Sunday, March 23, 2014

Awashima Shrine Nagasaki

Awashima Shrine Nagasaki is probably one of the most interesting and unique Shrines that you will ever come upon in Nagasaki let alone all of Japan.  Many women visit this shrine to make prayers related to female matters such as childbirth and fertility as it is believed to have special powers an a lucky charm to those who want children or those that are having problems getting pregnant.

Awashima Shrine Nagasaki was built in 1812 so in a sense compared to other Shrines in Nagasaki it is a rather young and hasn't got a long and rich history but it is what the Shrine stands for and that people believe in its powers which makes it such a popular and well visited place.  The Shrine has a series of small torii's which are the gate entrances to the shrines.  Most shrine gate entrances are measured in metres and I mean 5 to 10 meters in height, however the Awashima Shrines Nagasaki Torii's are measured in centimeters and not meters.

If one passes through these gate entrances it is said that it will assure a smooth and safe delivery for mother and child once she becomes pregnant and will allow women who are having problem to become pregnant in the future as well if all 3 gate entrances can be passed through.

The smallest torii is only 27 centimeters high but I can tell you that it looks so much smaller than this.  In fact, I could hardly get my head through the gate entrance let along my large frame and shoulders as well as other parts of my body.  Whilst I was there i didn't actually see anyone pass through these torii's but I have been told by many people that it is possible and done on a regular basis.  Now that is something that I need to see for myself in order to believe something that i honestly think is impossible!

Please check out Awashima Shrine Nagasaki on a map:

Please click on the pics below to enlarge:

The average western woman has no chance to pass through!

The Shrine believes passing through the Torii's will promote fertility

The 3 Torii's are actually different sizes

It has some of the smallest Torii's you will ever see!

Looks like a rather usual shrine but it has an edge over the others!

Please check out the Awashima Shrine Nagasaki in the video below:

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Famous Nagasaki Suwa Shrine

Famous Nagasaki Suwa Shrine is the major Shrine of Nagasaki and home to the revered Nagasaki Kunchi Festival.  It is located in the northern part of the city on the slopes of Mount Tamazono and features a 277-step stone staircase leading up the mountain to the various buildings that comprise the shrine.

The official date of construction for Suwa Shrine is 1614, the same year as Tokugawa Ieyasu Edict against Christianity.  Although there was little more than a small structure to mark the position of the future shrine at this time, it has grown into the massive structure and many sub structures that we see today.

Suwa Shrine survived the Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.  It is thought to have survived intact due to its strategic location in the central part of Mount Tamazono southern flank.  In the aftermath of the bomb local residents were quick to note that while the famous Urakami Cathedral and surrounding Catholic neighborhoods were obliterated, the Shinto Shrine still stood.  This was considered to be significant by the survivors of the bombing, showing the power of the native Japanese Gods as opposed to the imported Christian God.  In addition, priests from Suwa Shrine took an active role in the rebuilding of Nagasaki, including consecrating the land and purifying structures that still stood after the fact.

Famous Nagasaki Suwa Shrine is also the host to many annual festivals.  These festivals serve the joint purpose of honoring the Gods, provide a sense of community for shrine worshipers and providing exposure and income for the shrine itself.  Some of these festivals are typical to all major Shinto shrines in Japan, but some are unique to the Famous Nagasaki Suwa Shrine.

The most famous of Suwa Shrine's festivals is Kunchi.  This festival began along with the founding of the shrine as a way to both demonstrate its new importance in the community and as a way to hunt for Hidden Christians.   Kunchi is held from October 7th to 9th every year and is considered one of the major festivals in all of Japan.  It has been designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Asset.

As of yet i haven't had the privilege to attend the Kunchi Festival as tickets and locations are had to obtain because of the popularity but around the city there are many complimentary places whereby free viewing performances of various dances and exhibitions are available to the general public.  It is absolutely on my to do wish list and I will be making this one of my Must Do Nagasaki Experiences.

Check out Famous Nagasaki Suwa Shrine here on a map:

Please click on the photos below to enlarge:

Interesting and beautiful water feature

Plenty of room to roam about and take in the sights

All the stairs lead to another exciting location worth exploring

The view from the top!

A great place for a stroll even with your dog

The main building

Lots of steps to climb, 277 to be exact

Check out the videos of Famous Nagasaki Suwa Shrine below: