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.
This structure marks a large grove within the Minatogawa shrine compound in which Kusunoki Masanari died in 1336.
This photo was taken from the right of the main hall.
This ema reads, "May my family be happy and live joyously and brightly. May we all be happy."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
This shrine shop has posted above the left-hand side of the counter a chart indicating unlucky years (yakudoshi) when one might most feel the need for an amulet (o-mamori) or two.
This young woman works in a stall that sells various types of amulets (o-mamori). Many Japanese visitors will purchase one when they visit a major shrine such as Ikuta Jinja. They will often keep it near them until their next visit (and purchase), in places such as in their purse, tied onto a back pack, or hanging from a car mirror.
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 is the view from the place where most visitors stop to pray. One pulls the rope visible to the right and bows.
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.
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.
Most of the amulets (o-mamori) shown here are for success in academics, either for good grades or for passing an entrance exam into the school of your choice. The prices here, which are more or less standard, range from 500 to 1000 yen (from $4-$8).
This warrior helmet is priced at 30,000 yen (roughly $250).
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 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).
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.
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.
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."
This map of the shrine compound is erected near the entrance.