Kasuga-Taisha Shrine (春日大社)

Enshrined deities: Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto, Futsunushi-no-kami (Futsunushi-no-mikoto), Amenokoyane-no-mikoto, and Hime-no-kami
Classification: Shikinaisha (Myojin Taisha), Shinto shrines listed in the Engishiki; one of Nijuni-sha Shrines, the 22 most important Shinto shrines designated during the Heian period; Kanpei-taisha, large-scale state shrine; Chokusai-sha, shrine attended by imperial envoy; and Beppyo jinja, Shrines on the Special List
Founded: 768
Reisai (regular festival): March 13 (Kasuga-matsuri Festival)

Kasuga-Taisha Shrine is located in Nara Park, Nara City, Nara Prefecture. Its former name is Kasuga-jinja Shrine. It is classified as a Shikinaisha (Myojin Taisha) listed in the Engishiki and one of the Nijuni-sha Shrines, and its former shrine classification was Kanpei-taisha (large-scale state shrine). It is the Grand Head Shrine of all Kasuga-Taisha Shrines in Japan.

It enshrines Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto and Futsunushi-no-kami (Futsunushi-no-mikoto), guardian gods of the Fujiwara clan, and Amenokoyane-no-mikoto and Hime-no-kami, Soshin (ancestors honored as god) of the Fujiwara clan. These four deities, collectively believed to be ujigami (tutelary gods) of the Fujiwara clan, are called Kasuga-no-kami. The shrine's crest is a hanging wisteria (sagari fuji). The deer is considered a 'shinshi' (a messenger of kami, or gods), because Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto is believed to have come here riding on a white deer.

History

In 710 when the national capital was transferred to Heijo-kyo in Nara, FUJIWARA no Fuhito transferred Kashima-no-kami (Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto), the Fujiwara clan's guardian god, to Mt. Mikasa in Kasuga to be enshrined there. The beginnings of the shrine date from when this god came to be called Kasuga-no-kami.
The shrine's history says that it was founded in 768 when FUJIWARA no Nagate united Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto of Kashima-jingu Shrine, Futsunushi-no-mikoto of Katori-jingu Shrine, and Amenokoyan-no-mikoto and Hime-no-kami enshrined in Hiraoka-jinja Shrine and erected four shrine buildings at the foot of Mt. Mikasa
However, recent excavations have suggested that rituals may have been held in this region before the Jingo-keiun period (767-770).

As the Fujiwara clan became prosperous, so did the shrine. Public festivals were held in the early Heian period. Kasuga-matsuri Festival, a reisai (regular festival) of Kasuga-taisha Shrine, was one of the sanchokusai (three great festivals designated by the Imperial Court) along with Kamo-jinja Shrine's Aoi-Matsuri Festival and Iwashimizu Hachiman-gu Shrine's Iwashimizu-Sai Festival. The imperial rank of Shoichii (Senior First Rank) was conferred on Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto and Futsunushi-no-mikoto in 850 and Amenokoyane-no-mikoto in 940.
The Jinmyocho (list of deities) in the Engishiki (codes and procedures on national rites and prayers) contains the passage, 'our deities of Kasuga-matsuri Festival in the village of Yamamura in Soekami County, Yamato Province.'
It also states that the shrine is listed as a Myojin-taisha Shrine and that heihaku (offerings of cloth to the gods) were offered at the Tsukinami and Niiname festivals.

The shrine, which houses the Fujiwara clan's ujigami, has a close relationship with Kofuku-ji Temple, which is the clan's 'ujidera' (tutelary temple). When FUJIWARA no Fuyutsugu had the Nanen-do Hall built at Kofuku-ji Temple in 813, Kasuga-taisha Shrine's Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto was held to be the Shinto version of Fukukensaku Kannon (Amoghapasa), the honzon (principal image of Buddha) of the temple. With the syncretization of Shinto and Buddhism, Kasuga-Taisha Shrine and Kofuku-ji Temple became regarded as a united body. Towards the end of the 11th century, warrior-monks from Kofuku-ji Temple often took part in direct 'goso' (literally, forceful protest). One such means of 'goso' was the 'shinboku-doza' (moving of the sacred tree), in which the monks went up to Kyoto under the authority of the Sakaki tree (shinboku (sacred tree)) into which a divine spirit of Kasuga-taisha Shrine was infused.

In 1871, it was renamed Kasuga-jinja Shrine and listed as a Kanpeitaisha. In December 1946, it was given the present name of Kasuga-taisha Shrine.

Honden (main shrine buildings)

There are four honden built in a style known as kasuga-zukuri. Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto is enshrined in the first honden, Futsunushi-no-mikoto in the second, Amenokoyane-no-mikoto in the third, and Hime-no-kami in the fourth. There is no haiden (hall of worship). General visitors, who have paid hatsuho-ryo (ceremony fee) in front of the votive offering hall to request special viewing, pray at the Chumon gate.

Setsumatsusha (auxiliary and branch shrines)

There are many setsumatsusha in the shrine's large precinct. Wakimiya-jinja Shrine, a sessha (auxiliary shrine) that stands to the east of the honden, enshrines Amenooshikumone-no-mikoto, the mikogami (child god) of Hime-no-kami.
The twelve shrines, including Wakamiya-jinja Shrine and Meoto-daikokusha Shrine, that stand to the east of the honden have been revered since ancient times as the 'Pilgrimage to the twelve shrines of The God of Good Fortune.'

The sessha Enomoto-jinja Shrine (listed as a minor shrine in the Engishiki Jinmyocho) stands at the southwestern corner of the honden's cloister. The enshrined deity of Enomoto-jinja Shrine is a jinushigami (god of an area of land), a god believed to have been originally enshrined in this area. Sarutahiko is the deity presently enshrined but Kosenohime Myojin was enshrined there until the medieval period.

Festivals and annual events

Shunsai festivals - 1st, 11th, and 21st of every month
Kagura Hajime Shiki (the ceremony of kagura-dance) - January 3
Gokito Hajime Shiki (the ceremony of prayer) - January 7
Bugaku Hajime Shiki (the ceremony of traditional Japanese Court dances) - January 10
Setsubun Bantoro Festival (the last day of winter according to the old calendar)
Ondaue-matsuri (rice planting Shinto ritual) - March 15
Hitohina-matsuri (doll festival) - April 3
Mizuya-jinja Chinka-sai (the Buddha's Birthday Festival) - April 5
Shobu-matsuri (Iris Festival) or Tango no Sekku (Boys' Day) - May 5
Kencha-sai (tea-offering festival) - May 10
Takigiono (outdoor nighttime Noh performance) - May 11-12
Nagoshi no Oharai-shiki (summer purification ceremony) - June 30
Chugenmantoro (Lantern Festival) - August 14 to 15
Uneme-matsuri (the day of harvest moon)
Choyo no Sekku (Chrysanthemum Festival), Kenko-sai (Incense-offering Festival) - October 9
Culture Day bugaku concert (traditional Japanese court music accompanied by dancing) - November 3
Kasuga Wakamiya On-matsuri - December 15-18
Toshikoshi no Oharae-shiki (year-end Shinto ritual of purification) -December 31

Buildings

National Treasure - 'Kasuga-taisha main shrine, Honden' (four buildings)

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha main shrine, Chumon Gate'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha main shrine, Higashi Oro Corridor'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha main shrine, Nishi and Kita Oro Corridors'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha, main shrine, Nejiro Stairs'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha main shrine, Heiden Hall'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha main shrine, Naoraiden Hall'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha main shrine, Utsushi-dono Hall'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha main shrine, Hoko Treasure House'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha main shrine, kairo cloister' (five buildings)

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha, Minami-mon Gate'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha, Keiga-mon Gate'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha, Seijo-mon Gate'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha, Naiji-mon Gate'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha, Kuruma-yadori wagon shed'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha, Chakuto-den Arrival Hall'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha, Hetsui-dono Kitchen'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha, Saka-dono Brewery'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha Itakura Warehouse'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha Ichi no Torii Gate'- ranked along with those of Hike-jingu Shrine and Itsukushima-jinja Shrine as one of the Three Great Torii of Japan

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha, Wakamiya-jinja Shrine, Honden'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga-taisha, Wakamiya-jinja Shrine, Haisha Worship Hall'

Important Cultural Property 'Kasuga-taisha, Wakamiya-jinja Shrine, Hosodono Hall and Kaguraden Hall'

Important Cultural Property 'Kasuga-taisha, Wakamiya-jinja Shrine, Temizuya purification font'

Important Cultural Property 'former Kasuga-taisha Shrine Ita-gura Warehouse (round windows)' (owned by Nara Prefecture, located in Nara Park)

Art and craftworks

National Treasure - 'kinji raden kenukigata tachi' (tweezers style sword with mother-of-pearl-inlay on gold ground)

National Treasure - 'ikakeji shishimon kenukigata tachi' (hair-tweezers-shape sword, guardian dog design), blade unsigned

National Treasure - 'ikakeji raden hyomon katabami hyomon hyogogusari tachi' (gold 'ikakeji' ground with creeping wood sorrel lacquer design), blade unsigned

National Treasure - 'Ikakeji Katabamimon Hyogogusari Tachi' (gold 'ikakeji' ground with creeping wood sorrel design), blade unsigned

National Treasure - 'Kinso Kaochirashi Hyogogusari Tachi' (sword with gold fitting), blade unsigned

National Treasure - 'Hishizukuri Uchigatana' (sword borne inside an 'obi' belt), blade unsigned (with Japanese cedar case)

National Treasure - 'Akaito Odoshi Yoroi' (yoroi armor laced with red thread), helmet, 'osode' shoulder guards' (plum and bush warbler motif)

National Treasure - 'Akaito Odoshi Yoroi, helmet, 'osode' shoulder guards' (bamboo, tiger, sparrow motif)

National Treasure - 'Kurokawa Odoshiya Yazuzane Domaru (armor wrapped around the torso), helmet, 'osode' shoulder guards'

National Treasure - 'kote' (gauntlets)

National Treasure - 'hongu goryo koshinporui' (imperial sacred treasures of the main shrine)

National Treasure - 'wakamiya goryo koshinporui' (imperial sacred treasures of Wakamiya-jinja Shrine)

Important Cultural Property - 'wooden bugaku (court dance and music) masks: Ounin, Shintoriso, Chikyu, Nasori, Korobase' five masks

Important Cultural Property - 'wooden bugaku masks: 1 Nasori mask, 3 Shintoriso masks, 1 Sanju mask, 1 Kitoku-koikuchi mask, 1 Saisoro mask' seven masks

Important Cultural Property - 'Dadaiko' (decorated drum)

Important Cultural Property - 'kikko maki-e tebako' (hexagonal 'maki-e' (lacquer sprinkled with gold or silver powder) cosmetic box)

Important Cultural Property - 'akigusa maki-e tebako' (cosmetic box with maki-e autumn flower design)

Important Cultural Property - 'kin ju budo kyo (mirror with birds, animals and grape design), handed down in Kasuaga Konryu sha'

Important Cultural Property - 'koshinho dokyo (ancient sacred bronze mirror with black lacquer octagonal mirror box)' 16 mirrors

Important Cultural Property - 'chikuko sojaku hokyo' (square mirror with bamboo, tiger, and two-sparrow design)

Important Cultural Property - 'Toka matsukuizuru enkyo' (mirror with a design of a crane carrying wisterias and a pine branch in its mouth)

Important Cultural Property - 'kikuzo tanto' (dagger with chrysanthemum design)

Important Cultural Property - 'kairagi koshigatana' (short sword with stingray skin ornamentation)

Important Cultural Property - 'kashiwagi tanto' (dagger with oak and rabbit design)

Important Cultural Property - 'tachi (long sword), bearing the inscription 'Bishu Osafune Ju Iesuke' (Iesuke of Osafune, Bizen Province) and dated the second month of 1436'

Important Cultural Property - 'nishiki tsutsumi tachi (sword with brocade wrapping) with a blade signed by Sukeyuki'

Important Cultural Property - 'kondo kashiwamon hyogogusari tachi (gilt bronze sword with oak pattern)'

Important Cultural Property 'sankozuka fujimaki ken' (sword with a three-pronged vajra style hilt decorated with fujimaki wrapping)

Important Cultural Property - 'Shakudo-zukuri tachi (copper sword) made by Tomonari'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kurokawa odoshi domaru (domaru armor) helmet, osode shoulder guards'

Important Cultural Property - 'Tetsu sanjurokken shihojiro hoshi kabuto-bachi (bowl helmet of thirty-six iron plates and raised rivets, with four white sides) and yoroi kanagu (yoroi armor metal fittings)'

Important Cultural Property - 'Tetsu juhachi ken niho jiro Hoshi kabuto-bachi (bowl helmet of eighteen iron plates and raised rivets, with two white sides) and yoroi kanagu'

Important Cultural Property - 'Tetsu nijuhachi ken shihojiro Hoshi kabuto-bachi (bowl helmet of twenty-eight iron plates and raised rivets, with four white sides) and yoroi kanagu'

Important Cultural Property - 'Ishi-doro' (stone lantern)

Important Cultural Property - 'Ishi-doro (Yunoki Ishi-doro)'

Important Cultural Property - 'Shihon bokusho gakuso bunin'

Important Cultural Property - 'Shihon bokusho gakusho'

Important Cultural Property - 'Kasuga Jinja Bunsho' (Kasuga-jinja shrine documents)

Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property - 'public entertainment of Shinto rituals of Kasuga Wakamiya Onmatsuri Festival'

Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property - 'public entertainment of Shinto rituals of Kasuga Wakamiya Onmatsuri Festival' (Kasuga Kogaku hozon kai) (Preservation Society of Kasuga Kogaku)

Famous and historic sites

World Heritage Site: cultural heritage site - '{Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara}'

Officially-designated Historical Site - 'precincts of Kasuga-taisha Shrine'

Natural Monument - 'nagi conifer forest within precincts Kasuga-Taisha Shrine precincts'

Special Natural Monument - 'Kasugayama Primeval Forest'

Access

Ten minute walk from Kintetsu-Nara Station on Kinki Nippon Railway's Kintetsu Nara Line and Nara Station on West Japan Railway Company's Kansai Main Line and Sakurai Line

Nearby places of interest

Nara National Museum
Shinyakushi-ji Temple
Nara Park
Naoya SHIGA's former residence (Takabatake-cho, Nara City)