumo matches to this powerful god as a way of asking him to ease the lot of the village. These performances were held until around the 1970s. The balcony still awaits the next performance.
There is another Osaka Yamaguchi-jinja Shrine (Osaka 逢坂), about 15 minute walk from this shrine. Nobody knows why there are two of the same shrines close together, and people sometimes argue which one is true and which one is false. However, considering the importance of this area, we may conclude that these two shrines used to belong to the same large area and were divided later for some unknown reasons. In the Muromachi period, there were a number of wars and conflicts throughout Japan, and the power of the imperial court declined. Some local families may have taken over holy areas during this time. We see many examples of holy areas being divided, so the same could have happened to the Osaka Yamaguchi-jinja Shrine, in Anamushi or in Osaka. Currently, local people, or shrine parishioners, protect the shrines.
In the middle of January, people bring simenawa, sacred festoon to the shrine and burn to see off the god with fire. The shrine has spring and autumn festivals. At the autumn festival, children and adults pull a festival float. Before the festival, fifth and sixth graders of Anamushi-Nijo area gather to practice drum and gong together with village trainers.
In 2016, main shrine was renovated. The cost was covered mainly by shrine parishioners and some donations from local people. To see more photos, visit the gallery.