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Ohmiwa Shrine
The Oldest Shrine in Japan (Perhaps)
Date:22, Jan, 2019
Investigated and Written by Misaka Youhei
About our introductory articles


Hello, everybody. I'm so glad seeing you here with me now. Now, do you know how many shrines stand in Japan? As you know, Japan has countless shrines. I'm telling you the answer. Japan has over 100,000 shrines, it's said. Amazing! By the way, Japan has about 24,000 post offices (2018).

Then, what's oldest among the 100,000 shrines? The opinion is divided. No way to verify since we have to mention about prehistory. Nobody can check it actually. Develop Time Machine, Dr. Emmett Brown!

Joking aside, I'm talking about Ohmiwa Shrine in Nara. It is one of them regarded as the oldest shrine.



Ohmiwa Shrine's Haiden
Source: Omiwa-jinja haiden.JPG
from the Japanese Wikipedia
(Photed on October 13, 2013)

Ohmiwa Shrine stands still at the western bottom of Mt. Miwayama in Nara. It has the Haiden but doesn't have the Hon-den. Let me explain what they are. Hon-den is the house which keeps the sacred object called Shintai. Haiden is the structure for praying and bowing. Paying a visit to a shrine in Japan, you make an offering of money and pray in front of the Haiden.

No Hon-den means no Shintai. Is no deity there? you might guess. Don't worry, no problem. Their Shitai is the Mt. Miwayama which grandly stands behind the shrine. In Ohmiwa Shrine, they worship the mountain.



Mt. Miwayama and Ohmiwa Shrine's Torii
Source: Omiwa-jinja ootorii.JPG
from the Japanese Wikipedia
(Photed on October 13, 2013)

Why do they do so? In prehistory, it's said they usually worshipped Mother Nature. They had nothing civilized, nothing. No cars, no power plants, and no toothbrushes. Then, what was feared most? Nature. Mother Nature gives us the fruits and kills us out of caprice (I think so even today). Being afraid of nature, and enshrining nature were natural.

Why do they enshrine the Mt. Miwayama? We cannot get it clearly. Anyway, still today, the mountain is set as a sacred field. You cannot enter the mountain without permission. Moreover, forbidden are photographing and smoking in the Mt. Miwayama. Don't be rude in the sacred mountain, it means.






 

Ohmi Jingu
Enshrines the 38th Emperor in Shiga

Kanayago Shrine
Enshrines the Kanayago-gami in Shimane