Hachiman (Hachiman-shin/Yawata no kami) is a deity worshipped only in Japan. It is also known as Hachiman Daibosatsu.
Shrines that enshrine Hachiman are named Hachiman-jinja Shrine (Hachiman-sha Shrine, Hachimangu Shrine, Wakamiya-jinja Shrine) and there are said to be between 10,000 and 20,000 in Japan - making it the second most numerous type of Shinto shrine after Inari-jinja. On the other hand, Shoji OKADA claimed that classifying all of the nation's shrines by their enshrined deities gives a total of 7,817 devoted to Hachiman, the greatest numbers in Japan.
The head shrine of all Hachiman shrines is Usa-jingu (Usa Hachimangu) Shrine in Usa City, Oita Prefecture. The deity is thought to have originally been an ujigami (a guardian deity) of the Omiwa clan who were widespread throughout the Usa area. Although believed to have been a deity of agriculture or the sea, Kunio YANAGIDA considered that it may be a blacksmith deity. It is said that it was enshrined by a man named OGA no Higi during the reign of Emperor Kinmei (539-571).
According to texts such as "Hachiman Usagu Gotakusenshu" (the biography of Usa Hachimangu Shrine), Hachiman manifested as 'Honda no Sumera Mikoto Hirohata Yahatamaro' (Honda no Sumera Mikoto was the posthumous name of Emperor Ojin) on January 1, 571 - leading to the belief that Hachiman is Emperor Ojin.
Yahata Hachimangu Shrine (Yahata Hachimangu in Buzen Ayahata-go) in Shida-machi, Chikujo-gun, Fukuoka Prefecture, said to be the origin of Usa Hachimangu Shrine and now known as Kintomi-jinja Shrine, is uniquely known as the sacred place in which Hachiman first manifested himself. This shrine was initially known as 'Yahata Hachiman', and then named 'Minato Hachiman' and 'Kinutomi Hachiman' before being given its current name 'Kintomi Hachiman' during the Edo period. The successive line of chief priests who serve at the shrine are of the Yahata clan.
It is written in the Usa Hachimangu Shrine history 'Hachiman Usagu Gotakusenshu' that Daibugu Shrine (Daibu Hachimangu Shrine) presently in Kaho-gun (former Honami-gun), Fukuoka Prefecture is the main shrine of Usa Jingu Shrine and the origin of Hakozakigu Shrine.
The main deity is Emperor Ojin, who is enshrined with Empress Jingu and Hime-gami, which are also collectively known as Hachiman-shin (Hachiman Sanshin, the three Hachiman deities). Empress Jingu was the mother of Emperor Ojin and the two are said to have been the basis of the belief in Oyako-gami (Bashi-gami), or parent-child deities.
Hime-gami is often described as the wife of Hachiman, but this relationship is not well understood. There is a theory claiming that Hime-gami was the original local deity enshrined at Usa and that Hachiman was brought in later, and another theory that Hime-gami is one of the three Munakata goddesses or Ichikishima-hime-no-mikoto, but recent theories have emerged that claim Hime-gami to have been Himiko or Amaterasu (Sun-goddess).
The word 'Hachiman' first appeared in "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued) in 737 and the pronunciation 'Yahata' from the term 'Hirohata no Yahata no Okami' is given by the imperial edict in 749 from the same book. This is the same native Japanese reading that appears in the phrase 'Yahata-gami' given in "Nihon Ryoiki" (Miraculous Stories from the Japanese Buddhist Tradition, written in the early Heian period) and 'Yahata-no-miya' given in 'Tamakazura' (Jeweled Chaplet) of "The Tale of Genji." However, it is believed that the native Japanese reading 'Yahata' was later changed to the Chinese-derived reading of 'Hachiman' by Buddhist followers during the syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism.
The word 'hata' refers to a heavenly banner that signals as 'Yorishiro', a temporary lodging place where a deity is invited.
Hachiman is also known as a deity that commonly communicates via oracles. The attempt of Empress Koken to install Dokyo as the next emperor by falsifying that a divine proclamation had been received from Hachiman via an oracle was dispatched by WAKE no Kiyomaro obtaining a new proclamation from Usa Hachiman (Usa Hachimangu Shrine Oracle Incident).
Since there are some records claiming that in 749, during constructing the Great Buddha of Todai-ji Temple, the senior nun, travelled to the capital Kyoto, transmitted an oracle that Hachiman was cooperating with the great Buddha's construction, it is understood that Hachiman had become a syncretistic deity in the harmonization of Shinto and Buddhism from an early period. In 781, it was given the name 'Hachiman Daibosatsu' as the deity of protecting Buddhism. As a result, divided Hachiman has been ceremonially transferred to Buddhist temples around the country to serve as a guardian deity, then Hachiman spread throughout the country. Later, the theory of Honji-suijaku (Shinto and Buddhist syncretism) considered Amitabha to be the Buddha manifestation of Hachiman.
In addition, as Hachiman has been regarded as Emperor Ojin, it is an ancestor deity of the Imperial family, then the Minamoto clan, a branch of the Imperial family, considers Hachiman as an ujigami. MINAMOTO no Yoriyoshi transferred the divided Hachiman deity to Tsuboi in Kawachi Province (Tsuboi, Habikino City, Osaka Prefecture) and enshrined it at Tsuboi Hachimangu Shrine as an ujigami of the Kawachi-Genji (Minamoto clan), and his son MINAMOTO no Yoshiie named Hachiman Taro after Hachiman, by celebrating his Genpuku (coming-of-age ceremony) at Iwashimizu Hachiman-gu Shrine.
Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine owned extensive manors and it was from these areas that the worship of Hachiman spread.
In 1180, when MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, who was raising an army to eliminate the Taira clan, established his headquarters in the vicinity of presently Yahata, Kise-gawa River, Shizuoka Prefecture before the Battle of Fujigawa, he had in an emotional reunion with MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune who had come from afar Oshu. In Kisegawa Hachiman-jinja Shrine in Shimizu-cho, Sunto-gun, Shizuoka Prefecture, the stone named Taimen-ishi is placed where is said that Yoritomo and Yoshitsune met to pledge to expel the Taira clan together.
After MINAMOTO no Yoritomo founded the Kamakura bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), he invited Hachiman to Kamakura where he was enshrined at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, and his lower-ranking vassals also invited it to their territories to serve as a guardian of samurai families. Following this period, Hachiman became revered by numerous military commanders as the deity of war.
In 1868, the Buddhist name Hachiman Daibosatsu was banned to use by the Meiji Government. The Hojo-e (ceremony in which animals are released into the wild) at Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine and Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine were forced to be changed to a Chushu-sai (Mid-autumn Festival). However, faith in Hachiman remained firmly rooted and, during the latter stage of the Pacific War, the air bases of Japanese army and navy flew large 'Namu Hachiman Daibosatsu' (Hail great bodhisattva Hachiman) flags, and the Hachiman was worshipped by military flight crews (especially kamikaze pilots).
The Imperial Court and Hachiman (the Name Hachiman Daibosatsu)
In 720, the Hayato War broke out and the Imperial Court sought the advice of an Usa Hachiman oracle on how to suppress the uprising.
Legend has it that Hachiman said 'I will go and suppress it' and set out himself to subjugate the revolt.
In 749, when Emperor Shomu constructed the Great Buddha of Nara as the national symbol, Usa Hachiman rode to the capital in the same gilt-bronze Chinese phoenix palanquin, same as the Emperor's, and assisted in its construction.
The name 'Hachiman Daibosatsu' was bestowed upon Usa Hachiman by the Imperial Court in 781 as gratitude for this service. Daibosatsu' is a Buddhist name, and in the background of the growing syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism, Usa Hachiman was regarded as the deity of guarding the country and protecting Buddhism.
"Shomon-ki" (biography of TAIRA no Masakado) describes TAIRA no Masakado was secured the position of Shinno (New Emperor) by Hachiman Daibosatsu at a governmental agency in Kozuke Province in 939. Samurai families came to consider it as a guardian deity since Hachiman played a major role in liberating the samurai families from the dynastic system and in creating a new world different from that of Amaterasu-omikami.
Hachiman was a guardian deity of the Usa clan, a local ruling family in Kitakyushu, but was made the guardian of the western part of the Yamato Court after displaying numerous supernatural phenomena.
Reverence among the samurai class led to the establishment of Hachiman shrines all over the country from the Heian period, but as the belief spread that Shinto deities are manifestations of Buddhist deities, he began to be depicted in the form of a Buddhist priest known as 'Sogyo Hachiman-shin' (lit. Hachiman Daibosatsu in a priest style).
Three Great Hachiman Shrines
Of the following four shrines, either 'Usa, Iwashimizu and Tsurugaoka' or 'Usa, Iwashimizu and Hakozaki' are known as the 'Three Great Hachiman Shrines of Japan.'
Usa Jingu Shrine (Usa City, Oita Prefecture): Kanpei Taisha (large-scale national shrine), Myojin Taisha (shrine that enshrines the deity known as Myojin), Chokusai-sha (shrine attended by imperial envoy)
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu (Kamakura City, Kanagawa Prefecture): Kokuhei Chusha (middle-sized national shrine)