【Ittou-seki】is a huge stone with approximately 7m in all directions in Yagyūi-cho, Nara City.Muneyoshi Yagyū thought this huge stone was Tengu (long-nosed goblin) and tried to cut this huge stone with a single sweep, but Tengu disappeared and only the stone, cut into two pieces, was remained. The stone is near Amano Iwate Tatejinja （天石立神社）at same holy place.
Muneyoshi Yagyū is one of the famous swordsmen of the Sengoku era. He is known for mastering the fighting style called Shinkage-ryū which he passed on to his son Munenori Yagyū, who in turn made it the official fighting style of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
Address: 789 Iwatoya, Yagyūi-cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture
How to get there: From JR Nara Station or Kintetsu Nara Station, take the Nara Kotsu Bus Yagyū / Konchi Nakamura Line for 50 minutes, and get off at “Yagyū”, a 15-minute walk.
Yagyu no sato （柳生の里） is a small village in Nara prefecture, Japan. Passing through it in a car or by very infrequent bus, you would probably notice nothing particularly different to any other sleepy rural Japanese town. However, this town was the center of Yagyu-han, the ancestral home of the Yagyu family, the masters of one of the most famous schools of Japanese swordsmanship.
Muneyoshi Yagyū was already a renowned bugeisha (martial artist) when – via the skilled spear-wielding monk Hōzōin In’ei – he was introduced to one of the legends of Japanese swordsmanship – Kamiizumi Ise-no-kami Nobutsuna. Following a legendary duel in which Sekishusai lost to one of Kamiizumi’s students armed with a fukuro-shinai, Sekishusai himself became a follower of Kamiizumi, eventually reaching the depths of his system of swordsmanship. Sekishusai’s fifth son, Munenori, went on to become an official sword instructor for the Tokugawa Bakufu (shogunate) and taught three successive Shogun. In his lifetime his stipend and position considerably rose, assuring both his families success and their notoriety.
The Yagyu family would continue to teach swordsmanship to the Tokugawa and their officials right up until the end of the feudal period (in fact, I personally practised Shinkage-ryu with a descendant of the Tokugawa Shoguns in Tokyo in 2001), and members of the family continue to practise and pass on the tradition to this very day.
the Tokugawa Shoguns
The Yagyu family do not own the current village, of-course, but there are plenty of things for the discerning kendo tourist to see.
Hotokuji （芳徳寺）: the family temple was built in 1638 and houses statues of Sekishusai, Munenori, and also Takuan Soho. Inside there is a small museum and you can look Yagyu related historical items (all information in Japanese though). Around the back is the family graveyard: an amazing place to come if you are interested in Japanese swordsmanship.
Itto seki (一刀石): This is a giant rock that his been split in two.. allegedly by the sword work of Sekishusai. He had been walking through the woods when he thought he was being attacked by Tengu. He dextrously turned around and cut down through what he thought was the enemy. Instead, it was the rock.
Former Yagyu-han chief retainers mansion （旧柳生藩家老屋敷）: This is a museum with some Yagyu related articles.
Yagyu Mazakizaka Kenzen Dojo（柳生正木坂剣禅道場）: A modern kendo dojo with the frontage of an old temple from Kyoto. It has nothing to do with the Yagyu family per-se but sits just outside Hotokuji and provides and amazing place to practise budo.
【Amano Iwate Tatejinja 】 （天石立神社）in Yagyūi-cho, Nara City
【Amano Iwate Tatejinja 】 （天石立神社） is a Shinto shrine located in Iwato Valley, Yanagi-cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture. There is no main shrine in the mountain on the north foot side of a small mountain called “Toiwayama” at an elevation of 330 meters, and it is a form of worshiping huge rocks there.
A long rope is stretched between the trees around the three huge stonestone, “Front bowstone“, “Front stand stone” and “Rear stand stone“. These giant stones are enshrined as sacred objects.
“Front bow stone” is also referred to as “Kobe (Kanbe) Rock”, but it is said that the door stone of Amaiwato has fallen along with the other two stones. In addition, in 1953, round-shaped “Kinchaku rock” that has fallen from the southwest cliff is added and enshined.
“Front bow stone” Divine rock of Toyawa Makoto Mikoto. It is also called “Amanoiwadate Shrine”. Plate shape, height 6.0m, width 7.3m, thickness 1.2m.
“Front stand stone” Divine rock of Kushi Iwami Mito. It is also called “Taniwa Saki Shrine”. Plate shape.
“Rear stand stone” Divine rock of Ama no Iwato no Mikoto. It is also called “Tenritsu Shrine”. Plate shape, 1.2 m, width about 7 m, thickness 1.2 m.
“Kinchaku rock” Enshrined as “Amaterasu Ohime no Mikoto”. Also known as “Hyuga Shrine”. Round shape, width 7 m, height 7 m. It is noted as a natural worship in ancient Japan that sees huge rocks as the divine spirit.
Many huge stones distributed throughout this place of enshrinement are said to have 3,123 gods.
Address: 789 Iwatoya, Yagyūi-cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture
How to get there: From JR Nara Station or Kintetsu Nara Station, take the Nara Kotsu Bus Yagyū / Konchi Nakamura Line for 50 minutes, and get off at “Yagyū”, a 15-minute walk.
There is a man-made object atop the mountain, with square holes made in a boulder inferred to weigh 800 tons.
【Masuda-no-Iwafune / 益田岩船】 (Rock Ship of Masuda), near the top of Iwafune hill, is the largest carved stone object in the Asuka region. It is a huge boulder inferred to weigh 800 tons, with two square holes opened on the top. Clearly worked by human hands, it is not known who made it, when, or for what purpose. The true nature of this rock has long been debated. Various theories have emerged, such as its being equipment for ancient people’s astronomical observations, or the pedestal for stone inscriptions, but recently the most favored view is that it was abandoned in its original position in the midst of making it into a stone burial chamber. As there are fissures on the rock’s circumference, it may be that it was abandoned when these were noted during the work.
Access: about 1 km to the west or about 20 minutes on foot from Kintetsu Yoshino Line Okadera Station
Huge (11m × 8m × 5m high) rock on a hill with 2 square halls on the top and traces of scraping below. The purpose is unknown, but has some similarities with Ishi-no-Hōden (huge rock with a concave band) in Hyōgo prefecture and Kengoshi-zuka Kofun tumulus (2 chambers in 1 rock) just 500m away. Masuda-no-Iwafune and Ishi-no-Hōden might be planned to be the chamber for the Kengoshi-zuka Kofun tumulus, but abandoned for some reasons.
Kengoshizuka Kofun Tumulus(牽牛子塚古墳)
Kengoshizuka Kofun Tumulus is also known as Asagaozuka. It is located in the best location of the lower part of the Mayumi-no-oka hill where you can view the peak of the Kaibukiyama mountain (210 meters), the Mausoleum of Emperor Hinokuma and other tumuli. It has been designated as a National Historical Ruin.
It is an octagon shaped tumulus of 22 meters in total length, 4.5 meters in height. There are two rooms, left and right, curved to create from one large stone a stone sarcophagus with a side entrance. Its has dome-shaped ceiling and its construction is unparalled.
There are many excavation products found including coffins, some fragments of accessories, bracket decorations, glass round balls, and human bones during the excavation.
People who were buried here were believed to be Empress Kawashima-no-miko and King Asakaou, however, actual excavation proved that the buried people were Emperor Saimei and Empress Hashihito-no-himehiko. The reason why the buried people were the Emperor’s family is beause of the contruction of tumulus, the style of coffin and the direction where it is built are all related to the similarities of imperial tumuli. It is the tumulus built in the final Kofun tumulus period.
Koshitsukagomon Kofun tumulus is also found in the south east part of the stone sarcophagus with side entrance. This Koshitsukagomon Kofun tumulus is related to the Jyo in the year of Techi 6 in the “Nihon Shoki” (the oldest chronicles of Japan).
The mysterious monoliths of Asuka Nara and the Rock Ship of Masuda
The village of Asuka is located in the Takaichi District of the Nara Prefecture in Japan. Asuka is an ancient land with historical interest. It has its origins in the Tumulus Period (250-552 AD), also called Kofun jidai, which means Old Mound period. This era of Japanese history is characterised by a particular type of burial mound that was popular at the time; specifically key shaped earthen mounds surrounded by moats. One of the most unique features of Asuka is the multiple carved granite stones in peculiar shapes in various parts of the region. The largest and most unusual of the carved stones is the Masuda-no-iwafune (the ‘rock ship of Masuda’).
The stone carving, which stands near the top of a hill in Asuka, is 11 metres in length, 8 metres in width and 4.7 metres in height, and weighs approximately 800 tonnes. The top of has been completely flattened and there are two one-meter square holes carved into it and a ridge line that is parallel to both holes. At the base of the stone are lattice-shaped indentations which are believed to be related to the process that was used by the builders to flatten the sides of the rock.
Asuka is a village nestled among the hills of the Nara Prefecture of Kansai, Japan, and Asuka is home to some seriously strange stone carvings. The village has its origins in the Tumulus Period (250-552 AD).
So what is the nature of this rock and what is its purpose? Who made it, when and why? Unfortunately, there are no definite answers to those questions, but numerous suggestions have been put forward to account for this unique and unusual structure.
In the region in which Masuda no iwafune is found, there are many Buddhist temples and shrines that may suggest the carving was made by Buddhists, perhaps for some kind of religious or ceremonial purpose. However, Masuda no iwafune does not resemble the style or construction of any other Buddhist monument.
Another suggestion comes from the name of the rock itself, which translates to ‘the rock ship of Masuda’. It has been suggested that the stone was carved in commemoration of the building of Masuda Lake, which was once located nearby (now drained and part of Kashiwara City).
Masuda pond is a large reservoir built in the early An period. It is a pond that existed in Kashihara City, Nara Prefecture, and is now extinct. Kashiwara New Town was built on the site. In the early Heian period, in 822, a huge irrigation reservoir was built on the Takatori River, where a dike was built to stop the flow of water.
The popular theory of Rock Ship of Masuda is that it was used as an astronomical observation point. Evidence for this perspective comes from the ridge line across the top of the rock which runs parallel to the mountain ridge in Asuka and lines up with the sunset on a certain day of the year called “spring doyou entry”, which occurs 13 days after the sectional solar term ‘Pure Brightness’. This day was important in the lunar calendar and for early Japanese agriculture as it signalled the beginning of the agricultural season. However, this perspective has been largely dismissed by scholars who do not recognise it as an ancient astronomical observing station.
Some historians believe that the rock is just the remains of a tomb that was designed for members of the royal family. However, this does not explain the unusual features, such as the square holes on top, nor have any bodies been found. To account for this, some have suggested it was intended as the entrance of a tomb but was unfinished.
The rock ship, being the largest of the mysterious rock mounds, is 11 meters by 8 meters, by 4.5 meters high, and is made of solid granite, which makes it somewhere around 80 tons as it sits.
The “boast stone” is one of most strikingly enigmatic of the Asuka megaliths. One puzzling characteristic is that in places it is rough and unfinished, seemingly entirely like a work of nature, and in other places beautifully cut into right-angled planes..” “Masuda no Iwafune” does not resemble the style or construction of any other Buddhist monument and represents one of the greatest mysteries of Japan.
The Takayasu Kofun Group is an ancient tomb group distributed in the foot of Mt. Takayasu, in the eastern part of Yao City, Osaka. A large number of small tombs of the late Kofun period exist around Chizuka, Yamabata, Okubo, Hattorigawa and Korikawa districts in the former Takayasu district, and they are collectively referred to as “Takayasu Chizuka” (Takayasu Senzuka : Sen means a thousand, zuka means tomb.). It is considered as the origin of the place name of Chitsuka.
It is thought that these ancient tombs were constructed from 6 to 7 century and there were about 600 ancient tombs found by the survey of Taisho period(1912-1926). Many of the ancient tombs are small round burial mound, of which diameter is 10 – 20 meters. They are distributed mostly on Mt.Takayasu hillside with an attitude of 50-300 meters. Almost of the ancient tombs are open in the south side.
In these areas, only a handful people with great political power constructed huge circular-shaped ancient tomb with rectangular frontage (=a key hole-shaped tumulus). However, their authority became to be divided during the late Kofun(=ancient tomb) period and then small local clans became to expand their power. It is thought such situation made many ancient tombs concentrate in this areas. The details of person buried are unknown.
In the early Meiji period Edward Sylvester Morse did survey and sketch of Kaizanzuka-kofun and introduced it as “Dolmen ancient tomb of Japan”. And it is revealed in later research that William Gowland tried to take pictures of Nishitsuzuka-kofun (= Double chamber ancient tomb) and published a thesis as “Dolmen of double chamber”. Tsuboi Shougoro published a thesis, “Same origin theory of ancient tombs / graves and dolmens” in 1888.
The Takayasu Chizuka Tomb Group has as following historical importance.
Takayasu Chizuka Tomb Group is one of the largest burial mounds in the Kinki region, with 200 or more cross-hole type stone chambers remaining well. (224 units, November 2016.) The Kinki region ( Kinki-chihō) lies in the southern-central region of Japan‘s main island Honshū.[The region includes the prefectures of Mie, Nara, Wakayama, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyōgo and Shiga, sometimes Fukui, Tokushima and Tottori.
Takayasu Chizuka Tomb Groupis important in considering the formation of the ancient nation of Japan.
Takayasu Chizuka Tomb Group is thought that it was a key point from Kawachi to Yamato.
In Takayasu Chizuka Tomb Group, there is a large, elaborate stone chamber and there is a strong connection with the Yamato government in Yamato period. The Yamato period (Yamato-jidai) is the period of Japanese history when the Japanese Imperial court ruled from modern-day Nara Prefecture, then known as Yamato Province.
Takayasu Chizuka Tomb Group has an importance of historic landscape with an old tomb in the rich nature of Mt. Takayasu.
Takayasu Chizuka Tomb Group has an importance of archaeological history. It has been known since the Edo period and was introduced overseas in the Meiji era.
Takayasu Chizuka Tomb group is divided into the following four groups.
＊ Hattorigawa branch group
＊ Kourikawa south branch group
＊ Okubo, Yamabata branch group
＊ Kourikawakita Branch
Takayasu Chizuka Tomb group has as following famous tombs,
Yao dolmen tumulus “(formal name: Okubo Yamabata mound No.36)
This ancient tomb is called “Yao Dolmen” (or “Kawachi dolmen”) in nationally famous Takayasu tombs of Yao City in Osaka. This ancient’s stone chamber has been completely exposed after embankment of the mound was lost. It is dangerous to approach this mound as it may collapse at present
Place : Near the road which is called Noumendou in Kodachi, Yao city, Osaka. (around 2-chome of koudachi ) Access : about 30 minutes walk from Kintetsu Hattorigawa station.
Nishitsuzuka Kofun” (Hattorigawa mound No. 25 and No. 7)
Double chamber ancient tomb
“Nishitsuzuka-kofun” is located in Hattorigawa area of approximately 300 tombs of Takayasu-kofun in Yao city, Osaka. It is horizontal stone chamber structural type, which was constructed in late 6th century.
In the late half of the fifth century, Kofun mounds in the northern part of Kyushu and the Kinai region increasingly adopted the horizontal stone chamber structural style. The construction of this horizontal stone chamber is Migikatasode-style (a stone chamber with passage connected the right side in the wall of the burial chamber) and opened to the south. As two burial chambers are connected together inside ancient tomb, it is very rare nationally.
Address: 1023 Hattorigawa, Yao City, Osaka ( in the graveyard of Jinko -ji)
Access: about 20 minutes walk from Kintetsu “Hattorigawa” station
Ryosode-shiki & Katasode-shiki : When looking at the rock chamber from above, if the passage is located at the center of the burial chamber, it is called Ryosode-shiki and if the passage is located toward right side or left side, it is called Katasode-shiki. For this ancient tomb, “Nishitsuzuka-kofun”, William Gowland who is called ” the “Father of Japanese Archaeology”, did photographing by way of photo mask with Romyn Hitchcock (1851-1923 cultural anthropologist) and introduced it promptly to foreign countries.
William Gowland (16 December 1842 – 9 June 1922)
He was an English mining engineer most famous for his archaeological work at Stonehenge and in Japan. He has been called the “Father of Japanese Archaeology”. Gowland began work in Osaka on 8 October 1872 on the three-year contract that was typical of many of the foreigners employed to aid the modernisation of Japan. His contract was repeatedly extended, and he stayed for 16 years, during which time he introduced techniques for the scientific analysis of metals, the production of bronze and copper alloys for coinage, and modern technologies such as the reverberatory furnace for improving the efficiency of refiningcopper ores. His expertise extended to areas outside the Japan Mint, and he also served as a consultant to the Imperial Japanese Army, helping to establish the Osaka Arsenal for production of artillery. In 1883, he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun (4th class) by the Japanese government.
“Nukezuka” or “Nukizuka”(Okubo, Yamabata mound No. 7)
Formal name is Ookubo/Yakatake No.7 ancient tomb. This ancient tomb is horizontal stone chamber style which is located at the south side of graveyard of Raiko-ji (temple). It is also called “Nukezuka” because its shape is like a tunnel that people can go through. The remaining part is a passage of stone chamber, which is called, “sendo”. The burial chamber is estimated to be 5 to 6 m long and around 3 m wide, and the original length of the stone chamber can be assumed to be around 13 to 14 m, and it is considered to be one of the largest stone chambers in the Takayasu tumulus group. Currently, “Nukeuzuka” is a national historic site.
Address : Oji Okubo 35, Yao city, Osaka
Access : about 20 minutes walk from Kintetsu "Hattorigawa" station
Atagozuka-kofun / Atagozuka ancient tomb
Atagozuka ancient tomb is designated important cultural property by Osaka. It is a round burial mound and has dimensions of diameter, 25m and height, 6m. The construction is in latter part of the sixth century. Atagozuka ancient tomb is said to be the largest scallop-shaped tomb at the western foot of Mt.Ikoma.It is located on a beautiful hill with a 70m elevation. The opening is facing south. It is thought to be built in the late Kofun period (the 6th and 7th centuries), with a 25m long circle and a 60m high ridge.
The horizontal hole type stone chamber (right one sleeve type total length 16.8 m, gen chamber height 4.1 m) is the largest scale in Osaka . As for the inside is a double sleeve stone chamber, it has been confirmed that two kinds of stone, those are, the white tuff of Nijouzan and Harima stone were used. Atagozuka’s old burial mound is a designated historical site of Osaka, and the excavated items also are designated tangible cultural properties of Osaka.
Address : 42-89, 4-chome, Kodachi, Yao city Access : about 20 minutes walk from Kintetsu Hattorigawa station.
Shun tokumaru kagamizuka ancient tomb is horizontal stone chamber type whcih is constructed in sixth century. As it is said that Shuntokumaru who is famous for Jōruriowned the ground, Shuntokumaru kagamizuka has been regarded as his tomb. From this story, there are many stone works that kabuki actors, who succeeded between Meiji and Showa period, contributed to this ancient tomb. The stone works are a stand for burning incense, a water basin and a stone lantern. Jōruri is a form of traditional Japanese narrative music in which a tayū (太夫) sings to the accompaniment of a shamisen. As a form of storytelling, the emphasis is on the lyrics and narration rather than the music itself.
Address : 8-chome, Hattorigawa, Yao city, Osaka Access : about 8 minutes walk from Kintetsu Hattorigawa station.
Kaizanzuka-kofun / Kaizanizuka ancient tomb
This ancient tomb is called “Kaizanzuka-kofun”. The total length of this stone chamber is 13m. It is the largest a horizontal stone chamber with ryosode-style (a horizontal stone chamber with the passage connected the center of the wall of burial chamber) in Takayasu ancient tomb groupe. Edward Sylvester Morse (natural historian) who found Omori-zuka did precise survey of this ancient tomb and Immediately introduced it to European and American academia. Kaizanzuka-kofun played the most important role in academic history of archeology. A monument called “Seiryotou” stands back of Kaizanzuka-kofun.
Address : 3,6-chome, Kourikawa, Yao city. Access : about 20 minutes walk form Kintetsu Shigisankuchi station.
Edward Sylvester Morse was born in Portland, Maine as the son of a Congregationalist deacon who held strict Calvinist beliefs. His mother, who did not share her husband’s religious beliefs, encouraged her son’s interest in the sciences. An unruly student, Morse was expelled from every school he attended in his youth — the Portland village school, the academy at Conway, New Hampshire, in 1851, and Bridgton Academy in 1854 (for carving on desks). He also attended Gould Academy in Bethel, Maine. At Gould Academy, Morse came under the influence of Dr. Nathaniel True who encouraged Morse to pursue his interest in the study of nature.
Jinko-ji Temple and the area of the late burial mounds of the side-hole stone chamber around Kourikawa-kita (North Kourikawa )branch area
“Hattorigawa No. 78” / National Historic Site
“Hattorigawa No. 7” / National Historic Site
It is an ancient tomb of the late 6th century, located in the grounds of ” the Nichiren sect of Buddhism’s Honshoji Temple”. This is a double-sleeve stone chamber, and it is characterized by the fact that the plan-view shape of the chamber is close to a square.
Yatagarasu, The three-legged (or tripedal) crow (simplified Chinese: 三足乌; traditional Chinese: 三足烏; pinyin: sān zú wū) is a creature found in various mythologies and arts of East Asia. It is believed by East Asian cultures to inhabit and represent the Sun.
Yatagarasu guides Emperor Jimmu towards the plain of Yamato. In Japanese mythology, this flying creature is a raven or a jungle crow called Yatagarasu (八咫烏, “eight-span crow”) and the appearance of the great bird is construed as evidence of the will of Heaven or divine intervention in human affairs.
Yatagarasu guides Emperor Jimmu towards the plain of Yamato.
Although Yatagarasu is mentioned in a number of places in Shintō, the depictions are primarily seen on Edo wood art, dating back to the early 1800s wood-art era. Although not as celebrated today, the crow is a mark of rebirth and rejuvenation; the animal that has historically cleaned up after great battles symbolized the renaissance after such tragedy.
Yatagarasu as a crow-god is a symbol specifically of guidance. This great crow was sent from heaven as a guide for Emperor Jimmu on his initial journey from the region which would become Kumano to what would become Yamato, (Yoshino and then Kashihara). It is generally accepted that Yatagarasu is an incarnation of Taketsunimi no mikoto, but none of the early surviving documentary records are quite so specific.
In more than one instance, Yatagarasu appears as a three legged crow not in Kojiki but in Wamyō Ruijushō.
Both the Japan Football Association and subsequently its administered teams such as the Japan national football team use the symbol of Yatagarasu in their emblems and badges respectively.The winner of the Emperor’s Cup is also given the honor of wearing the Yatagarasu emblem the following season.
A black Yatagarasu post is set up under the sacred tree, “Tara leaf tree” (多羅葉 ,tarayō) tree in front of the office at Kumano-Hongu-Taisha in Wakayama pref.
Black is a precious color that combines all colors, the color of Yahata, which is God’s request, and the sacred color that symbolizes the earth of the main palace.
In addition, Tara leaf trees are also known as “postcard trees” and “letter trees” because they are the source of postcards that were written with letters on the back of leaves.
Tara leaf tree; Ilex latifolia (tarajo holly or tarajo; Japanese: 多羅葉 (たらよう tarayō), Chinese: 大叶冬青 dà yè dōngqīng) is a species of holly, native to southern Japan (Shizuoka Prefecture south to Kyūshū) and eastern and southern China (Jiangsu south to Fujian and west to Yunnan), growing in broadleaf forests at altitudes of 200–1,500 m.
【Iwafune Shrine】Spiritual Huge Rock Boat / Katano City, Osaka
【Iwafune Shrine】磐船神社 is a unique Shinto shrine in Osaka. The object of worship is a giant rock called Ama no Iwafune. “Ama” means “heaven” and “Iwafune” means “a rock boat.” Legend has it that when Nigihayahi no Mikoto (瓊瓊杵尊), a deity and a son of Susano-o no Mikoto(須佐之男命), descended to the earth, his boat metamorphosed into the rock and then it was deified. Nigihayahi no Mikoto(瓊瓊杵尊) is enshrined in the shrine though you can’t see the figure on the “rock boat.”
Susanoo (Japanese: 須佐之男 (スサノオ), also romanized as Susano-o, Susa-no-O, Susano’o, and SusanUwU), also known as Takehaya Susanoo no Mikoto (建速須佐之男命) and Kumano Ketsumiko no Kami at Kumano shrine, is the Shinto god of the sea and storms.
Ninigi-no-Mikoto (瓊瓊杵尊) Commonly called Ninigi, he was the grandson of Amaterasu. His great-grandson was Kan’yamato Iwarebiko, later to be known as Emperor Jimmu, first emperor of Japan.
Amaterasu (天照), Amaterasu-ōmikami (天照大神／天照大御神／天照皇大神), or Ōhirume-no-muchi-no-kami (大日孁貴神) is a deity of the Japanese myth cycle and also a major deity of the Shinto religion. She is seen as the goddess of the sun and the universe.
Iwafune Shrine doesn’t have the main sanctuary called honden like other Shinto shrines. There is only a small building called haiden in front of Ama no Iwafune, and visitors worship here. The height of the rock is about 12 meters, and the width is also about 12 meters.
The Gankutsu-meguri (going through a holly narrow rock)
Since ancient times, Iwafune Shrine has been known as a place for ascetic practices. Here you can experience what is called gankutsu-meguri―there is a holy narrow rock cave, and you can go through it just like ancient people did. Gankutsu-meguri is said to be a learning experience to born again. It looks like a fun adventure but actually is a sacred practice and more dangerous than supposed, so be sure to follow the rules.
Wear white tasuki sash that you receive at the shamusho (the office of the shrine). If your shoes have slick soles, change into zori straw sandals you receive at the shamusho(Shrine administration office).
It is for the ages of 10-74 only. You are not allowed to go into the cave after drinking alcohol. It is closed at night, when it rains or when the river in the cave has risen. Also anyone is not allowed to go into the cave alone, so be sure to go there with someone. Before entering the cave, leave all your luggage at the shamusho. You can’t even carry small things like a cell phone. In the cave, check arrow marks drawn on the rocks while making your way. If the rocks are perfectly dry. you can go through the cave relatively safely in 10 minutes. If they are not dry after the rain, however, it must be more dangerous and your clothes can get dirty.
Beyond the cave, you will see what is believed to be Ama no Iwato, a rock cave in Japanese Mythology. (There are many other rock caves in Japan that are also believed to be Ama no Iwato.) After finishing the gankutsu-meguri, you can receive a certificate written on an amulet paper. You can see Ama no Iwato in the left down corner.
Acala (a guardian deity of Buddhism)
One more thing you can see in Iwafune Shrine is Acala (known as Fudo Myo-o in Japan). Acala is a guardian deity of Buddhism. It is interesting that you can see Acala in the Shinto shrine though the syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism is sometimes seen in other shrines and temples in Japan, too.
Regarding the syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism, please make reference as follows,
【Iwafune Shrine】 Address : 9-19-1 Kisaichi, Katano City, Osaka
【Iwafune Shrine】Jalan’s Travel
For reference; Masuda Iwafune (Huge Spiritual Roch)
This is a guide to inform you of 20 objects related to Shinto shrines.
1. Forests around the Shinto shrine
Since forests and mountains were considered sacred, many Shinto shrines were built inside them. They are called Chinjyu no Mori (鎮守の森). They also have a Goshinboku (御神木), which is a main tree that is worshiped.
Torii (鳥居) is an object that makes a borderline between the real world and the sacred world. It also is an entrance to the sacred region. The Torii itself is named as an important cultural asset.
Chouzuya (手水舎) is a square container filled with water. Visitors to the Shinto shrine must purify their hands and mouth with this water. In Shintoism, unholy things, called Kegare (穢れ) are thought to be come from the outside. It is important to be clean, physically and metaphorically when entering a Shinto shrine.
Sandou (参道) is the entrance path to the main shrine. It is usually built with stones in one straight line. If the shrine is in the mountains, the Sandou won’t be built by stones, but will be tamed soil paths.
Shamusho (社務所) is the place where shrine business, such as dealing with guests to the shrine, selling Omamori, and so on takes place. The size of the Shamusho depends on the shrine. The image above is the Shamusho of Wakamiya Hachimangu in Kouchi.
Tourou (灯篭) is a traditional Japanese lamp. It is placed along the Sandou, to light up the paths. Originally, it came with Buddhism during the Nara period and was used in temples, but by the Heian period, it was used for lighting in Shinto shrines too.
Komainu (狛犬) are fictional Japanese beasts that look like lions and dogs. Stone statues of them are placed in the entrance of the shrines, one on each side. They are both looking into each other, or have their back against the shrine and are facing the visitors. They are said to protect the shrines. Other beasts are used for this purpose too, such as boars, dragons, foxes, wolves, and tigers. These animals are called Shinshi (神使).
Shimenawa is a rope twisted around things, or draped across a building. Shimenawa is a tool used in Shinto rituals. It has the purpose of creating boundaries from the real world to the sacred world, bouncing off Kegare, and showing that the god of the shrine is here.
Omikoshi (御神輿) is an object similar to a cart-like vehicle used in the Heian period. It is a vehicle where the object of worship, or gods, ride during the Matsuri. Also called a Shinyo (神輿).
Above movie’s large Omikoshi is called Futon dailo(drum) ; Other names of taikodai are taiko, futon-daiko (mattress drum), chosa, chosai, senzairaku, yassa, yotsu-daiko (literally, four drums), futon-mikoshi (literally, mattress portable shrine), mikoshi-daiko (literally, portable shrine drum), futon-danjiri, and taiko-yama, and the general terms are yatai and taiko-yatai.
Haiden are built in front of the main shrine for Sanpai (参拝). Sanpai is an act of paying respect to the Shinto shrine. The way of Sanpai differs from shrines, but it mostly involves bowing, clapping hands, throwing money into a box, and ringing a bell.
Saisenbako (賽銭箱) is a box with vertical bars. It is usually placed near the Haiden. While performing Sanpai, visitors will throw in money to show their respect. Usually coins are used. Some superstitious people use 5 yen coins, since the pronunciation of it is the same sound of Goen (ご縁). Goen is a Buddhism term explaining the ties between people and objects.
12. Suzu no O
Suzu no O (鈴の緒) is the bell and the rope attached to it. It is placed near the Haiden and Saisenbako. Visitors ring this bell to show their respect.
Honden (本殿) is the main shrine. This is where the object of worship, Shintai (神体) in Japanese, is placed. It is also called a Shinden (神殿). The image above is the Honden of Daizaifu Tenmanguu (太宰府天満宮) in Fukuoka.
Kaguraden (神楽殿) is the place where you perform Kagura. Kagura (神楽) is a dance and song performed to dedicate to the gods in Shintoism. The Kagura can be a dance performed by Miko (巫女), women who work at the temple, or a play of Japanese mythology.
Sessha/Massha (摂社/末社) are shrines besides the main shrines built within the shrine’s grounds. The object of worship in these shrines may have relations to the object of worship in the main shrine. It is smaller in size compared to the main shrine. Also called Edamiya (枝宮) or Edayashiro (枝社).
Sekihi (石碑) are stone monuments. The context of what is engraved on them differ from shrine to shrine: popular ones are the name of the shrine, information about the shrine, or related information about the object of worship. The image above is the stone monument of the name of the shrine: Daizaifu Tenmanguu (太宰府天満宮) in Fukuoka.
Omamori (お守り) are protection charms sold at shrines. They come in many different shapes and sizes. A standard Omamori would be a rectangular shaped pouch, with whatever power it contains embroidered onto the cloth. You’re not supposed to open the pouch, or else the protection power would be gone. Protection charms are said to have power for passing exams, avoiding any kind of traffic accidents, having safe childbirth, avoiding bad things in general, and so on.
Ema (絵馬) is a house-shaped wooden tablet. It is dedicated to the shrine or temple and is used when you wish for something, or have granted a wish. You write down whatever wish you have, and hang it on a Ema Gakari (絵馬掛), as shown in the image above.
Ofuda (お札) is one of the most important emblems of a god that a shrine can give to a person. Also called a Shinsatsu (神札). It is sold at the shrine, and the act of purchasing it is called “offering Hatsuhoryou” (初穂料を収める). It is customary to purchase an Ofuda at the start of the year, and returning the old Ofuda you’ve bought the year before to the shrine.
Hamaya (破魔矢) is an arrow that is sold at the shrine during the New Year season as a lucky charm. It can come with a bow, called a Hamayumi (破魔弓). It is customary to decorate the Hamaya facing in the bad direction of that year according to Feng Shui.