A History of the Mizuya Shrine and the Gods Worshipped at the Shrine
The god Amenokoyane-no-mikoto, The god Susanowo-no-mikoto,
The goddess Ryujinhime-no-mikoto, The goddess Amaterasu- Omikami and others.
In total 9 gods and 8 goddesses are worshipped at the shrine.
During the reign of Emperor Suinin (5 B.C) the goddess Amaterasu visited that place and after discussing with the god Kasuga she place a large rock in the river Ise. That rock was to become the landmark signaling the border of Yamato. The stone was called "Tsubute Ishi" and the surroundings are known up to this day as the Sakai rapids.
The shrine's name, as well as the gods and their festivals are all related to the presence of water: (mizu, meaning water) The name of the shrine, Mizuya, the name of the location Akaoke relates to that sacred water, the festival is called Mizu tori, and the goddess Ryujinhimeno-mikoto are all related to water. Furthermore, about 700 meters West of the shrine the Akaoke well can be found. According to old documents, the sacred water of the Akaoke well was used as an offering at the Kasuga Taisha from the 9th of November, 859 until 1577 when this ceremony faded away. However, even in later days that godly water was still being offered at the Kasuga Taisha festival.
Our country is still "The Gods’ Country"
By Kenichi Kubo
To call Shinto a religion faces nowadays some difficulties. But it seems that when one talks about the Japanese social order, the traditions of the country and the Emperor, Shinto cannot be cut out or ignored. Then we have the Japanese lifestyle and customs which are so deeply embedded in it.
Many Japanese go through their daily lives, the change of seasons, the events related to the Emperor and the Empress rather unconsciously, despite the fact that all those events are the object of Shinto ceremonies. Even the martial arts are thought to be performed in front of the god. This is also true for the ring of the Dohyo and the Sumo wrestler which are tied in all directions. (Mawashi) This applies also for the use of salt which divides time between daily life and the non-daily events and cleanses the dirtiness of the common world.
The tradition of using pine decorations on New Year and making offerings to the god on the house altar, as well as the eating celebrations, all mirror the new beginning.
Among the other traditions we can recall stand the whipping of the god and the ancestor and the thanksgiving prayer offerings of the seven herbs, the Small New Year, Setsubun (the Eve of the Beginning of Spring), the Hina-Matsuri Festival, the Equinoctial Week of Spring, Tanabata Festival (The Star Vega Festival), the Boy’s Festival, Bon (Lantern Festival), Jugoya (the Night of a Full Moon), Kagami-mochi (A Round Mirror Shaped Rice-Cake), the Equinoctial Week of Autumn, the Winter Solstice and the Last Day of the Year. Other traditions include the ground-breaking ceremonies and ridge festivals which aim at purification and many other Shinto ceremonies such as the crossing of the bridge, the road, the tunnel openings in the mountains the opening of the swimming season and so forth.
In other words, all these ceremonies are part of Shinto tradition and express a faith which is deeply embedded and characterizes our race. As a matter of course "Our country is gods’ country". Japan is the seat of countless gods and goddesses, many of whom are related to climatic and seasonal events.
The name of Shinto was adopted in Japan to distinguish it from imported Buddhism
However, unlike other religions, Shinto has no definite founder or definite doctrine and addresses the gods in its multiplicity of forms and variations. Tradition relates the foundation of Shinto to the ancestors of the Emperor and goddesses Amaterasu-Okami. Even now the Konjo Tenno is offering prayers for world peace and the well being of its citizens. Foreigners who are used to other religions and kings may not immediately grasp the meaning of this.
The doctrine, however, is stated in old records and old Japanese documents. The main points of the doctrine are the expression of gratitude and respect for nature and the gods and goddesses it embodies. Those who visualize religion through the Bible, the Koran or the Buddhist scriptures may not find that explanation satisfactory.
Furthermore, Shinto Shrines are not dedicated to a single god as is the case in Christianity and Islam. Therefore, the god is not embodied through a single representation. If there is an idol, its place will be marked by a stone. It is the mountain, the grass and the trees which embody the god. As a result, most Europeans will not be able to fully appreciate the nature and meaning of the multiplicity of Shinto Festivals which range from ground breaking ceremonies to ridge festivals. "the gods’ request for stoicism by Japanese people is also reflected there and deeply influences behavior. It may be hard to understand, but even the perceptions regarding racial conflict and religious conflict are deeply influenced by those beliefs.
For most Japanese, birth celebrations and marriage are held at Shinto shrines.(Jinja) However, funerals are characteristically Buddhist ceremonies. Even when buying a new car people will visit a shrine, offer a prayer and take away a charm to ask for protection. However, the celebration of Christmas and Valentine days are typically Christian in nature. Although, the typical Japanese boasts of not being religious and even of being atheist, as I do myself, Shinto’s is ever present in the Japanese mind. This is because the idea of the myriads of gods and deities of Shinto itself remains ever present. As for the nihilism of the West, which is founded and implies hatred for God, that implication is absent from Japanese atheism.
The people who live in the surroundings of a shrine take it at heart to keep it well maintained and even today keep a so-called "Ujico". In many cases, they may also honor the god of their birthplace As for the god of the place of their residence, they will consider that the god a guardian deity even if they actually belong to another religion.
When making an inquiry about religious affiliation the results from the Agency for Cultural Affairs 1991 inquiry, gives the following numbers:
Total population: 124,1million
Shinto: 109 million (87, 8 %), Buddhist: 96 million (77, 4%),Christians 1.46 million (1.2%).
How should we interpret the number of 109 million Shinto believers? Well, expressed in Western terms, Shinto is the citizen’s religion, the civil religion of the country. As a result we hope that both civil society, the government and foreign policy recognizes Shinto in its real light and changes its attitude towards it.
(Mr. Kenichi Kubo is the head priest of the Mizuya Shrine, and also a professor of Comparative Political Science in Suzuka International University.)