Suwa and Misayama

. 諏訪神社 Suwa Shrines and their Legends .

Suwa and Misayama

***** Location: Nagano, Japan
***** Season: See below
***** Category: Observance


Suwa Shrine 諏訪大社 Suwa Taisha and the
Lower Suwa Shrine, Misayama 御射山
Shinano, now Nagano prefecture

There are seven wonders in the area, relevant for our kigo is this one:

Hoya-no no Sanko 穂屋野の三光:
The three rays in Hoyano

It is believed that the three rays from the sun ,the moon and a star are to be seen at the same time from the former Misayama Shrine (旧御射山社).
See below.

Suwa taisha (諏訪大社), or Suwa Grand Shrine, is a Shinto shrine in Nagano prefecture, Japan. Over 1200 years old, it is one of the oldest shrines in existence, and is mentioned in the Kojiki, an 8th century text. It consists of four building complexes, the Maemiya (前宮, lit. old shrine), the Honmiya (本宮, main shrine), the Harumiya (春宮, spring shrine), and the Akimiya (秋宮, autumn shrine).
source : wikipedia

南方刀美神社 Minakatatominokami no yashiro

- - - Enshrined deities:
Tateminakata no Mikoto 建御名方命
Yasakatome no Mikoto 八坂刀売命


kigo for early spring

Suwa no onbashira matsuri
諏訪の御柱祭 (すわのおんばしらまつり)
festival of the Suwa shrine pillars

onbashira matsuri 御柱祭(おんばしらまつり)"Suwa Pillar Festival"
Suwa matsuri 諏訪祭(すわまつり)Suwa festival
onbashira satobiki 御柱里曳(おんばしらさとびき)

CLICK for more photos

Onbashira (御柱祭) is a festival held every six years in the Lake Suwa area of Nagano, Japan. The purpose of the festival is to symbolically renew the Suwa Taisha or Suwa Grand Shrine. "Onbashira" can be literally translated as "the honored pillars".

The Onbashira festival is reputed to have continued, uninterrupted, for 1200 years. The festival is held once every six years, in the years of the Monkey and the Tiger in the Chinese Zodiac, however the locals may say "once in seven years," because of the traditional Japanese custom of including the current year when counting a length of time.

Onbashira lasts several months, and consists of two segments, Yamadashi and Satobiki.
Yamadashi traditionally takes place in April,
and Satobiki takes place in May.

"Yamadashi" literally means "coming out of the mountains." Before this portion of the festival, huge trees are cut down in a Shinto ceremony using axes and adzes specially manufactured for this single use. The logs are decorated in red and white regalia, the traditional colors of Shinto ceremonies, and ropes are attached. During Yamadashi, Teams of men drag the logs down the mountain towards the four shrines of Suwa Taisha. The course of the logs goes over rough terrain, and at certain points the logs must be skidded or dropped down steep slopes. Young men prove their bravery by riding the logs down the hill in a ceremony known as "Ki-otoshi."

"Satobiki" festival involves the symbolic placement of the new logs to support the foundation of the shrine buildings. The logs are raised by hand, with a ceremonial group of log bearers who ride the log as it is being raised and sing from the top of the log to announce the successful raising. This ceremony was performed as part of the opening ceremonies of the Nagano Olympics in 1998.

After two festivals, there is an important event "Building of Hoden". This event isn't generally famous, and few people know that the event is held even among people who live nearby and participate in Yamadashi and Satobiki. The end of this event marks the end of Onbashira.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

The origin of this festival goes back to ancient times.
In the forest region of Suwa lived the Jomon people, off the woods with wild animals and plants gathered for food, praying to a deity of hunting and gathering.
Then came the Yayoi folks from the continent, bringing the rice cultivation and field management and a deity of agriculture.
The two clashed at Suwa but then the stronger Yayoi appeased the deity of the Jomon and venerated it in the pillars around their shrines.

- quote -
- snip -
Suwa shrines across Nagano Prefecture hold the "Pillar-raising festival" known as the Onbashira Matsuri in years of the Monkey and of the Tiger (i.e. every six years), in which shrines ceremonially raise four pillars (some shrines only erect one). Suwa Taisha is the first to raise the pillars, after which other Suwa shrines raise theirs. There are various explanations as to the symbolism or purpose of the four columns. Some suggest they were "vehicles" (yorishiro) for the kami to inhabit, others that they marked off the four corners of a sacred area. Still others explain them as substitutes for periodic shrine renewal ritual or as magical implements of the kami. There are many rituals at Suwa Taisha, and seven out of ten scrolls of the Suwa Daimyōjin ekotoba are devoted to ceremonies. ...
- source : Nogami Takahiro kokugakuin 2007 -


source : genjin.cool.ne.jp
with more photos

kigo for early autumn

Misayama matsuri 御射山祭 (みさやままつり)
Misayama festival

hoya 穂屋(ほや)"hut with a thatched wall"
hoya matsuri 穂屋祭(ほやまつり) Festival of the thatched hut"

on the 27th of the 7th lunar month,
now on August 27 - 28.

Shrine Misayama Jinja 御射山神社 and the "Lower Shrine 下社" of Suwa.
The mountain was the hunting ground of the Suwa area.
Misayama, lit. "Honorable Mountain for Shooting".

A hut with thatched walls from pampas grass was erected for the shrine priest and young men of the village to stay over night. They had to participate in various purifying rituals, Then they had to perform hunting acrobatics like shooting from horseback 遠笠懸 and falconry. Now there are also shooting performances.


kigo for the New Year

kawazugari no shinji 蛙狩の神事 (かわずがりのしんじ)
ceremony of hunting for frogs

Frog Hunting Shrine Ritual
..... kawazutobi no shinji 蛙飛びの神事(かわずとびのしんじ)
frog-jumping ritual

On the morning of January 1, three or four frogs hibernation along the river bank of the river Mitarashigawa 御手洗川 are dug up and shot at with a small ritual bow and arrow made from willow wood.
This helps to predict the harvest of the coming year. Sometimes the frogs jump away and this direction a lucky direction.

Look at more photos here:
source : suwataisya/sinj

This is a prayer for peace and a good harvest in the coming year and one of the seven wonders at the Suwa shrine.


kigo for the New Year

Sakanbe no fuyu matsuri 坂部の冬祭 (さかんべのふゆまつり)
Winter Festival in Sakanbe (Sakabe)

In Sakabe, part of Tenryu Village near the Suwa Shrine, and in other villages relating to the shrine.
It used to be held on the last month of the lunar year, but now on January 4.
People from each village go to the River Tenryuugawa 天竜川 to get pure water and bring it to the shrine in the hills near the village.
It is a ritual of "boiling water divination" (yudate 湯立て). The hot water is scattered over the participants to purify them.
Afterwards, a fest is held, sometimes ritual dancing and other performances.

- - - - - - - - - -

Shakuji Jinja 社宮司神社 しゃくじじんじゃ(
Oshamoji sama おしゃもじさま)

"Mishakuji-sama" みしゃくじさま,
Mishaguji sama ミシャグジさま , ミシャグジ神
is the name for the local female deity of the Suwa lake and Mount Moriya 守屋山.
She is resident in the Suwa Maemiya Shrine 諏訪前宮神社. It is an ancient cult of Mother Earth.
She is probably an old form of a snake worshipped and shows herself as a white snake.
Or identical with 建御名方神 or 洩矢神(モレヤ神).
This deity is also known in other regions where matagi hunters roam the forests.

Mishaguji sha ミシャグジ社 / 御社宮司社 Shrine for Mishaguji sama

Cosmogonical Worldview of Jomon Pottery :
The Mishakuji Cult of Suwa
source : books.google.co.jp

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

The 7 wonders of
Lower Shrine of Great Shrines of Suwa

Omiwatari (御神渡: literally. God's Crossing )
Once upon a time, there were a goddess named Yasakatome-no Mikoto (八坂刀売命) and a god, Takeminakata-no Mikoto (建御名方命). When the Goddess alone moved to the Lower Shrine, the God missed her so much but found that Lake Suwa was too large to cross. Then, when Lake Suwa was frozen over, he took the chance and walked over the ice to her shrine. (Some say it was the messenger, kitsune 狐 a fox).
Today his footsteps are said to be Omiwatari. (This natural phenomenon is said to be caused as water expands with freezing in winter. The straight line of the sharp upheaval appears on the surface, and is called Omiwatari.) People used to regard Omiwatari as the sign which insured safety on the ice. When it came, they would step on Lake Suwa.

Misakuda-no wase (御作田の早稲: Early-ripening rice plants in Misakuda)
A rice-planting festival held on July 30th. The rice planted in the festival ripens in 60 days according to the old legend.

Gokoku no Tsutsu-gayu (五穀の筒粥: The porridge of five staple grains in the reed straws )
A ritual performed at Tsutsugayuden (筒粥殿: lit. the hall in which to cook the porridge in reed straws) in Haru Shrine. On the evening of January 14th. , rice and azuki-beans are cooked in a pot , into which a bunch of 42 reed straws are put .The next morning ,they perform auguries by the amount of porridge and azuki-beans trapped in the reed straws and “Divination never fails to be true”.

Yuguchi-no Seidaku (湯口の清濁: Purity and impurity of hot spring water from the spout)
Legend has it that the company of an unclean person in the public bath, Watanoyu (綿の湯), makes the hot spring water from the spout cloudy.

Neiri-no Sugi (寝入の杉: The cedar asleep)
The fabled tall cedar called Otakara gi (お宝木: lit. the treasure tree) on the premises of Aki Shrine.
It is still told to this day that the cedar falls asleep with its branches 10 cm lowered in the middle of the night, when its snoring can be heard.

Ukishima (浮島: The floating island)
An island on the Togawa (砥川: River To), which runs through the rear of the Haru Shrine. On the island is Ukishima sha (浮島社: a small shrine on Ukishima) Legend credits the island with the ability of surviving any floodwaters.

Hoyano-no Sanko (穂屋野の三光: The three rays in Hoyano)
It is believed that the three rays from the sun ,the moon and a star are to be seen at the same time from the former Misayama Shrine (旧御射山社).
source : Legends and folk tales of Suwa

. omiwatari 御神渡 (おみわたり) gods crossing the frozen lake  
kigo for late winter

Akenoumi 開けの海 means the lake does not freeze and there is no omiwatari in a year.
This happened in February 21, 2009, just before the ceremony before Yatsurugi Shrine 八剣神社 in Suwa City, Nagano Prefecture.


kamiyu 神湯 "hot water of the deity", hot spring

with public bath, Kamiyu (open) and Shimoyu (half closed)


Misayama ya kyoo ichi nichi no hana susuki

today, all day
blooming pampas grass

Kobayashi Issa 一茶
Tr. David Lanoue

More haiku by Issa about this area








noan mo hoya no o-yaku ni tachi-keri


. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

misayama ya mite mo suzushiki susuki-bashi

Misayama Mountain --
I feel cooler just seeing
chopsticks of green reed

Tr. Chris Drake

This hokku is from the 7th month (August) of 1821.
Issa went to the large Suwa Shinto Shrine to see the Misayama Festival, held from 7/26 to 7/30, which was accompanied by sumo contests and many other events. On 7/27 (August 24th in 1821) priests and a group of believers go up the low mountain and build a hut walled and thatched with miscanthus, a kind of reed growing to 5-7 feet high, with striking tufts on the top. There they commune with the gods of the shrine and pray.

Meanwhile the Misayama Shrine at the foot of the mountain distributes special chopsticks from the still green stalks of miscanthus reeds to believers, who then eat special rice with the chopsticks. People later take these reed chopsticks home and put them beside bowls of rice that they place in small shrines in their homes to the Suwa Shrine gods, who are believed to bring good harvests. Issa has received a pair of these chopsticks, and even before he eats with them and thereby symbolically shares his rice with the gods, the sight of the green stalks used as chopsticks makes him feel cooler on this probably hot early autumn day.

A little more than a year later a breeze blowing from Lake Suwa, about 80 miles from his hometown, causes Issa to write:

suzushisa wa kami-yo no sama yo susuki-bashi

this coolness
from the age of the gods --
chopsticks of green reed

The breeze seems to remind Issa of his experience at the Suwa Shrine, and the timeless time of the gods descends on him again for a few moments, cooling and refreshing him.

Basho also has a hokku about the Misayama Festival reed-thatched prayer hut in the first part of the Sarumino anthology. It evokes early winter:

yuki chiru ya hoya no susuki no kari-nokoshi

scattering snowflakes --
tufted reeds left uncut
for the thatched prayer hut

This hokku suggests loneliness because being cut to serve as part of a wall or the roof in the reed hut -- called the Tufted Hut -- into which gods descend on Misayama Mountain during the Misayama Festival was considered a great honor. The stalks that remain are therefore those that have been passed over and were unable to take part. Now, left behind, the dry, tufted reeds stand amid a snow flurry, accentuating with their astringent straightness the swirling of the flakes.

Some dictionaries give "Japanese pampas grass" for susuki reeds, but strictly speaking they are miscanthus reeds (Miscanthus sinensis). A look at Wiki photos will show that miscanthus is slightly slimmer than pampas grass and its tufts more like soft tassels than the long plumes of the pampas grass, with can suggest spearheads.

Here is a photo of chopsticks made from miscanthus reeds.
The stalks are still green, but in late autumn they turn completely light brown.

Chris Drake

Shrines visited by
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .


saoshika ya shadan ni tsuno o tatematsuru

a stag offers
his old antlers
to a Shinto shrine

Tr. Chris Drake

This hokku was written in the 4th month (May) of 1824.
Issa's diary says he visited the local Suwa Shinto shrine on 4/15, so the hokku may be based on what he saw there. The Sino-Japanese word shadan (社壇) means a sacred building at a Shinto shrine, so the stag in the hokku seems to have shed his old antlers right in front of a hall of worship at a rural shrine near some woods inhabited by deer. Some Shinto shrines, including the Kashima Shrine, visited by Issa several years earlier, have sacred deer living on their precincts, but the shrine in this hokku seems to be an ordinary Shinto shrine. I take the image to be of a set of antlers left earlier near the steps or entrance to the shrine main building dedicated to the shrine's god or gods, since it seems unlikely the stag is shedding his antlers in front of many people. Deer hunting was widespread in mountainous Shinano, where Issa is living, so the stag would be putting himself in danger if he appeared in broad daylight in an area visited by many humans, even if hunters couldn't hunt within the precincts of the shrine. Issa obviously feels that the stag had some sort of awareness that the shrine was a sacred place and that his placement of his antlers is the result of that awareness, whatever the exact nature of that awareness is.

Although Issa attributes certain feelings to the stag, this hokku doesn't seem to be based on strong personification. It simply points to the location of the antlers as a sign that the stag instinctively wanted to offer something that once had great importance in a place that seemed peaceful and spiritual. In Shinto many gods are depicted as riding on stags or using stags as their assistants, so the fallen antlers would probably be treated with great respect and care by the shrine priests.

Chris Drake


source : rakanneko.jp/buson

meigetsu ya usagi no wataru Suwa no umi

In harvest moonlight--
rabbits seem to be running
over the lake of Suwa.

Tr. Sawa/ Shiffert

. Yosa Buson 与謝蕪村 in Edo .

In former times, on a moonlit night, when the lake showed white waves, this was called "a rabbit is running" 兎が走る.

. WKD : The Hare (Rabbit) in the Moon .
pounding rice cakes

Related words

The great shrine Suwa Taisha Kamisha (Upper Suwa Shrine) 諏訪神社上社 issued special amulet-permits and the chopsticks to eat "meat from the mountains", which took away the "spiritual pollution" when eating meat.
kajiki no men 鹿食之免料理
***** . kajikibashi 鹿食箸
chopsticks to eat "mountain meat"

from Suwa Shrine


. Niino no yukimatsuri 新野の雪祭 (にいののゆきまつり)
snow festival at Niino .

Tenryu, Nagano


Suwa Jinja, Nishi-Nippori, Tokyo

This shrine was built in the Kamakura period.
From its hill there is a good view to Mount Fujisan.

Kasamatsu Shirō 笠松紫浪 (1898-1991)


BACK : Top of this Saijiki

. 諏訪神社 Suwa Shrines and their Legends .




News said...

Ice phenomenon warms up hearts in the Lake Suwa region

To the delight of local residents this winter, an elevated line of cracked ice appeared on the frozen surface of Lake Suwa in Nagano Prefecture for the first time in four years.

The natural phenomenon is called "omiwatari," or the god's footsteps, with the name coming from a myth in the Suwa region.

It is traditionally interpreted as a good omen for the coming year.

However, the frequency with which the ice pattern appears has dropped since the 1990s, a trend blamed on global warming. The sharp upheaval of ice that used to appear almost every winter has become rare in recent years, eliciting feelings of gloom.

Omiwatari occurs when the ice on the lake repeatedly expands and contracts as the temperature swings between day and night.

When the pressure ridge rises 30 cm to 180 cm, Yatsurugi Shrine usually certifies it as omiwatari.

This year, however, the shrine verified the phenomenon on Feb. 4 even though the cracked ice shards had risen only about 10 cm.

"We were of two minds as to whether to certify it as omiwatari, but I felt mounting expectations from local people this year," said shrine priest Kiyoshi Miyasaka, 61.

Yoshiaki Natori, 64, Yatsurugi Shrine's chief representative, also remarked that he had a strong wish that this year will be peaceful and disaster-free, unlike 2011.


Gabi Greve - WKD said...

. Shinano Ichi no Miya 信濃一の宮 - Suwa Taisha 諏訪大社 . Nagano

Ichi no Miya shrines

Gabi Greve - WKD said...

Three shrines at Suwa - Wakamya shrine is in the middle.

about Wakamiya Shrines

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa

hoya tsuzuki kotosara fuji no kigen kana

thatched hunting huts--
in the mood
for Mount Fuji

This haiku alludes to the harvest festival at the great shrine of Suwa, held on the 26th day of Seventh Month.
One of the Shinto rituals of the day was to build little temporary huts thatched with plume grass in which hunters hid, awaiting their game; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.501. There is a strong poetic association between plume grass and Mount Fuji.
Issa wrote several related haiku about plume grass in the foreground, Mount Fuji in the distance.
David Lanoue

Gabi Greve said...

On Nagano's Lake Suwa, climate change unravels 600 years of history held dear
by Mari Saito
Kiyoshi Miyasaka climbs the stone steps of his shrine, autumn leaves crunching under his feet. The Shinto priest, dressed in white, aims an orange leaf blower at a row of cobblestones and clears the path of fallen leaves.
“I know people would rather see a lone priest sweeping up with his broom,” he says. “But we’re a bit more modern than that, and frankly, I can’t get to all the leaves otherwise.”
For nearly 600 years, priests at Yatsurugi Shrine have observed ice cover on the lake here in the Japan Alps, diligently recording it by hand and storing it safely, first in the shrine’s vault and later in a local museum. These records represent one of the world’s oldest continuous measurements of climate change, written long before the priests knew what they were providing.
this is a long article - take your time to read !
climate change

Gabi Greve said...

shinshi 神使 messenger of god, divine messenger
kami no o-tsukai 神のお使い / 神の使い

at Suwa Jinja it is
shirohebi 白蛇 white serpent


Gabi Greve said...

shiro mamushi 白蝮 white viper
It is the messenger of the deity and thus never hunted.

Gabi Greve said...

Suwa Jinja 諏訪神社 Suwa Shrine, Nagano - Legends -
. Great Suwa Shrine 諏訪大社 Suwa Taisha .
Lower Suwa Shrine, Misayama 御射山