An old tree stump within the Ikuta Jinja is herein celebrated by having its own enclosed space. Wrapped around it is a "himorogi," which is a rope with stylized paper strips hanging from it that traditionally demarcates any sort of sacred space. Large old trees are frequently honored in this regard; the presence of the himorogi will prompt some Japanese visitors to place their hands together and bow briefly before such a tree. This particular tree, however, is unique because it survived the ravages of war. See the explanation accompanying the photo of the wooden plaque pictured in cocrejpn0087.
The petitioner asks specifically for success in his applications to six universities, the first two spelled out nearly in full and the last four in extreme shorthand (either for lack of space or as an indication of lessened importance), that is nonetheless recognizable for any one who lives in the greater Kansai (Kobe, Osaka, Kyoto) area. The ema includes the date and the petitioner's name and address.
This is a "mikujior&quo box, from which one draws a paper packet in which is written a fortune. The fortune is printed on a small piece of paper and, if it is auspicious, a visitor will usually fold it into a long, thin strip and then tie it around a small branch of a tree in the shrine compound. It is as if this act also ties a bond between one's future and the deity of the temple: one wishes that the kami will help fulfill your good fortune. If the fortune does not bode well, the visitor has the option of taking another mikuji (which usually costs less -- this box says, "first fortune 200 yen," a little under $2).
This plaque tells of the founding of Minatogawa Shrine. It notes that the shrine was created by order of the Meiji Emperor in 1868 in honor of Kusunoki Masanari, who died here in 1336 along with fifteen of his family members, all of whom committed suicide.
This banner advertises an upcoming festival, on July 15th, that will feature the lighting of a thousand lanterns, the rope circle through which one may walk (chinuwa kuguri), and a purification rite aimed at "countering obstacles, eliminating illness and vanquishing troubles."
Just outside the main entrance gate is a makeshift tree (constructed because the natural tree was full!) of long, thin hanging wooden dowels, on which many white paper fortune strips (mikuji) are folded.
A variety of quality items here, many related to the martial character of much of Kusunoki's life, are displayed for interested buyers (all reproductions).
This warrior helmet is priced at 30,000 yen (roughly $250).
The explanation of this uncommon structure is not legible. All that I know is that this rope is made of miscanthus reed, which is common for tradtional thatching in Japan, and that a banner at the main gate of the shrine announces that this "miscanthus circle" is part of a festival.
Another photo of the tree that survived WWII.
This ema, signed by a man and a woman with different last names, says, "May the two of us get along well this year." Appended to the left is also a note saying, "Please also watch over littleTaro!!"
This ema reads, in the center, "May I find someone I really like and keep a good relationship for a long time." To the right is also written," May I find a man."
Unfortunately I do not have a photo of the plaque describing the reasons for placing this rope circle here!
Between the large entrance gate and the main shrine hall is a large circle made of rope.
This sign instructs those (probably of younger generations) who need a reminder how to worship (from right to left): "First you bow twice with back bent to ninety degrees and head lowered. Then you clap your hands twice at chest level. Then bow one last time."
This is the newly constructed main hall. It was destroyed in the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, and rebuilt in reinforced concrete.
This image of Kusunoki in full warrior regalia on a horse is priced at 80,000 yen (roughly $600).
The two large lanterns flanking the approach are noteworthy.
After clapping her hands, ringing the bell and bowing up closer to the hall, in the traditional manner, this young woman backed up several steps and stood with her head bowed for many minutes while facing the shrine.
Just inside the first torii gate, which here is gray concrete, is this vermillion second torii. The cars parked here are likely affiliated with the shrine. If the open areas of the shrine were available for parking they would always be full in this crowded city.
This ema reads, " School: I pray that I may easily get into school." From a young age, Japanese children take what are often very competitive tests to enter both public and private schools. In the month of May, petitioners will post such ema around exam time, whether they seek to enter a junior high, high school or college.
This large and famous shrine is just uphill from the main shopping area of Sannomiya in downtown Kobe. Its quiet grounds present a great contrast to the thriving cosmopolitan center just outside the gate. Many Japanese shrines preserve some of the only undeveloped land and large trees in urban areas.
This ema reads, "May my family be happy and live joyously and brightly. May we all be happy."