Suwa taisha

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Suwa Grand Shrine
諏訪大社 (Suwa taisha?)
Suwa taisha harumiya13bs3200.jpg
The hei-haiden of the Harumiya, one of the two component shrines of the Lower Shrine or Shimosha
Dedicated to Suwa-myōjin (Takeminakata), Yasakatome
Founded Unknown
Address Chino City, Nagano (Kamisha Maemiya)
Suwa City, Nagano (Kamisha Honmiya)
Shimosuwa, Nagano (Shimosha)
Shinto torii icon vermillion.svg Glossary of Shinto

Suwa-taisha (諏訪大社?), or Suwa Grand Shrine, also historically known as Suwa-jinja (諏訪神社?) or Suwa-daimyōjin (諏訪大明神?) is a Shinto shrine in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. It is considered to be one of the oldest shrines, the Nihon Shoki already attesting to its existence in the late 7th century.[1]

The shrine consists of four building complexes grouped into two sites: the Kamisha (上社) or Upper Shrine, comprised of the Maemiya (前宮 'old shrine') and the Honmiya (本宮 'main shrine'), and the Shimosha (下社) or Lower Shrine, comprised of the Harumiya (春宮 'spring shrine') and the Akimiya (秋宮 'autumn shrine').[2][3] The two shrines of the Kamisha are located on the south side of Lake Suwa, in the cities of Chino and Suwa, with those of the Shimosha being situated on the northern side of the lake, in the town of Shimosuwa.[4][5]


The deities enshrined in the shrine are Suwa-myōjin (諏訪明神), who is officially identified with the god Takeminakata recorded in the Kojiki, and his consort Yasakatome. Due to the complicated history of the shrine, different conflicting opinions have been expressed as to which shrine specifically belongs to which god, with some considering Suwa-myōjin/Takeminakata to be the god of the Kamisha and Yasakatome that of the Shimosha, and others considering both deities to be enshrined at the Kamisha or the Shimosha or both.[6]

Like others among Japan's oldest shrines, Suwa Taisha does not have a honden, the building that normally enshrines a shrine's kami. This is because its objects of worship (shintai) are the mountain the shrine stands on (at the Kamisha) and a shinboku (神木 divine tree?) (at the Shimosha).[7]


In myth[edit]

In the Kojiki, Takeminakata, a son of Ōkuninushi, the god of Izumo, fought against Takemikazuchi, a messenger sent by the gods of heaven to claim Ōkuninushi's land in the name of the sun goddess Amaterasu. Losing against Takemikazuchi in a test of strength, Takeminakata fled to "the sea of Suwa in the province of Shinano" (科野国州羽海), where he finally agreed to surrender, promising never to leave the region.[8][9][10]

Local myths in the Suwa region meanwhile relate that a foreign deity - Suwa-myōjin, identified with Takeminakata - once came to the area where local gods such as Moreya resisted him. After defeating them, Suwa-myōjin became the new chief god of Suwa, with Moreya serving him as his collaborator and priest.[11][12][13][14]

Early history[edit]

The shrine's first historical attestation is in the Nihon Shoki, where envoys were said to have been sent to worship "the wind-gods of Tatsuta and the gods of Suwa and Minochi in Shinano" (龍田風神、信濃須波・水内等神) during the fifth year of the reign of Empress Jitō (691 CE).[1] This record testifies to the worship of the god of Suwa as a water and/or wind deity during the late 7th century, on par with the wind gods of Tatsuta in Yamato Province (modern Nara Prefecture).[15]

In Heian period documents, the shrine is mentioned in the Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku's entry for Jōgan 7 (865 CE) as 'Takeminakata-tomi-no-mikoto Shrine' (建御名方富命神社),[16] and as 'Suwa (Shrine) of Shinano' (信乃須波) in the diary of Minamoto no Tsuneyori (976/985-1039), the Sakeiki (左経記).[17] The 'Register of Deities' (神名帳 Jinmyōchō) section of the Engishiki (927) meanwhile lists the 'Minakatatomi Shrine(s)' (南方刀美神社) as enshrining two deities and being the two major ('eminent') shrines of Suwa district.[a][18]

By the late Heian period, the shrine became designated as Shinano's chief shrine or ichinomiya.[19][20] Suwa-myōjin also became renowned as a god of warfare around this period, as is attested to by the Ryōjin Hishō, an anthology of songs compiled in 1179, which names the shrine of Suwa among famous shrines to martial deities in the eastern half of the country.[21] Another testament to Suwa-myōjin's fame as a god of war is a legend about his apparition to the 8th century general Sakanoue no Tamuramaro during his campaign to subjugate the Emishi of northeastern Japan; in thanksgiving for the god's assistance, Tamuramaro was said to have instituted the religious festivals of the shrine.[22][23]

Kamakura period[edit]

The Kamakura period saw the shrine(s) of Suwa split into two entities: the Kamisha and the Shimosha, with sources from the period such as the Azuma Kagami beginning to use such terms as Suwa-kamisha (諏訪上社), Suwa-jōgū (諏訪上宮), Suwa-shimosha (諏訪下社) or Suwa-gegū 諏訪下宮).[20] Both institutions would remain technically independent of each other until the Meiji period.

During the Middle Ages, under the then-prevalent synthesis of Buddhism and Shinto, the deities of the Kamisha and the Shimosha were identified with the bodhisattvas Samantabhadra (Fugen) and Avalokiteśvara (Kannon), respectively;[24][25][26] Buddhist temples and other edifices (no longer extant) were built on the precincts of both shrines. Buddhist ethics, which opposed the taking of life and Mahayana's strict views on vegetarianism somewhat conflicted with Suwa-myōjin's status as the patron god of hunting; elaborate theories and other strategies were then devised that legitimized the hunting, eating, and sacrifice of animals, especially of deer, a beast held to be sacred to the god.[27][7]

In the meantime, devotion to Suwa-myōjin (especially as god of war) became more widespread, thanks in part to the rise in prominence of the Suwa clan - originally a priestly clan which held the office of chief priest or ōhōri of the Kamisha that later branched out into military affairs - as vassals (gokenin) of the Kamakura shogunate and the Hōjō clan. The shrines of Suwa and the priestly clans thereof flourished under the patronage of the Hōjō, which promoted devotion to the god as a sign of loyalty to the shogunate. The religious festivals of the Kamisha and the Shimosha attracted many of the samurai caste as well as other social classes, both from within Shinano and outside.[28] Suwa branch shrines became numerous all across Japan, especially in territories held by clans devoted to the god (for instance, the Kantō region, traditional stronghold of the Minamoto (Seiwa Genji) clan).[29]

Muromachi and Sengoku periods[edit]

After the downfall of the Kamakura shogunate, the Suwa supported the Southern Court, while the Kanasashi (the chief-priestly clan of the Shimosha) chose to side with the Northern Court. This and other reasons contributed to the state of war between the Suwa clan of the Kamisha and the Kanasashi of the Shimosha, as well as other clans allied with them, during the Muromachi period. During a war between the two factions in 1483, the shrines of the Shimosha were burnt to the ground by the Kamisha's forces; its ōhōri, Kanasashi Okiharu (金刺興春), was killed in battle.[30]

Around the same time, the Suwa was also involved in an intra-clan strife between the priestly (ōhōri-ke) and military branches (the main house or sōryō-ke) of the family, which ended with the sōryō-ke routing the priestly branch and taking the office of ōhōri for themselves. With this (and the eventual downfall of the Kanasashi), the Suwa emerged as a regional power, coming to clash with their former allies, the Takeda of Kai Province, which eventually defeated the Suwa and conquered Shinano before the clan itself was destroyed in the aftermath of the Battle of Nagashino in 1575.

The Sengoku daimyō Takeda Shingen - ironically, the man who caused the downfall of the Suwa during the sieges of Uehara and Kuwabara in 1543-44 - was especially notable for his deep devotion to the god of Suwa: some of his war banners bore the god's syncretized Buddhist name: Suwa-nangū hosshō-kamishimo-daimyōjin (諏方南宮法性上下大明神 'Dharma-Nature Daimyōjin of the Suwa Upper and Lower Southern Shrines').[31] In 1565, he also issued an order for the reinstitution of the religious rites of both the Kamisha and the Shimosha (諏方上下宮祭祀再興次第 Suwa kami-shimosha saishi saiko-no-shidai).[32][33]

Edo period onwards[edit]

During the Edo period, both the Kamisha and the Shimosha received land grants from various daimyō. The third Tokugawa shogun, Iemitsu, for instance, granted one thousand koku worth of land to the Kamisha and five hundred to the Shimosha. The third daimyō of Suwa (aka Takashima) Domain, Suwa Tadaharu, gave the Kamisha fifty koku and the Shimosha thirty in 1663, while his successor, Tadatora, granted an additional one hundred koku to the Kamisha and sixty to the Shimosha. The daimyō of Aizu and Iemitsu's brother, Hoshina Masayuki also donated a hundred koku to the Kamisha and sixty koku to the Shimosha.[32][33]

From 1871 through 1946, Suwa was officially designated one of the Kanpei-taisha (官幣大社?), meaning that it stood in the highest range of ranked, nationally significant shrines.

Branch shrines[edit]

Suwa-taisha is the head shrine of the Suwa network of shrines, composed of more than 10 thousand individual shrines.[3]


Suwa Taisha is the focus of the famous Onbashira festival, held every six years. The Ofune Matsuri, or boat festival, is held on August 1, and the Senza Matsuri festival is held on February 1 to ritually move the spirits between the Harumiya and Akimiya shrines.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 「諏方郡二座 並大 南方刀美神社二座 名神大


  1. ^ a b Aston, William George (1896). "Wikisource link to Book XXX". Wikisource link to Nihongi: Chronicles of Japan from the Earliest Times to A.D. 697. Wikisource. pp. 403-404. 
  2. ^ Tanigawa, Kenichi, ed. (1987). Nihon no kamigami: Jinja to seichi, vol. 9: Mino, Hida, Shinano (日本の神々―神社と聖地〈9〉美濃・飛騨・信濃). Hakusuisha. p. 129. ISBN 978-4560025093.  (Japanese)
  3. ^ a b "Shrines and Temples". Suwa-taisha shrine. Japan National Tourist Association. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  4. ^ "Suwa-taisha (諏訪大社)". 長野県下諏訪町の観光情報. 
  5. ^ "Suwa Grand Shrine (Suwa Taisha)". Go! Nagano (Nagano Prefecture Official Tourism Guide). 
  6. ^ Muraoka, Geppo (1969). Suwa no saijin (諏訪の祭神). Tokyo: Yūzankaku-shuppan. pp. 5–6.  (Japanese)
  7. ^ a b "Suwa Shinkō". Encyclopedia of Shinto. Retrieved 21 September 2010. 
  8. ^ Chamberlain, Basil (trans.) (1882). Section XXXII.—Abdication of the Deity Master-of-the-Great-Land. A translation of the "Ko-ji-ki" or Records of Ancient Matters. Yokohama: Lane, Crawford & Co.
  9. ^ Jean Herbert (18 October 2010). Shinto: At the Fountainhead of Japan. Routledge. p. 437. ISBN 978-1-136-90376-2. 
  10. ^ Michael Ashkenazi (1 January 2003). Handbook of Japanese Mythology. ABC-CLIO. p. 85. ISBN 978-1-57607-467-1. 
  11. ^ Oh, Amana ChungHae (2011). Cosmogonical Worldview of Jomon Pottery. Sankeisha. pp. 157–159. ISBN 978-4-88361-924-5. 
  12. ^ Yazaki, Takenori, ed. (1986). 諏訪大社 (Suwa-taisha). Ginga gurafikku sensho. 4. Ginga shobō. pp. 24–25.  (Japanese)
  13. ^ Rekishi REAL Henshūbu (歴史REAL編集部) (ed.) (2016). Jinja to kodai gōzoku no nazo (神社と古代豪族の謎). Yosensha. p. 39. ISBN 978-4800308924.  (Japanese)
  14. ^ Moriya, Sanae (1991). Moriya-jinchō-ke no ohanashi (守矢神長家のお話し). In Jinchōkan Moriya Historical Museum (Ed.). Jinchōkan Moriya Shiryōkan no shiori (神長官守矢資料館のしおり) (Rev. ed.). pp. 2–3. (Japanese)
  15. ^ Yazaki (1986). p. 22.
  16. ^ "Nihon sandai-jitsuroku (日本三代實録)". J-TEXTS 日本文学電子図書館. 
  17. ^ Minamoto no Tsuneyori (1915). Sasagawa, Taneo, ed. Sakeiki (左経記). Shiryō tsūran (史料通覧). 4. Nihon shiseki hozon-kai. p. 43.  (original work written 1016-1036) (Japanese)
  18. ^ "Engishiki, vol. 10 (延喜式 第十巻)". Japanese Historical Text Initiative (JHTI). 
  19. ^ "Nationwide List of Ichinomiya," p. 2.; retrieved 2011-08-010
  20. ^ a b Tanigawa (1987). p. 130.
  21. ^ Kim, Yung-Hee (1994). Songs to Make the Dust Dance: The Ryōjin Hishō of Twelfth-century Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 144–145a. ISBN 978-0-520-08066-9. 
  22. ^ Kishi, Shōzō (trans.) (1967). Shintōshū (神道集). Tōyō Bunko (東洋文庫) vol. 94. Heibonsha. pp. 49–56. ISBN 978-4-582-80094-4. 
  23. ^ Suwa, Enchū (1914). 諏訪大明神繪詞 (Suwa-daimyōjin ekotoba) in Hanawa, Hoki'ichi (ed.), 続群書類従 (Zoku Gunsho-Ruijū). Tokyo: Zoku Gunsho-Ruijū Kanseikai. pp. 499–501. (Original work written 1356) (Japanese)
  24. ^ Yoshii, Yoshitaka (ed.) (1999). えびす信仰事典 (Ebisu shinkō jiten). p. 306. ISBN 978-4-900901-08-7. 
  25. ^ Rambellli, Fabio; Teuuwen, Mark (ed.) (2003). Buddhas and Kami in Japan: Honji Suijaku as a Combinatory Paradigm. Routledge. p. 354. 
  26. ^ Miyachi, Naokazu (1931). 諏訪史 第二卷 後編 (Suwa-shi, vol. 2, part 2). 信濃教育会諏訪部会 (Shinano kyōikukai Suwa-bukai). pp. 75–76. 
  27. ^ Miyasaka, Yūshō (1987). "Kami to hotoke no yūgō (上と仏の融合)." In Ueda; Gorai; Ōbayashi; Miyasaka, M.; Miyasaka, Y. 御柱祭と諏訪大社 (Onbashira-sai to Suwa-taisha). Nagano: Chikuma Shobō. pp. 168–171. ISBN 978-4-480-84181-0. 
  28. ^ Yazaki (1986). p. 25.
  29. ^ Muraoka (1969). p. 112.
  30. ^ "Kanasashi Okiharu (金刺興春)". Nandemo Suwa Hyakka (なんでも諏訪百科). Suwa City Museum. 
  31. ^ "山梨の文化財ガイド (Guide to Cultural Assets of Yamanashi)". Official website of Yamanashi Prefecture. 
  32. ^ a b Tanigawa (1987). p. 137.
  33. ^ a b Yazaki (1986). p. 26.

Coordinates: 36°04′31″N 138°05′29″E / 36.07528°N 138.09139°E / 36.07528; 138.09139