Friday, October 10, 2014

Uesugi Jinja Shrine

As I wrote in an earlier post in August, hubby and I had been to Sendai-Izumi Premium Outlets in Sendai City of Miyagi prefecture on 12th July, and later drove up to Yonezawa City in Yamagata prefecture where we stayed for the night. The next morning, we visited Uesugi Jinja Shrine in the city.


Uesugi Jinja Shrine is located on the site of the ruins of Yonezawa Castle in Matsugasaki Park in Yonezawa City of Yamagata prefecture. The shrine was established in 1876 and is dedicated to Uesugi Kenshin, a warlord during Sengoku period and the most prominent Samurai of Uesugi clan. Uesugi Kenshin passed away at Kasugayama Castle in Joetsu City in 1578. During the funeral ceremony, his body was put in a coffin and placed in a tomb in the castle. His successor Uesugi Kagekatsu relocated to Aizu in 1598 and to Yonezawa in 1601 where he founded Yonezawa Domain Uesugi clan. Accordingly the body of Uesugi Kenshin was also moved to Yonezawa Castle. A small Buddhist temple was built in the castle premises in 1612 where Uesugi Kenshin’s body was enshrined in the center along with the statues of Zenkoji Nyorai to the left and Bishamonten to the right. During Meiji period in 1871, the Buddhist temple rites were changed to Shinto style shrine rituals. At that time, Uesugi Yozan was also enshrined along with Uesugi Kenshin in the shrine. Uesugi Yozan was the ninth head of Yonezawa domain Uesugi clan. Yonezawa castle was destroyed by the order of the Meiji government in 1873, and then the shrine buildings were moved to its current location that used to be the inner palace of the main enclosure of the castle in 1876, and thereby Uesugi Jinja Shrine was formally established. In 1902, only Uesugi Kenshin remained enshrined at this shrine because Uesugi Yozan was moved to nearby Matsugasaki Shrine. Uesugi Shrine was burned down in a spreading fire in 1919, following which the present shrine building was designed by the leading expert of shrine architecture named Ito Chuta. The reconstruction of the shrine was completed in 1923. The shrine has a beautiful architectural design and is surrounded by the still intact moats and stone walls of the destroyed Yonezawa Castle. The principal deity enshrined inside the shrine is of Uesugi Kenshin. In addition, the shrine has a variety of important cultural assets.


At about 9 am on the morning of 13th July, hubby and I left the hotel in Yonezawa City where we had stayed overnight and went to Matsugasaki Park where Uesugi Jinja Shrine is located. The park is located just 800 meters north of the hotel and it took us only a few minutes to reach the car parking area of the park. In the park, we walked along a pathway for about 3 minutes and reached the front area of Uesugi Jinja Shrine. There we saw a statue of Uesugi Yozan located on the right side of the pathway. The statue is placed on a stone pedestal and Uesugi Yozan is shown seated in Seiza style.
Hubby standing in front of a map of Uesugi Jinja Shrine precincts

Statue of Uesugi Yozan


Next we started walking leisurely along a paved pathway named Sando that led to the shrine. After about one minute or so, we reached a stone bridge located over the moat of the destroyed Yonezawa Castle. This stone bridge is actually the gateway to the shrine. Standing on the bridge, we enjoyed viewing the water-filled moat and the surroundings. There were a lot of fishes of various colors in the moat and people enjoyed feeding them. We also saw many pigeons gathered at the bridge.
Sando pathway and the stone bridge located over the moat

Water-filled moat as viewed from the stone bridge

People feeding colorful fishes

A pigeon and the moat


We walked across the stone bridge and reached the shrine premises. Towards the end of the stone bridge, we saw two banners located on either side of the bridge. The banner to our left side had the Kanji character of ‘Dragon’ written on it, and the one to our right side had the first character ‘Bi’ of ‘Bishamonten’ written on it. Uesugi Kenshin was a skillful warrior known for being fond of various war banners. The 'Dragon' banner flags were raised on the battlefield when Kenshin wanted his army to charge and attack the enemy. The 'Bishamonten' banner was Kenshin's personal standard and was said to have been reserved for his entrances and victory marches.
'Dragon' (left) and 'Bishamonten' (right) banners


There are many statues and monuments along Sando pathway as well as in the area surrounding the pathway leading to the shrine. We continued walking along the pathway for about 30 steps or so, and then took a slight detour and reached a slightly raised hilly area on the left side of the pathway. There we saw a stone monument named Shokon-hi. The monument was erected in 1878 to invocate the spirits of Samurai warriors and other victims from Yonezawa region who died in Boshin War and Satsuma Rebellion, and also later the warrior victims of Sino-Japanese War and Russo-Japanese War.
I am standing in front of Shokon-hi monument


Adjacent to Shokon-hi monument, we saw a small fenced area enclosing a stone monument named Uesugi Kenshin Shido (Mido) Ato. It is the place where Uesugi Kenshin’s body was enshrined from 1612 to 1876, when it was moved to Uesugi clan’s Mausoleum located about 1.5 kilometers west of the shrine.
Uesugi Kenshin Shido Ato


We walked back to Sando pathway and saw a statue of Uesugi Yozan located along the left side of the pathway. The statue is placed on a stone pedestal and Uesugi Yozan is shown in a standing pose. Next to the statue, there is a stone monument with a famous short Tanka poem composed by Uesugi Yozan inscribed on it. The poem is as follows and roughly translates as ‘where there is a will, there is a way’.
Naseba Naru
Nasaneba Naranu Nanigoto Mo
Naranu Wa Hito No Nasanu Nari Keri
Hubby standing in front of the statue of Uesugi Yozan

A stone monument with the short poem Naseba Naru inscribed on it


Next, we took a slight detour and reached the nearby surrounding area on the right side of Sando pathway. There we saw a grand statue of Uesugi Kenshin who, as described earlier in this post, was one of the most powerful warlords during Sengoku period and in whose name the shrine is dedicated. The statue is placed on a stone pedestal and Uesugi Kenshin is shown in a seated pose.
I am standing in front of the statue of Uesugi Kenshin

Enlarged view of the statue of Uesugi Kenshin


We walked back to Sando pathway and saw a statue named Tenchijin located along the right side of the pathway. The statue is rather new and was inaugurated in 2011. There are two bronze statues shown in a standing pose and are placed on a stone pedestal. One of the statues is of Uesugi Kagekatsu who was the founder of Yonezawa Domain Uesugi clan, and the other statue is of Naoe Kanetsugu who was the chief retainer of Uesugi Kagekatsu. In fact Tenchijin is the name of the 2009 48th NHK Taiga drama which was the dramatization of the life of Naoe Kanetsugu.
Tenchijin - statue of Uesugi Kagekatsu (left) and Naoe Kanetsugu (right)


We walked further along the pathway and saw a doll of Naoe Kanetsugu located along the right side of the pathway. The doll is huge and is enclosed in a glass case. The doll is shown in a seated pose, wearing colorful Samurai armor, and holding a helmet with the Kanji character ‘Ai’ (love) emblazoned on the front of the helmet. This doll is probably a spin-off from the hugely popular NHK drama Tenchijin.
I am standing in front of the doll of Naoe Kanetsugu


We walked a few more steps along Sando pathway and reached an elegant stone Torii Gate. Walking past this gate, we saw Temizuya to our left side. Temizuya is a hand washing basin with a roof supported by four pillars. We washed our hands with water at the basin and purified ourselves. It is a symbolic act to clean the mind and body of impurity. We also enjoyed viewing a small exquisite garden in the surrounding areas of Sando pathway. Afterwards we took rest for some time on a stone bench located next to Temizuya.
Stone Torii Gate

Temizuya

Hubby standing next to a stone monument in the shrine premises

Elegant garden

Hubby sitting on a stone bench and taking rest


We enjoyed viewing the serene and exquisite garden for some more time. Next, we saw yet another Torii Gate along Sando pathway near the garden. This gate is an elegant wooden structure. We walked past this gate and continued walking along the pathway.
Second Torii Gate and Sando pathway

The gate as viewed from the backside


Next we saw a gate named Shinmon which is an impressive roofed construction. This Shinmon Gate is of the type called Karamon with intricate gabled architectural style. The gate is an ornate wooden structure and is connected to a wooden fence called Tamagaki which encloses the shrine. In front of Shinmon Gate, we saw a pair of stone guardian statues located on either side of Sando pathway. These guardian statues are lion-like creatures that are supposed to protect the shrine premises from evil spirits. The statue on the right side of the gate (orientation with respect to the gate) is close-mouthed and is called Ungyo Komainu, while the statue on the left side of the gate is open-mouthed and is called Agyo Shishi. We walked past this gate and entered the most sacred area of the shrine premises.
Shinmon Gate, Tamagaki fence, and guardian statues

Ungyo Komainu (left photo) and Agyo Shishi (right photo)

Hubby standing in front of Shinmon Gate

Shinmon Gate as viewed from the backside


We saw the main prayer hall named Haiden located in the most sacred area of the shrine premises. Haiden Hall is a wooden building with intricately carved roof and ceiling. Thin Shimenawa straw rope hung at the entrance of the hall. On reaching the front of the hall, I rang one of the two bells located just outside the hall. Next, I offered some coins into the offertory box located in front of the hall, clapped my hands twice, and prayed. I prayed for safety as well as for the well being of my family and friends.
Haiden Prayer Hall

I am standing in front of Haiden Hall

Hubby standing in front of the prayer hall

I am ringing one of the bells of the hall

Altar inside the prayer hall


At this point, we finished the tour of Uesugi Jinja Shrine. Next, we visited Yonezawa City Uesugi Museum located adjacent to the shrine. The museum is located on the site of Ninomaru (middle ward) of Yonezawa Castle ruins. The museum houses the historical and cultural heritage of Yonezawa City as well as the historical treasures of Uesugi clan. Many art objects and other articles related to the clan are displayed. Some of them are designated as national treasures. We entered the museum building and saw several exhibits related to the warriors of Uesugi clan displayed in the lobby entrance area of the museum. We loved the display of an exquisite Samurai armor. We also saw a Noh stage as well as a doll in Noh costume exhibited in the lobby area. After enjoying viewing these exhibits in the lobby area, we bought tickets worth 400 Yen per person as admission fee to enter inside the museum hall. We loved seeing so many exhibits related to the history of Yonezawa City as well as Uesugi clan. Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside the museum hall.
I am standing in front of the building of Yonezawa City Uesugi Museum

Several articles related to the warriors of Uesugi clan displayed in the lobby area of the museum

Samurai armor

Display of a Noh stage in the lobby area

A doll in Noh costume


While returning to the car parking area we saw a stone monument with a relief image of an Englishman named Charles Henry Dallas and written inscriptions about him. In 1871, he started teaching English at Kojokan Middle School opened by Uesugi Yozan in Yonezawa. Dallas was the first person to eat Japanese beef because people did not eat meat of four-footed animal those days. He was very much impressed by the taste of the beef he ate in Yonezawa. So upon the expiration of his teaching tenure in 1875, he took one whole cow from Yonezawa as a souvenir for his friends to the Foreign Settlement in Yokohama. The foreigners living there were delighted by its taste. And after that a word about the delicious Yonezawa beef soon spread throughout the country and it became very famous. Nowadays Yonezawa City is well known through out Japan for producing Wagyu beef. Near the car parking area, we saw several restaurants and food stalls selling Yonezawa beef delicacies. We bought skewer-grilled beef from a stall and had them in our car. It was delicious.
Stone monument with a relief of Charles Henry Dallas and written inscriptions about him

A stall selling Yonezawa beef delicacies

Skewer-grilled beef

Hubby having skewer-grilled beef inside our car


We loved visiting Uesugi Jinja Shrine and Yonezawa City Uesugi Museum. Afterwards we visited Uesugi clan’s Mausoleum located about 1.5 kilometers west of the shrine. I will write about the mausoleum in the next post.

2 comments:

Indrani said...

Great series of shots. Glad to know about this place.

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for your nice comment Indrani.