Kasuga Taisha

Osaka Castle
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Universal Studios Japan
Hiroshima Peace Memorial
Shukkeien Garden
Golden Pavilion
Heian Shrine
Kasuga Taisha
Toji Temple
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Meiji Shrine
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Girl with Red Shoes On
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A sign at the entrance to Kasuga Taisha provides the following information:

The Kasuga Shrine was founded in 768 C.E. at a time when Nara was capital of Japan. The beautiful location, the vicinity of the Mikasa and Kasuga hills, was upon a site that had been considered holy from the earliest times.

As the family shrine of the powerful Fujiwara family, the Kasuga Shrine rose to the zenith of importance in the Heian period (794–1185), when the Fujiwara aristocracy was dominant at the Imperial court upon its move to the new capital at Kyoto.

Even after the period of Fujiwara political preeminence came to an end, the family still retained a position of great prestige at court. Since virtually all empresses have been members of Fujiwara branch houses, the Kasuga Shrine, as their tutelary shrine, has developed many close ties with the imperial family.

The shrine is unsurpassed as a repository of Heian period art and architecture. Periodic restoration and ceremonial rebuilding have assured careful preservation of the original forms of many ninth-, tenth-, and eleventh-century buildings.

Of the four deities enshrined here, Takemimikazuchi-no-Mikoto and Futsunushi-no-Mikoto were originally brought here from the Hitachi and Shimofusa districts, in modern Ibaraki and Chiba prefectures near present-day Tokyo. The remaining two, Amenokoyame-no-Mikoto and Himegami, are revered as forebears of the Fujiwara family.

From other sources, I learned that legend has it that the shrine originated when the deity Takemimikazuchi-no-Mikoto arrived on the top of Mount Mikasa from Kashima Shrine in Hitachi Province (present-day Kashima Shrine in Kashima City, Ibaraki Prefecture), riding on a white stag. In 768 the Fujiwara clan buiilt shrines in four locations on the present grounds to worship the gods named above. The construction of the Wakamiya Shrine in 1135 brought the number of deities worshiped at Kasuga to five.

From the Heian period on, the Fujiwara clan, along with the emperor and the imperial family, actively sponsored the shrine and donated to it numerous sacred items to be used by the gods enshrined within the inner sanctuaries. Today, the Kasuga Shrine Treasure House (Kasuga Taisha Hōmotsukan) houses many of these shrine treasures along with other valuable objects. The shrine and its surrounding forests are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara.”

At the entrance to Kasuga Taisha, our guide, Kyoko, points out the plaques naming donors to the shrine.

Barrels of sake donated by the manufacturers as temple tribute. All the barrels are now empty and just for show.

The stone marker at the entrance to the shrine proclaims that In December 1998, ‘Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara’ including Kasuga Taisha Shrine was inscribed upon the World Heritage List, under the terms of the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Inscription on this List confirms the outstanding universal value of cultural or natural sites which deserve protection for the benefit of all humanity.”

This stag fountain is a reminder of the legend that Takemimikazuchi-no-Mikoto rode in from Kashima Shrine on the back of a white deer.

Kyoko asked us to guess how many lanterns there are at the shrine, this being one of the features for which it is noted. She later provided the answer: 3,218. Here Tom poses with a few of them.

This sign gives the history of the shrine (paraphrased above) in Japanese and English.

We were told that this wisteria is many centuries old.

Some more of the 3,218 lanterns.

Still more lanterns.