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Munakata Taisha Nakatsugū~History & Deities

Article writtenFebruary 5th, 2020
A memorandum of facts about shrines visited. Munakata Taisha is the head shrine of more than 6000 Munakata shrines and Itsukushima shrines around Japan located in Munakata city, Fukuoka prefecture. Nakatsugū is located on the island of Ōshima, 7km away from mainland. The history of Munakata Taisha Nakatsugū and the enshrined deities.
Please check official information before visiting. Information here may be out of date.
Please check official information before visiting. Information here may be out of date.

History

Munakata Taisha

The establishment of Munakata Taisha is prehistoric and unclear, but it is said that in the 4th century, at Okinoshima, which is located in the key point between Japan and the continent, ritual ceremonies were held to pray for a safe navigation and successful trade. In this time ritual ceremonies were held outside and in the 7th century a similar ceremonies were began to be held at Mitake-san in Ōshima island and in Tashima on mainland.

In the Kojiki, composed in the early 8th century, and the Nihon-Shoki it is documented that the Munakata clan is worshipping the three Munakata goddesses in 3 shrines, Hetsugū, Nakatsugū and Okitsugū and it can be seen that the elemental worship turned into a worship of personified deities. In folklore, the shrine originates Japanese mythology. In the pledge between Amaterasu-ōmikami and Susanō-no-mikoto, when Amaterasu-ōmikami chewed Susanō-no-mikoto's sword and breathes out, the three sisters Tagorihime-no-kami, Tagitsuhime-no-kami and Ichikishimahime-no-kami gave birth from her breath. Under the oracle of Amaterasu-ōmikami, the three goddesses descended to Munakata, looking out on the Genkai sea, and were enshrined in Munakata Taisha. Munakata Taisha is the oldest shrine which the location is documented clearly in the Kojiki and the Nihon-Shoki.

From ancient times Munakata Taisha was worshipped as a local deity, but after Empress Jingū had miraculous efficacies praying for safe navigation during Sankan-Seibatsu, the imperial coart considered Munakata Taisha as an important shrine and worshipped it as a guardian of navigation. under the Ritsuryō system, a large area was designated as a Shingun, an area that was established as a holy precinct, and as the Munakata clan served as priesthood it also had administrative power over the area.

In the Sengoku period the Munakata clan, as it turned into a samurai family, was mobilized in battle and Munakata Taisha was often a target of attack. The Munakata clan declined and Munakata Taisha was destroyed repeatedly, but every time it was restored by efforts by the Imperial court or samurai families. Kobayakawa Takakage, the feudal lord of Chikuzen Province, and the Kuroda family, the head of Fukuoka domain, are told to have rebuilt the shrine.

It is known that, after the Second World War, the ruined shrine was restored by the efforts of Idemitsu Sazō, the founder of the petroleum company Idemitsu Kōsan.

In 2017, Munakata Taisha was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as a part of"Sacred Island of Okinoshima and Associated Sites in the Munakata Region".

Nakatsugū

It is not clear when the Nakatsugū, enshrining Tagitsuhime-no-kami, was built. But it is said that in the 7th century, ritual ceremonies similar in Okinoshima became to be held on top of Mount Mitake behind Nakatsugū, and in the 16th century, a shrine was built at the foot of the mountain which would be the Nakatsugū.

Enshrined deities

Munakata Taisha

In the pledge between Amaterasu-ōmikami and Susanō-no-mikoto, when Amaterasu-ōmikami chewed Susanō-no-mikoto's sword and breathes out, the three Munakata goddesses, consisting of the three sisters Tagorihime-no-kami, Tagitsuhime-no-kami and Ichikishimahime-no-kami, gave birth from her breath. Amaterasu-ōmikami gave the three goddesses an oracle, "You three goddesses descend to the route between Kyūshū and the continent, provide protection to the successive Emperors and be worshipped" and under this oracle the three goddesses descended to earth. Each of the goddesses were enshrined in the island of Okinoshima, the island of Ōshima and mainland Kyūshū and where they were enshrined became Munakata Taisha.

These are the three Munakata Taisha shrines and their enshrined deities.

Hetsugū
Ichikishimahime-no-kami (市杵島姫神)
Nakatsugū
Tagitsuhime-no-kami (湍津姫神)
Okitsugū
Tagorihime-no-kami (田心姫神)

It is said that the three Munakata goddesses were indigenous gods worshipped by the Munakata clan, but as the imperial court grew close to the Munakata clan, having power over the area which is a key point between Japan and the continent, the three goddesses became to be worshipped as one of the national deities documented in Kojiki and Nihon-shoki.

Nakatsugū

The main enshrined deity of Hetsugū is Tagitsuhime-no-kami, one of the three Munakata goddesses.

Divine favor

Since Munakata Taisha has been located in the key point of traffic between Kyūshū and the continent, the three Munakata goddesses were worshipped to provide protection for a Safe navigation. In modern times they are also believed to have powers for Traffic safety for motor traffic as well as marine traffic.

Also, since the three Munakata goddesses descended under the oracle to protect the Imperial family, the three goddesses are believed to bring national prosperity.

Auxiliary shrines

There are 7 auxiliary shrines around the honden.

Auxiliary shrines on the left side of the honden
Auxiliary shrines on the right side of the honden

There is 1 auxiliary shrine on the slope above the Amanomanai.

  • Amanomanai shrine

There is 1 auxiliary shrine on the left of the approach to the shrine.

  • Shokujo shrine
Amanomanai
Shokujo shrine

On the right side of the entrance of Nakatsugū, on the other side of the street, there are these 5 auxiliary shrines

  • Hiruko shrine
  • Suga shrine
  • Ōkura shrine
  • Tenman shrine
  • Kengyū shrine
Auxiliary shrines on the other side of the street
Hiruko shrine and Suga shrine
Ōkura shrine and Tenman shrine
Kengyū shrine

Events

These are some annual events.

Shunki-taisai (Spring festival) of Nakatsū and Okitsugū
Around April (Mar.15th on the lunar calendar)
Tanabata-sai
August 7th
Miare-sai
October 1st
Shūki-taisai (Autumn festival) of Nakatsū and Okitsugū
Around October (Sep.15th on the lunar calendar)
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