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  • 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 Minatogawa Jinja - Main gate from across the street
  • Thumbnail for Minatogawa Jinja - Subsidiary shrine within the compound
  • Thumbnail for Minatogawa Jinja - Two prayers for university entrance
    Minatogawa Jinja - Two prayers for university entrance

    These two emas are both for successful entrance into university. The first asks to pass his or her entrance exams (name not visible), whereas the second wishes specifically to be able to enter the Osaka College of Education, and was written by an 18 year-old woman.

  • 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 from within
    Ikuta Jinja - Main gate of Ikuta Jinja from within

    This photo was taken from the right of the main hall.

  • 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.

  • Thumbnail for Minatogawa Jinja - Cast statue of Kusunoki
    Minatogawa Jinja - Cast statue of Kusunoki

    This image of Kusunoki in full warrior regalia on a horse is priced at 80,000 yen (roughly $600).

  • Thumbnail for Minatogawa Jinja - Samurai helmet
    Minatogawa Jinja - Samurai helmet

    This warrior helmet is priced at 30,000 yen (roughly $250).

  • Thumbnail for Ikuta Jinja - Central courtyard of Ikuta Jinjpn
    Ikuta Jinja - Central courtyard of Ikuta Jinjpn

    Between the large entrance gate and the main shrine hall is a large circle made of rope.

  • Thumbnail for Minatogawa Jinja - Prayers for college entrance
    Minatogawa Jinja - Prayers for college entrance

    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.

  • Thumbnail for Minatogawa Jinja - Community relations at Minatogawa Jinja
    Minatogawa Jinja - Community relations at Minatogawa Jinja

    Here shrine priests accompany a local business man to his car after emerging from the shrine's administrative building. Local businesses are often the greatest benefactors of a shrine. No doubt many business leaders believe that their relation to the shrine may help their business to prosper.

  • Thumbnail for Ikuta Jinja - Map of shrine
    Ikuta Jinja - Map of shrine

    This map of the shrine compound is erected near the entrance.