An impressive shrine dedicated to the first Emperor and the origin of civilization in Japan.
In around 600 BCE, a man set out from near the modern city of Hyūga in Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu, with his army, intent on bringing all of Japan under his control. He landed at Naniwa (Osaka) and marched south, following a great crow known as the Yata-Garasu, subjugating Wakayama and Mie Prefectures before finally conquering Yamato (Nara).
That man was Jimmu-Tennō, the first Emperor of Japan and it was at the foot of Mount Unebi in Kashihara, Nara Prefecture that he established the first capital of Japan.
Skip forward some 1,800 years, and while nothing remained of the original palace, the people of Meiji Period Japan successfully petitioned the government to build a shrine dedicated to Emperor Jimmu in he same spot near Mount Unebi.
The Omote-sandō or main approach to Kashihara-jingu is long and wide, only a little smaller than those of ancient Ise Grand Shrine and Tokyo’s Meiji Shrine. Its courtyard is dominated by the Ge-haiden, a huge hall that acts as the outer worship hall. Inside are the usual offering boxes for tossing coins and these sit in front of a carefully raked inner courtyard.
On the far side is Nai-haiden or Inner Worship Hall. This one is slightly smaller than the outer hall and gives the impression that it has a pair of Chigi (the crossed gable ends you see on roof of most shrines), sticking out of the center of the roof. Actually they are part of the roof of yet another hall, simply called the Haiden that sits behind the inner hall and joins it to the Honden or main hall that sits right at the heart of the shrine.
Cradle of Japanese civilization
Much of the shrine grounds are covered in dense woodland with several paths snake through the trees leading to smaller surrounding shrines. Opposite the south gate is a large pond called Fukada-ike which is popular place for joggers and painters.
The tomb of Emperor Jimmu is also quite close to Kashihara-jingu, about a 10 minute walk from the north gate. Unlike many kofun type tombs which are often in the middle of modern residential areas, Emperor Jimmu’s is surrounded by nothing but trees. His son, and the 2nd Emperor, Suizei-Tennō, is buried just a few minutes further north from his father.
On the opposite side of Kashihara-jingu, a short walk from the Fukada-ike pond, you can also find the tombs of Annei-Tenno and Itoku-Tenno, the 3rd and 4th Emperors respectively.
Kashihara-jingu is a fascinating shrine with some beautiful buildings and steeped in history. It is also quite easy to reach, especially if you are already planning a trip to the nearby sacred Mount Yoshino. It is also very close to another former capital, Asuka, making the area perfect for people interested in the earliest days of Japan.
Discover more cultural gems all over the Japan.