There are hundreds and thousands of shrines and temples across Japan. Of these, there are a few, such as the Great Shrine of Ise, or Zenkouji in Nagano that somehow feel truly special—the spirituality is deeper, it envelops you, empowers you.
One such holy place is located in Ichinomiya, just west of Nagoya city. The great shrine of Ichinomiya, Masumida Jinja, plays a major part in the lives of the people of Ichinomiya.
Graceful, tranquil, elegant, timeless. Everything you would expect an ancient Shinto shrine to be. The sacred Masumida Shrine was founded in 628BC, and was the first and principal shrine of Owari Province. The shrine is dedicated to the god, Amenoho no Akari no Mikoto, an ancestor of the first Emporer. It is this shrine that gives the surrounding city, Ichinomiya its name, First Shrine.
The grounds are wide and tree-lined. The main shrine building is elegant and simple, yet with a regal charm. The main gate projects an imposing, strong and protective quality. Carp swim in the pond, and turtles sun themselves on the rocks. Everything is peaceful.
However the holy precinct can change like the weather, quiet one day, the next it becomes lively and exciting as yet another of the shrine's many events and festivals takes place. The Masumida Shrine is host to a number of martial arts events, small and large religious festivals, even weddings. There is always something to enjoy, something to see every month.
Amongst the many is the Peach Blossom Festival which takes place in early April and is a family oriented affair. One of the most famous festivals is the Masumida Shrines’ popular Tanabata Festival held in the summer. Thousands flock in yukata, summer kimono, to make a wish and pray for happiness by tying a handwritten note to a stalk of freshly cut bamboo. The result is a Christmas tree-like effect, with long, thin strips of colored paper instead of tinsel and baubles decorating the greenery.
While the spring, summer, and autumn festivals draw thousands, it is New Year's that sees the real crowds! Literally millions turn up to the much revered historical Masumida Jinja to make their first prayers for the year at the First Shrine. Every festival has its unique edge, but every festival has its similarities, stalls, entertainments and throngs of people looking to enjoy themselves.
Remember to purchase an amulet. There are over 18 varieties for various needs, from protection on the roads, to protection of loved ones. There are aAmulets to protect children and even for passing tests.
Ichinomiya’s Masumida Jinja, with nearly 1,400 years of history is a combination of spirituality and celebration. Even today it plays a major part in the lives of the people of Ichinomiya. It’s a link to the past and the present, it’s a place of worship, and a place of celebration, it’s the First Shrine.