Friday, October 15, 2010

Yasukuni Shrine

As I wrote in the previous post, hubby and I had been to hubby’s ancestral home in Nagoya for Obon festival in mid-August. On our way to Nagoya, we first went to the Embassy of India in Tokyo where we had some personal work on August 11th and 12th. The working hours at the embassy are from 9 to 11 in the morning. Both the days we finished our work at the embassy by 11 am. After finishing the work, on August 11th we went to see baseball game at a stadium, and on August 12th we visited a nearby shrine named Yasukuni Shrine.

Yasukuni Shrine is a Shinto shrine located at Kudanshita in Tokyo. In fact, this shrine is located just next to the Embassy of India. The shrine was founded in 1869 as Tokyo Shokonsha, and was renamed Yasukuni Shrine in 1879. It was built in order to commemorate and worship those who have died in war and sacrificed their lives for Japan. Currently, more than 2466000 deities are enshrined at the shrine. These deities are souls of people who sacrificed their lives for the nation since 1853 during several wars such as the Boshin War, the Seinan War, the Sino-Japanese war, the Russo-Japanese war, World War I, the Manchurian Incident, the China Incident, and World War II. Although the shrine commemorates the people whose lives were dedicated to the service of Imperial Japan, the shrine became an autonomous religious institution in 1945 due to the separation of religion and the Japanese government. Inside the shrine precinct, there is a war museum that has historically important wills and relics. Also, there are various statues to commemorate mothers and animals who sacrificed their lives in the wars.

Hubby and I entered Yasukuni Shrine premises from the main entrance. At the main entrance there is a stone pillar named Shagou Hyou on which the name of the shrine is engraved. Just behind this pillar we saw the first shrine torii gate (Great Gate) named Daiichi Torii. The steel structure was the largest torii in Japan when it was first erected in 1921 to mark the main entrance to the shrine. The present torii was erected in 1974 after the original was removed in 1943 due to damage caused by exposure to wind and rain. The present torii is 25 meters high and 34 meters wide.
Hubby standing in front of Shagou Hyou stone pillar

Shagou Hyou with Daiichi Torii in the background

I am looking at Daiichi Torii

Daiichi Torii as viewed from inside the shrine premises

As we walked inside the shrine premises, we saw a statue of Omura Masujiro near the monumental main entrance of the shrine. The statue was created by Okuma Ujihiro in 1893 and installed inside the shrine. It is the first western-style bronze statue of Japan. Omura Masujiro (1824-1869) was the founder of modern Japanese Army who devoted a lot of efforts in establishing Yasukuni Shrine.
I am standing in front of the bronze statue of Omura Masujiro

Bronze statue of Omura Masujiro

As we walked along the causeway to the shrine, we came across the second shrine torii gate named Daini Torii. This gate was built in 1887 to replace a wooden one which had been erected earlier. This is the biggest bronze torii gate in Japan.
Hubby walking along the causeway to the shrine

Daini Torii

Immediately following the Daini Torii is the Main Gate named Shinmon. The magnificent six meter tall cypress gate was built in 1934 and restoration work on the gate was done in 1994. Each of its two doors bears a chrysanthemum crest measuring 1.5 meters in diameter.
Hubby standing in front of Shinmon

A door of Shinmon bearing chrysanthemum crest

Next, we came across the third shrine torii gate named Chumon Torii. It is the last torii gate that the visitors have to pass through before reaching the main hall of the shrine. The current torii gate was rebuilt in 2006 using cypress harvested in Saitama prefecture.
Chumon Torii with Haiden main hall in the background

After passing through several gates, we were right in front of the main hall of the shrine named Haiden. The main hall was built in 1901 and its roof was renovated in 1989. This hall is the main prayer hall where worshippers come to pay their respects. There is a wooden offertory box in front of the hall. Also, there are white screens hanging off the ceiling of the hall. I prayed at the main hall for world peace.
I am standing in front of Haiden main hall

Right behind the main hall is the main shrine named Honden where the enshrined deities reside and the priests perform Shinto rituals. Honden was built in 1872 and renovated in 1989. This building is closed to the general public and so we could not enter the main shrine.

On the shrine grounds, there are many other important religious structures, a museum, tea house, a Noh theater, sumo ring, and several other structures. But we did not visit all of them as we did not have that much time.

We came out of the shrine premises through a stone shrine torii gate named Ishi Torii located on the south end of the main causeway. This torii gate was built in 1932. Hubby was a bit confused about the exit and so looked up a map located near the gate.
Hubby reading a map inside the shrine premises

I am standing in front of Ishi Torii

In the evening, we took shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo and reached hubby’s ancestral home in Nagoya by 8 pm. We stayed with our relatives for two days and had a nice time. I will write about this in the next post.

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