Saturday, June 16, 2018

Chugoku Sanyo, San-in 中国地方山陽、山陰 - Izumo Taisha 出雲大社, Zenzai ぜんざい

Visited 21.04.2015 (Tue)


Good relationship. Izumo Taisha is a symbol of Izumo-shi and a distinguished place of worship in Japan. People from different parts of Japan come to this sacred place to wish for good "en 縁" or relationship, an essential element in everyone's life. Whether is it family ties, friendship, love life or rapport with colleagues, it is part and parcel of our lives to embrace the dynamics of relationship. There is no perfect, one structured solution to every issue we encounter in lives and sometimes spiritual boost is needed to overcome these challenges or eliminate the haunting uncertainties at the back of our minds. Establishing good relationship with people around us is paramount and meeting the right people can sometimes make a huge difference to our lives. Okuninushi no okami 大国主大神, the deity enshrined in Izumo Taisha, is well known as the deity of happiness, good fortune and relationship. Therefore, this shrine became a popular place of worship for people who want to be blessed with such virtue.

Overlooking Shinmon-dori from Seidamari no otorii. Can you spot a gigantic white torii in the background?
This was the highlight of our stay in Izumo-shi. After an overnight stay here, we set off early in the morning to first pay homage at Izumo Taisha before heading for Tamatsukuri Onsen later in the afternoon. From Izumo Taisha mae Station, we strolled along the stone paved street of Shinmon-dori, lined with shops and restaurants on both sides, before arriving at Seidamari no otorii 勢溜の大鳥居, the main entrance of Izumo Taisha.

From Izumo Taisha mae Station, turn left and walk straight to see this huge white torii made of concrete.
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Background / Highlights:




- Count the number of rabbits! From Seidamari no otorii, there are two rows of beautiful pine trees leading all the way to the main compound of Izumo Taisha. Worshipers/visitors are supposed to walk on either side of this path as the center is dedicated to the deities. Along the way, you will spot numerous adorable stone figurines of rabbit in its premises. This depicts the white rabbit of Inaba 因幡の白兎 which is said to be the matchmaker of Okuninushi no okami and Princess Hachigami. In fact, there is a shrine built and dedicated to this rabbit as well. The shrine is Hakuto Jinja 白兎神社 and also a popular place of worship situated in Tottori city.



- Haiden 拝殿, located just in front of Honden, is the main place where worshippers pray to Okuninushi no Okami. In Japan, it is a common practice to use a 5 yen coin as offering. Reason being the pronunciation of 5 yen in Japanese, "go-en", sounds similar to another phrase which means relationship "縁". As mentioned previously, everyone hope to encounter/experience good "en" in different aspects of their lives, it gave rise to this practice exemplified during praying in a shrine/temple in Japan. In Izumo Taisha, the way to worship is slightly different from other shrines/temples I have visited before in Japan. First, put some coins into the offering box; followed by bowing twice and clapping four times (instead of the usual two times). Make a wish and bow once more to complete the entire procedure. 

Prayed in front of Honten.

Symbols to indicate where the pillars supporting the previous 48 m tall Honten are located in.

Could only see the roof of the honden behind the fence.
- Honden 本殿, is the main hall where Okuninushi no Okami is enshrined in. It is a pity that visitors are not allowed to enter the main hall as it is quite difficult to fully appreciate this majestic wooden building while standing outside the fenced up area. Standing at 24 m tall and a large roof beautifully covered by bark from cypress trees, the Honden was built in 1744 and was designated as a national treasure in 1952. It was said that the main hall was actually twice as high (48 m) in the past! Though it is hard to believe whether such tall structure could be built in the ancient days, the authenticity of this myth was somehow validated when remains of wooden pillars from the main hall, dated all the way back to 12th century, were unearthed from the grounds in 2000. The locations where the wooden pillars were deep rooted in are now being marked by symbols on the ground.



- Kaguraden 神楽殿, otherwise known as the sacred dance hall, is where Shinto rituals, prayers and marriage ceremonies are held. Located on the west side of Honden, there is one other unique feature to this ceremonial building. An enormous sacred Shinto straw rope, known as Shimenawa しめ縄, measuring 13.5 m long and weighing 4.5 tons, hangs in front of the building. This is the definitely the biggest Shimenawa I have ever seen in my life (in fact, the largest in Japan as well). Shimenawa is typically found at the entrance of such building as it divides the space between the sacred area where deities are enshrined in and the outside world.

Zenzai - Sweet red bean soup with two mochi, pink and white in colour. 
Zenzai. One food that many people will head for after praying at Izumo Taisha is zenzai ぜんざい. In the ancient days, zenzai was used as an important offering to the deities during the month of October of the old lunar calendar. This is the month when all the deities from different parts of Japan would come together to Izumo region, therefore also known as Kami ari tsuki 神有月. Along Shinmon-dori, there are many shops offering this sweet red bean soup served together with mochi. After visiting Izumo Taisha, we religiously came to Izumo Zenzai Mochi 出雲ぜんざい餅, a shop located in Goen Yokocho ご縁横町, to savour this popular sweet red bean soup dessert too!

Izumo Zenzai Mochi is located on the right. 
Goen Yokocho ご縁横町: http://www.goenyokocho.jp/

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Izumo Taisha 出雲大社
島根県出雲市大社町杵築東195
Operating hours: 0600 - 2000 hrs
Free admission
http://www.izumooyashiro.or.jp/

How to get there? 

(1) By Ichibata Densha 一畑電車
Board the train from Dentetsu Izumo-shi Station 電鉄出雲市駅 and alight at Kawato (川跡). Transfer to another train at a different platform heading for Izumo Taisha (出雲大社) via Taisha line. Alight at the terminus station, Izumo Taisha mae Station 出雲大社前駅. Upon exiting from the train station, turn right and walk straight along Shinmon-dori 神門通り. Approx 7 minutes walk to reach Izumo Taisha.
One way train fare = 490 yen (adult).
Izumo Taisha mae Station: https://www.ichibata.co.jp/railway/operate/stations/00.html



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Video: An excellent promotional video on Izumo Taisha produced by Japan Tourism Agency.


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Commemorative stamps:



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