Togakushi Shrine Festival


Togakushi Festival (Togakushi matsuri )

***** Location: Nagano
***** Season: Early Autumn
***** Category: Observance


Togakushi matsuri 戸隠祭 (とがくしまつり)
Togakushi festival

at Togakushi Shrine 戸隠神社, Nagano

It starts on August 14th at the central shrine, and continues on the 15th at the Oku Sha 奥社 Innermost sanctuary.
On August 16 a ritual is held at shrine Hookoosha 宝光社 Hokosha.

Kuzuryū, kuzu ryuu 九頭龍 "9-headed dragon"
deriving from the multi-headed Naga king シェーシャ or 舍沙 "Shesha",
is worshipped at Togakushi Shrine in Nagano Prefecture.

. Dragon Deities of Japan .


More photos are here:
source : brisana/e

Togakushi-jinja (Shrine)
stands in the midst of a wood with cedar trees that are over a hundred years old, just at the foot of the precipice of Mt. Togakushi. It consists of three shrines - the lower shrine is Hoko-sha (Treasure of Light), the second Chu-sha (Middle Shrine) and the third Oku-sha (Deep Sanctuary).

They were built at intervals of roughly two kilometres. These shrines are dedicated to mythological gods and each has a long history. The approaches to each shrine are unique and it is customary to clap twice when worshipping at shrines to awaken the gods before praying.
The approach to the upper shrine is known for its natural beauty, lined with over three hundred majestic old Sugi cedar trees.
source : myoko-nojiri.com


The Togakushi-kogen Highlands area is situated in the north of Nagano within Joshinetsu National Park. This volcanic area has an altitude of 1,200 meters and is located at the foot of two volcanoes, Togakushi and Iizuna.

In the midst of a wood, with cedar trees that are over 100 years old, there stands Togakushi-jinja Shrine. At the shrine you can see the Kagura, a performance of traditional sacred music and dancing with themes selected from ancient myths, during the grand festival held in fall.

There is also a small reproduction ninja village and school.
Togakushi was formerly known as the village of Togakure which some consider to be the birthplace of Togakure Ryu Ninpo - a school of ninjutsu founded eight hundred years ago by Daisuke Nishina (Togakure).
Toh Gakure, means "Concealing Door"
Togakushiryu Ninpo Shiryokan - Ninja Museum

Togakushi is also noted for the production of soba noodles.

The Kurohime-kogen Highlands
spread to the southeast of Mt. Kurohime-yama, situated near the border of Niigata this mountain is also known as Shinano-Fuji. It is a popular summer resort with larch and birch woods, and skiing in winter. Around the area called a "forest of fairy tales," is the Kurohime Fairy Tale Museum that collects fairy tales from all over the world, as well as the O-ike Pond, Nanatsu-ike Pond, volcanic crater lakes, cosmos fields, and cattle grazing fields.
source : www.jnto.go.jp


Deities in residence

Okusha 奥社
Amenotajikarao no mikoto

Chuusha 中社 Middle Shrine
Amenoyagokoro Omoikane no mikoto

Hookoosha 宝光社 Hokosha
Ameno uwaharu no mikoto

九頭龍社 Shrine of the Nine-Headed Dragon
Kuzuryuu no oomikami

and one more in another shrine of the compound
Ame no uzume no mikoto

Dragon Shrine Amulets

Amuelts and votive tablets 戸隠神社の龍に関する、お守りや絵馬

Homepage of Togakushi Shrine
source : www.togakushi-jinja.jp


Togakushi soba  戸隠蕎麦 buckwheat noodles

Togakushi village is famous throughout Japan for it's soba (buckwheat noodles) which come in a variety of sizes and are defined by how much buckwheat flour is used in their making. At least 30% buckwheat flour must be used in order for noodles to gain the trademark of soba. Higher buckwheat content makes soba much more desirable to the discerning public. It started its history there as sustenance for monks during their severely austere religious training; these monks ate soba powder dissolved in water, or took grilled soba powder into the mountains when they went for training.

Today it's still used in Togakushi's harvest festival - and in Spring you can see fields of soba flowers, which are used to produce the flour for making soba. There are as many as thirty soba shops boasting the superior taste of their hand-made soba that line the long road leading to Togakushi shrine. Accordingly, the area is a favored destination for soba lovers from throughout Japan and overseas.

You can also check out the Togakushi Soba Museum where you can make your own buckwheat soba noodles under the guidance of a master chef or just enjoy watching noodles made by an expert.

The Togakushi Soba Festival is held during the fall equinox,
People buy small sake cups on the eve of the festival and eat soba at any (or all!) of the twenty one participating restaurants.

Togakushi bamboo craftwork

has been produced via traditional skills in Togakushi Village since the Edo period. They are now highly-rated as fine art.
source : myoko-nojiri.com

. WKD : Buckwheat noodles (soba) .

- quote Sean Donnan Art -
CLICK for more photos !

oni sudaku togakushi no fumoto soba no hana

the demon is out -
at the food of Mount Togakushi
buckwheat flowers

. Yosa Buson 与謝蕪村 1715 - 1783) .

Buson is talking about
kijo momiji 鬼女紅葉 The Female Demon called "Momiji"

- quote -
Momiji - literally “maple leaves;” used as a name
Long ago a powerful witch named Momiji lived in the mountains of Nagano prefecture. Her story takes place during the season of fall-leaf-viewing, when groups of people would gather in the mountains for festivals and parties under the falling red, orange, and gold leaves.

During this time, a samurai named Taira no Koremochi was charged by a local Hachiman shrine with hunting oni. His hunt had taken him to Togakushi mountain, where a particularly nasty kijo was said to live.

Koremochi and his retainers climbed the beautiful mountain, and they came upon a small group of aristocrats having a leaf-viewing party. Koremochi sent one of his retainer ahead to investigate. The retainer approached to inquire about the party, and was told that a noble princess was hosting it; however the ladies in waiting would not tell him the princess’ name. Just as Koremochi and his retainers decided to continue on their mission, one of the ladies-in-waiting approached and told them that her mistress had heard of Koremochi before, and she wanted to invite them to her party. Despite his mission Koremochi could not rudely turn down a princess, so he and his companions agreed.

At the party, the warriors were introduced to Princess Sarashina, an extremely beautiful young woman. They all sat and enjoyed watching the leaves, drinking sake, and dancing. Koremochi asked the princess if she would dance for him, and she did. Soon the men became drunk and sleepy, and dozed off under the beautiful trees.

As he slept, Koremochi dreamed of Hachiman and his mission. The god told him that Princess Sarashina was actually the kijo Momiji in disguise, and that he must kill her with the holy katana, Kogarasumaru (“Little Crow”). When Koremochi woke up, the sword he dreamed of was in his hand — a gift from Hachiman — and he knew that what he dreamed had been real. He chased after the women, and all of a sudden a huge firestorm broke out. Flame and wind lit up the mountain. Suddenly a ten foot tall kijo with horns made of burning trees appeared, and an intense battle between the samurai and the demoness took place. In the end, thanks to his magical sword, Koremochi was successful, and slew the Witch of Togakushi Mountain.
- source : yokai.com/momiji -

- quote -
Momijigari (紅葉狩) or Maple Viewing
is a Japanese shosagoto (dance) play, usually performed in kabuki and noh. It was also the first narrative ever filmed in Japan. It was written by Kanze Nobumitsu during the Muromachi period. Other titles for the play include Yogoshōgun and Koremochi.
The original play, performed in both noh and kabuki, is a story of the warrior Taira no Koremochi visiting Togakushi-yama, a mountain in Shinshū for the seasonal maple-leaf viewing event. In reality, he has come to investigate and kill a demon that has been plaguing the mountain's deity, Hachiman.
There he meets a princess named Sarashinahime, and drinks some sake she offers him. Thereupon she reveals her true form as the demon Kijo, and attacks the drunk man. Koremochi is able to escape using his sword, called Kogarasumaru, which was given to him by Hachiman. The demon gnaws on a maple branch as she dies.
the play is accompanied by Takemoto, nagauta and Tokiwazu music.
- - - The first kabuki performance
- - - The 1899 film
- source : wikipedia -


Winter at Togakushi

Snowman Daruma
Beeso Daruma ベーそだるま

Look at more winter photos :
source : togakushi-jinja.jp/blog


There are various shrines in Japan with the name
Togakushi Jinja 戸隠神社.

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


gozaru zo yo togakushiyama no o-yuudachi

blessings fall
on Mount Togakushi...
a cloudburst

Kobayashi Issa

Professor Toru Kiuchi helped decipher this haiku.
Its closing phrase, o-yûdachi, is polite and thankful. Professor Kiuchi writes, "Issa puts 'o' on yûdachi, implying that he may think that the rain shower from the mysterious and holy mountain is blessed and welcome." The summer rain, a gift from the god above, falls as a blessing on the sacred mountain in Issa's home province of Shinano (Nagano prefecture). Professor Kiuchi adds that he once witnessed a storm form over Togakushiyama, and he recalled this haiku, happy to be seeing with his own eyes what Issa saw so long ago.
Tr. and comment - David Lanoue


. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

gozaru zo yo togakushi-yama no o-yuudachi

one's coming!
from Mt. Togakushi
a divine downpour

Tr. Chris Drake

This hokku was written early in the 5th month (June) in 1813, four months after Issa began living in his hometown again after returning from Edo. Mt. Togakushi, about ten miles southwest of Issa's hometown, was in Issa's time one of the most sacred mountains in Japan to Buddhism, to Shinto, and to Yamabushi mountain ascetics who mixed together Buddhism, Shinto, and shamanism, worshiping and doing austerities on holy mountains. During the medieval period, three thousand Buddhist and Yamabushi monks lived and did meditation and austerities on Mt. Togakushi, the largest number monks on a single mountain in Japan after Mt. Hiei and Mt. Koya. The name of the mountain, Mt. Hidden Rock Door, comes from a Shinto myth contained in the ancient Kojiki collection of mythic texts.

According to the myth, the younger brother of the female sun god and ruler of all the gods, Amaterasu, did many outrageous things such as destroying his older sister's rice fields and desecrating a sacred weaving hall. In protest, the sun god hid in a cave and closed the cave's rock door, throwing heaven into total darkness. Many calamities occurred, and the gods gathered and asked a female dancer god, Ame no Uzume, to dance in front of the cave door. The god went into a trance, and then she danced a dance so dynamic and erotic that all the gods began to laugh, causing the sun god to become curious. When the sun god opened the rock door a little and looked outside, a powerful god pulled her all the way outside, bringing light back to the universe. A further myth adds that after the sun god came out of the cave, a powerful god hid the rock door from her by throwing it completely out of heaven. The great rock landed far down below in the middle of the largest island of Japan, where it is now known as Mt. Togakushi -- the rock door of the sun god's cave now hidden down on earth.

In Issa's time, Mt. Togakushi was the site of numerous shrines and temples, and it was the destination of many pilgrims, who would go there after visiting nearby Zenkoji Temple. In those days Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines were usually built side by side, and the most prominent statue on Mt. Togakushi was of the bodhisattva Kannon, but many other Buddhas and gods were worshiped there, including the shamanic dancer god who lured the sun god out of her cave. According to a different shamanic tradition, the original god of the mountain was Nine Headed Dragon (Kuzu-ryuu), a god of water and rain, and people would pray at the dragon's pond on the mountain and carry buckets of water back to their villages, sharing the water with their neighbors and praying for good crops for the whole village. The mountain was believed to be so powerful that even the shogunate in Edo patronized it heavily in order to use its power for political purposes.

Issa's hokku is written around rice-planting time, and his diary shows it rained four times in the first week of the 5th month. With the rainy season soon to begin, it's not likely he or most of the other villagers are praying for or want a downpour at this point. In fact, heavy rain might flood the rice paddies and carry away the newly planted rice shoots, ruining the crop. The respectful language in the hokku is probably due to Issa's respect for the divine mountain itself and the various other Buddhas and gods worshiped there rather than an expression of specific thanks for a possibly dangerous downpour. In Shinto, gods have both a wild, destructive aspect (ara-tama) and a constructive, peaceful aspect (nigi-tama): a hard, destructive rain causing a flood or other damage would be an example of the former, while a gentle, steady rain would be an example of the latter. Both divine aspects deserve respect, however, and Issa shows respect for the possibly violent divine downpour.

The hokku is ambiguous about the location of the storm. The first line, however, is quite strong and colloquial (while remaining respectful), so I take it to be pointing out the storm in a warning to someone else. The polite verb gozaru means both 'to be' or 'to come / go.' The emphatic zo and exclamatory yo suggest that the storm that began on Mt. Togakushi is now heading for Issa's village and that people there need to get ready for it. Issa also uses the same expression a few hokku later (see below), where it clearly seems to be a warning. The polite prefix o- before "downpour" in the third line shows respect for the mountain and all its gods and Buddhas, and it also implies familiarity: it suggests that in summer severe rainstorms often form on Mt. Togakushi and that this storm is one more of them and that the possible dangers, especially of flooding, are well known in the village.

This hokku is followed in Issa's diary by several interesting hokku about downpours, possibly about the same storm coming from Mt. Togakushi. The next hokku is:

mammaru ni hito-yuudachi ga hajimarinu

a single
completely round
rainstorm begins

The black storm clouds that come toward the village look completely round, giving an uncanny feeling of wild divinity to the storm. The downpour literally "has begun," implying that it has reached the village.

Then, three hokku after the second hokku above, is this slightly mysterious hokku:

semi naku ya wagaya mo ishi ni naru you ni

cicadas crying
turning my home, too
into rock

The cries of the cicadas sound so strong to Issa that he feels they will turn his house into rock. Perhaps rock as solid as the mythic rock cave in heaven with its big rock door. If this is the image, then Issa's rock house would be able avoid any flood damage from the downpour. This might be a double allusion both to Basho's famous hokku about cicada cries penetrating rock and to Mt. Togakushi, the rock door from heaven, at the same time.
This hokku is followed by:

horo-tsuku ya hachibee-dono no inori-ame

a few big drops --
rain the waitresses
prayed for

This humorous hokku suggests that the only ones who are praying for more rain at this time are the waitresses at the local inns who double as sex workers in their spare time. If there's a rain and flooding, travelers will have to stop early or stay another night, so they'll have lots of extra time on their hands.
And the next hokku is:

ato kara mo mata gozaru zo yo ko-yuudachi

followed by
another one's coming!
a smaller downpour

The phrase in italics is the same one Issa uses in the first hokku above. This suggests it might be a stock phrase villagers use to warn each other when a sudden severe rainstorm is approaching from the sacred mountain. In any case, gozaru seems to suggest 'coming' here and in the first hokku as well. The downpour is divine but also a cause for concern.

Chris Drake


Dragon amulets -
the Togakushi Festival
on my screen

Gabi Greve
August 2012

Related words


. 戸隠竹細工センター Togakushi Bamboo Craft Center .

. Amulets and Talismans from Japan . 

BACK : Top of this Saijiki



Gabi Greve said...

satomiya mo Togakushi michi mo kuzu no aki

at the village shrine
and at the road to Mount Togakushi -
arrowroot in autumn

Nishimoto Itto 西本一都 (1907 - 1991)

MORE about satomiya shrines

Gabi Greve said...

上水内郡 Kamiminochi district 鬼無里村 Kinasamura village

戸隠山の鬼 Togakushiyama no Oni
When people were digging up the Onizuka mound, they found bones. The skull had two horns, and from the jaw some fangs were protruding for about 90 cm.
There were also bones from arms and legs.
Villagers say that 平惟茂 Taira no Koremochi had burried an Oni there. After he had killed the Demon, the village was called
Kinasa - village without any demons.
The story tells of Koremochi fighting Kijo, the demon of Mt. Togakushi.

Gabi Greve said...

Aoni shuuraku 青鬼集落 a hamlet named Aoni "Green Demon"
Aoni Hokujō, Hakuba-mura, Kitaazumi-gun, Nagano / 長野県北安曇郡白馬村北城
(はくばむらあおに)Hakubamura Aoni, Aoni settlement
and its relation to ozenkisama お善鬼様 O-Zenki Sama, the Benevolent Demon

Gabi Greve said...

- Trace the footsteps of ancient pilgrims to five shrines.
Togakushi Kodo 戸隠古道 Togakushi Old Road


Gabi Greve said...

Nagano, Ueda City - Suwa Jinja Shrine
Once upon a time, 諏訪様 the Deity of the Suwa Shrine transformed into a woman and got married. When she gave birth, a creature with nine heads came creeping and sliding out.
It was the Kuzuryu 九頭龍 which is now venerated at 戸隠 Togakushi.

Gabi Greve said...

A Path into the Mountains: Shugendō and Mount Togakushi
Caleb Swift Carter
Japan’s tradition of Shugendō has long been an object of fascination and intrigue among scholars and the general public, yet its historical development remains an enigma. A Path into the Mountains offers a provocative reexamination of the complex social, economic, and spiritual terrain from which this mountain religious system arose. Caleb Carter traces Shugendō through the mountains of Togakushi in Nagano prefecture, while situating it within the broader religious landscape of medieval and early modern Japan. His is the first major study to approach Shugendō as a self-conscious religious system—something that was historically emergent but conceptually distinct from the prevailing Buddhist orders of medieval Japan. Beyond the case of Shugendō, this book rethinks a range of issues in the history of Japanese religions, including exclusionary policies toward women, the formation of Shintō, and religion at the social and geographical margins of the Japanese archipelago.

A Path into the Mountains takes a novel approach in the study of religions by tracking three recurrent and intersecting elements—institution, ritual, and narrative—in the historical formation of religion. Transmitted to Togakushi in the sixteenth century, Shugendō underwent a gradual process of adaptation to a mountain setting already steeped in Buddhist doctrines, rigorous ascetic practices, and devotion to a nine-headed dragon. Examination of origin accounts, temple records, gazetteers, and iconography from Togakushi demonstrates how its practitioners implemented creative storytelling tactics, new rituals and festivals, and institutional measures to merge Shugendō with their mountain’s culture while simultaneously establishing a foundation of social legitimacy and economic security to buttress their livelihoods. Indicative of early modern trends, the case of Mount Togakushi reveals how Shugendō moved from a patchwork of regional communities into a translocal system of national scope and reputation, eventually becoming Japan’s signature mountain religion. More broadly, it outlines the historical methods by which religious actors mobilized story, ritual, and institution to shape their own sense of religious practice and identity.