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Small Japanese Shinto Shrine In Kokura City

Here in Japan the Japanese say Jinja when they mean a religious Shinto shrine.

Normally they are large traditional buildings surrounded by well taken care of Japanese gardens. What most people outside of Japan usually are unaware of is that Japan is crowded with several millions of small size miniature shrines – all over the place.

You can find them in anywhere from big cities to small towns and villages in Japan.

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No matter if you are a garden lover or have no whatsoever interest in religious customs or heritages in Japan – the Shinto shrines are still surrounding you wherever you choose to go.

Especially these smaller ones. Most probably you have one next to your home if you are in Japan.

In traditional Japanese Shinto religion, there are plenty of gods and invisible divine powers.

Evil spirits is also something that scares not only a few horror movie affected kids in Japan, but some grown up people pay quite large amounts of money to keep dark forces away from them.

Shrines Come To The Rescue

To keep anything negative, bad luck or the worst unfortunate event away from crossing your daily path in life – the Japanese offer gifts to the gods.

Gifts that I have seen Japanese people leave to the Shinto gods have been pieces of fresh juicy fruit, some money (cold hard cash), beautiful flowers or just to spend a short amount of time for individual personal prayers.

It’s common to see passing by Japanese citizens temporarily stop in front of a small size Shinto shrine and bow gracefully in respect to the gods of nature and divine forces in life.

I’ve noticed many elderly people doing exactly that here in Japan. They take it seriously.

Each mini shrine has its own theme. Some themes are so local that they only exist at that spot in Japan and nowhere else in the world. There’s a huge variety of small shrines.

Sometimes a holy Japanese spirit lives in an old ancient tree trunk. Then it’s common to see carefully twisted ropes all the way around the spiritually affected tree. A holy tree.

It’s applied to selected pieces of rock cliffs too. Sometimes a powerful natural waterfall is seen as holy too, or at least surrounded by divine powers according to Shinto beliefs.

The spiritual world in Japan doesn’t only cover visible physical objects like the above mentioned, but it also includes locations like a spot at the coastline where enormous size Ocean waves crash in towards the shore. Certain forces of nature are seen as divine.

It can also be a place where a specific gust of wind in the air blows on you. The wind itself is counted as the divine force, or at least a detectable way of feeling its presence.

Natural elements of our planet is a typical ingredient in the world of Japanese Shinto.

What I have seen so far here in Japan, it seems like most Japanese people in today’s society are atheists without a direct religious belief or way of living life – but the majority of them still follow the traditions of Japanese Shinto just because it’s a typical seasonal thing to do at certain important days of the year.

Kind of in a similar way as people in Sweden decorate a Christmas tree during snow covered December, not really because they are any heavy believers of Christianity, but more because it’s a traditional thing to do. Something that unites people around them.

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The pictures you see in this post are Shinto related locations here on Kyushu in Japan.

First image most above is a mini size Shinto shrine in Kokura city, located at the most North-Eastern part of this island Kyushu.

It’s the border city that you need to pass through if you want to leave this island and reach to rest of mainland Japan at the other side of the bridge and underwater tunnel.

I took the picture of that small shrine close to the famous old Samurai castle in Kokura.

The one that the most well known Samurai in Japan – Miyamoto Musashi – conquered in a real historic epic man-to-man traditional sword duel with the castle owner himself.

There is a museum inside the castle telling the complete story about it. It’s worth a visit!

Musashi wrote the Book of Five Rings (五輪書 read as Go Rin No Sho), which was the first complete book that I read in my life during my early childhood in Sweden in Europe.

It’s an old book published all the way back in year 1645 by Miyamoto Musashi himself.

The shrine is also directly next to the highly futuristic designed Riverwalk shopping mall.

The second picture is a snapshot that I took with my camera in the surrounding temple garden outside of the Samurai castle. There’s a statue of a traditional munk or priest.

I’m not personally sure which one it is, but I’ll take a closer look next time I visit Kokura.

What I like about that picture is the lush green environment with the old trees. Typical beautiful peaceful garden in Japan. Exceptionally cool during cherry blossom festival.

The third and last photo shows a scene at dusk when the sun sets down behind the mountains and local volcano here where I live. I’m one of the only Western foreigners.

There are some rice fields in the background behind the man attaching his hand painted Japanese religious event signs next to the road. It takes Kanji skills to read those signs.

To read informational signs at Shinto shrine gardens and surroundings is also a way to learn Japanese. I use to learn extra Japanese from the many street signs here in Japan.

Filed under: Shinto

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