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  • Thumbnail for Minatogawa Jinja - Main gate from across the street
  • Thumbnail for Minatogawa Jinja - Subsidiary shrine within the compound
  • Thumbnail for Minatogawa Jinja - Plaque describing historical origins of the shrine
    Minatogawa Jinja - Plaque describing historical origins of the shrine

    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.

  • Thumbnail for Minatogawa Jinja - Portal marking grove where Kusunoki Masanari died
    Minatogawa Jinja - Portal marking grove where Kusunoki Masanari died

    This structure marks a large grove within the Minatogawa shrine compound in which Kusunoki Masanari died in 1336.

  • Thumbnail for Minatogawa Jinja - Cabinet of historical souvenirs for sale
    Minatogawa Jinja - Cabinet of historical souvenirs for sale

    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).

  • Thumbnail for Ikuta Jinja - Inner sanctuary
    Ikuta Jinja - Inner sanctuary

    This is the view of the interior of the shrine from just to the left of where worshippers deposit coins, ring the bell, clap and bow. Beyond the courtyard-like space, bathed in sunlight in this photo, back in the shade is a structure that houses the symbols of the deity honored here. Shinto shrines rarely have an indoor space for worship. The structures are built to demarcate and embellish the area but usually not to contain worship indoors.

  • Thumbnail for Ikuta Jinja - Plaque before enshrined tree
    Ikuta Jinja - Plaque before enshrined tree

    This plaque in front of the tree with the himorogi says that the tree was over 500 years old when it was severely injured by burns received in the bombing of Kobe during WWII. However, even though shattered, it managed to stay alive, and so became revered as a symbol of rebirth and resuscitation. The plaque refers to it as a "divine (kami) tree."

  • Thumbnail for Ikuta Jinja - Main gate of Ikuta Jinja
    Ikuta Jinja - Main gate of Ikuta Jinja

    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.

  • Thumbnail for Ikuta Jinja - Circle of rope at Ikuta Jinjpn
    Ikuta Jinja - Circle of rope at Ikuta Jinjpn

    Unfortunately I do not have a photo of the plaque describing the reasons for placing this rope circle here!

  • Thumbnail for Ikuta Jinja - Woman praying before main shrine hall
    Ikuta Jinja - Woman praying before main shrine hall

    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.

  • Thumbnail for Ikuta Jinja - An ema with a wish
    Ikuta Jinja - An ema with a wish

    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.

  • Thumbnail for Ikuta Jinja - An ema with a wish
    Ikuta Jinja - An ema with a wish

    This ema reads, "May Bun-chan's leg [or foot] heal quickly and may he graduate without any difficulty." Imprinted on the ema to the left is a place for the name and address of the petitioner, which is given in full. The petitioner's name is female; presumably this is a mother praying for her son.

  • Thumbnail for Minatogawa Jinja - Main shrine hall from a distance
    Minatogawa Jinja - Main shrine hall from a distance

    The two large lanterns flanking the approach are noteworthy.

  • Thumbnail for Minatogawa Jinja - Side entrance
    Minatogawa Jinja - Side entrance

    The side gate is not nearly as elaborate as the main gate. A visitor who felt a need to make a sincere petition would likely enter through the larger main gate.

  • Thumbnail for Minatogawa Jinja - Entrance to grove marking Kusunoki's death place
  • Thumbnail for Ikuta Jinja - Inside the main entrance of Ikuta Jinjpn
    Ikuta Jinja - Inside the main entrance of Ikuta Jinjpn

    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.

  • Thumbnail for Ikuta Jinja - An ema with a wish
    Ikuta Jinja - An ema with a wish

    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!!"

  • Thumbnail for Ikuta Jinja - An ema and a wish
    Ikuta Jinja - An ema and a wish

    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."

  • Thumbnail for Ikuta Jinja - Modern visitor
    Ikuta Jinja - Modern visitor

    This young woman sits in the shade on a ledge beside the main hall. She holds her cell phone and either reads or sends an email message.

  • Thumbnail for Ikuta Jinja - Inner sanctum
    Ikuta Jinja - Inner sanctum

    This is the view from the place where most visitors stop to pray. One pulls the rope visible to the right and bows.

  • Thumbnail for Minatogawa Jinja - Torii within compound
    Minatogawa Jinja - Torii within compound

    This white torii stands on the main pathway of the shrine, about halfway between the main gate and the main shrine hall

  • Thumbnail for Minatogawa Jinja - Chart detailing "years of misfortune" (yakudoshi)
    Minatogawa Jinja - Chart detailing "years of misfortune" (yakudoshi)

    Near a counter that sells protective amulets (o-mamori), this chart details the various ages at which men and women are thought most susceptible to misfortune in their lives. Some explanations of the reasoning behind the system rely on the pronunciation of the digits of the age: 4 (shi) and 2 (ni) sounds "shini" or death for a forty-two year old male and so deserves special care; 3 (san) 3 (san) can be read as "multiple disasters," so that a woman of thirty-three had better watch out. Other explanations suggest a more natural understanding in Japanese culture of specific periods in life when many men or women might traditionally be under a lot of biological or social stress. For one not well-versed in the traditional system, the chart is a reminder of when it might be a good time to stock up on protective charms from the shrine or, for extra caution, even to commission a shrine priest to perform a purification ritual.

  • Thumbnail for Ikuta Jinja - Circle of rope leading to main shrine building
    Ikuta Jinja - Circle of rope leading to main shrine building

    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.

  • Thumbnail for Ikuta Jinja - Ema board at Ikuta Jinjpn
    Ikuta Jinja - Ema board at Ikuta Jinjpn

    To the right of the main hall stands this large structure on which visitors hang an "ema," or a small wooden plaque with a string on which they have written a wish. The ema are purchased at the shrine for around 500 yen (four dollars), and as the other photos show they come in different styles. It is believed that placing one's wish in close proximity to the kami may enhance the chances of fulfillment.

  • Thumbnail for Ikuta Jinja - Fortunes tied onto branches
    Ikuta Jinja - Fortunes tied onto branches

    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.