Monday, April 14, 2008

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine

The Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine was founded in 1063 by Minamoto Yoriyoshi and was moved to its present site in 1180, by Yorimoto Minamoto(the founder and first ruling Shogun of the Kamakura government). In 1191 it was destroyed by fire and then immediately rebuilt. Since moving it there it has been the Minamoto clan's guardian shrine, dedicated to Hachiman, the patron god of the Minamoto family. Most of the buildings there today date from the early 19th century.

Walking towards the shrine from the station you come to a huge torii(gate). From this torii to the front of the shrine is a raised walkway called Dankazura. This was originally constructed when Yoromito's wife, Hojo Masako, aged 36, was pregnant. As they had two daughters and therefore no heir, they prayed to their deity Hachiman for a boy and dedicated the path to the shrine in 1182.

Drum Bridge

As you walk into the shrine you pass through another huge red torii. At the entrance there are three arched bridges, the one in the middle being a drum bridge, which you're not allowed to walk over. These bridges are between two very beautiful ponds called Genpei-ike, which are home to much wildlife. These ponds were designed by Yorimoto Minamoto's wife Masako and symbolize the victory of Minamoto over the Taira clan.

You then come the Mai-den stage. Just beyond this are steps which lead up to the main building itself, where Emperor Ojin, Empress Jingu and Emperor Chuai are enshrined. There is also a small museum here.

Just beside the steps leading up to the main shrine there is a huge ginkgo tree. It is here that the third Shogun, Sanetomo Minamoto(1192-1219) was stabbed to death in 1219, by his nephew Kugyo Minamoto(1200-1219).

The shrine is one of the most important in Kamakura and is also one of the most visited, with around 10 million people each year. There are also many festivals throughout the year, the most important being held in April and September.

Here's a short film:

You can see all the photos here.