In the Heian period Sakanoue no Tamuramaro conquered Ezo (northern Japan) and in the hope of lasting military fortune he established the guardian deity of military families, Usa Hachimangu, in the current Mizusawa, Iwate Prefecture, establishing Chinjufu Hachimangu. Later, in the Muromachi period, the Oosaki Clan, who governed Oshu, enshrined the deity in the part of their territory currently known as Tajirimachi, Todagun. They also venerated the deity as a guardian and the shrine became known as Oosaki Hachimangu.
After the Oosaki Clan died out, Date Masamune moved the shintai (an object of worship housed in a Shinto shrine and believed to contain the spirit of a deity) to a small shrine in the Iwadeyama Castle in Tamatsukurigun, his military base and residence.
When Masamune established his governance of Sendai, the shintai was enshrined in its current location in the northwest part of Sendai Castle, along with the deity of Narushima Hachimangu, who past generations had venerated in their former territory of Uzenkoku Yonezawa.
The shintai was enshrined in Sendai in 1607 (from “Oosaki Hachimangu Raiyuki”)
The shaden (the main shrine building where the deity is housed) was built by the greatest craftsmen of the period, who served the Toyotomi Family, and fully retains the magnificent features of Momoyama architecture created by their skills.
The Date Family’s noble spirit and the prodigious energy of the time when the shrine was built have been handed down to the present as the general guardian deity of an area in Sendai measuring 620,000 koku (old Japanese unit of measurement). The shrine received devoted veneration from the successive domain lords throughout the period of shogunate governance.
At the start of the Meiji Period the shrine was called Oosaki Hachiman Jinja (shrine), however, in June 1997, as the 400th anniversary of the deity’s enshrinement approached, the original name was reinstated in consideration of historical circumstances and the shrine has since been called Oosaki Hachimangu.
The shaden, designated as a national treasure, is an example of Azuchi Momoyama architecture and is the oldest existing gongen-zukuri structure.
Preservation and repair work was commenced in
2000. This was completed in October of 2004.
The deity of the shrine has long been worshiped as a general guardian of the Sendai area. The founder of the domain, Date Masamune, as well as successive Sendai domain lords and the residents of the castle town, devotedly honored the deity as a god who protects people against evils and dangers, and also a god of Josai-shofuku (good fortune and prevention of calamities), victory, and safe childbirth. Those having faith in gods of the Oriental Zodiac, called ketaigami in Sendai, also believe the deity to be the guardian of the northwest direction, and people born in the year of Dog and Boar especially revere this god.
Against this historical background, the shrine has remained a focus for the hearts of many worshippers, including present day citizens of Sendai.
Brilliantly colored masugumi
(tokyou) of the haiden
Date Masamune called upon the greatest craftsmen of the period, Umemura Hyuganokami Ietsugu, Umemura Sanjuro Yoritsugu, Osakabe Saemon Kunitsugu and Kajiutanosuke Kichiie, who were in the service of the Toyotomi Family, and ordered them to build the shrine. It was under construction from 1604 to 1607.
The architecture is comprised of a main hall called a honden and a hall of worship called a haiden, which are constructed in a style known as iriomoya-zukuri. The two halls are connected by an ainoma, which is also called ishinoma-zukuri. This architectural style was later dubbed gongen-zukuri, and features tokyou (roof-supporting brackets) richly painted with colorful pigments and carvings above the nageshi (horizontal timbers). The structure below the nageshi is entirely covered in black lacquer, creating a quiet tone. Large chidorihafu (plover gables) rise up above the haiden, and nokikarahafu (bowed eaves) cover the kohai area (where worshippers stand). The elaborately designed roof is constructed in the kokerabuki style.
Paintings on partitions in the haiden (karajishi)
Inside the haiden, partitions are decorated with karajishi (lions) painted by Sakuma Sakyo, who was an artist of the Kano school, seiryu (dragons) are carved on large koryo (bowed beams), and 53 kinds of plants and flowers are painted on the gotenjo (latticed ceiling) of the ishinoma. The building also contains carvings, commonly considered to be works by Hidari Jingoro, which depict a great diversity of subjects, including flowers, birds, plants, animals and narrative characters, creating a beautiful overall harmony.
53 kinds of plants and flowers painted
on the gotenjo of the ishinoma
This is the earliest of the structures, which together bring the culture of the Azuchi Momoyama period to the present day. Because of its value, the shaden was designated as a specially protected building in 1903, and a national treasure in 1952.
The nagatoko, located in front of the shaden, is designated as an important cultural property, as it is thought to have been built in almost the same period as the shaden, although the exact date of its construction is not known. The architectural style of the nagatoko contrasts with that of the shaden, as it is constructed of plain, unadorned wood that creates a neat and handsome appearance. The essence of Momoyama culture can be sensed in this contrasting tone.
Seiryu on large koryo
The shrine’s Matsutaki Matsuri has a 300-year history, and is one of the nation’s largest events ending the New Year’s holiday. Decorations used during New Year’s celebrations, koshinsatsu (talismans), etc, are burned and dedicated to the shrine deities. While this shrine’s festival is called the Matsutaki Matsuri, in other areas festivals of this type are commonly called Sagicho or Dondo-yaki due to the intense fire. On January 14, New Year’s decorations, such as kadomatsu, shimenawa, matsukazari, etc, which are gathered from neighboring towns and villages are piled up in the shrine’s grounds and at sundown they are burned with a pure fire that is kindled for sacred events. This fire is called Goshinka (sacred fire), and is lit as a sendoff for the gods who have visited people’s homes during the New Year’s holiday. There is an old tradition that if you come close to the fire the grace of the deities will cleanse your mind and body, keep you safe and in good health, and protect your family in the coming year.
The procession of worshippers marching towards the Goshinka is called hadakamairi. It is said that master sake brewers originated this tradition as a prayer for brewing safety and quality during severe cold and that it became established in the middle of the Edo period. In the present time, the worshippers wear white towels around their heads, white cloth around their hips and hold pieces of paper called fukumigami in their mouths to prevent them from talking, they also hold bells in their right hands and lanterns in their left hands. The appearance of thousands of worshippers marching from all parts of the city is known nationally as a winter tradition of the city of trees, Sendai.
Reitaisai (the shrine festival)/Shinko-sai