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Hachiman faith

Hachiman faith &Tsurugaoka Hachimangu


Enshrined kami   (kami is the Japanese word for Shinto deities)
Hachiman-okami  is the generic term for the kami enshrined, and refers to    
                       Emperor Ojin
                       Empress Jingu

Historical background of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu

I. Origin of Hachiman Faith

There are about 80,000 Shinto shrines in Japan, of which, interestingly, about 20,000 shrines are dedicated to a particular kami called Hachiman Okami (八幡大神, the great kami of Hachiman).
This kami was also known as “Hachiman Dai Bosatsu (   八幡大菩薩   , Hachiman Great Bodhisattva)”, which is a Buddhist title. When Buddhism arrived in Japan in the 6th century, the Buddha was recognized as a kami from across the seas, and certainly by the 7th century, temples and shrines which enshrined both Japanese Shinto kami and Buddhist deities were being built.
According to a historical record compiled in the Heian period (781-1185), the Hachiman kami had appeared in the Usa region in Kyushu in the middle of 6th century. This Hachiman kami was revered by the local clan as their tutelary kami.
At that time, there were many immigrants living near Mt. Kaharudake in the Usa region. The Yamato (Japan) Imperial Court considered these immigrants very important, because they were conveyed to Japan knowledge from the advanced culture from the Chinese mainland. In time, the Hachiman kami started to be worshipped by the Yamato imperial court.

During the period that the Yamato court had its capital at Nara (the Nara period, 710-794), the court began construction of the Great Buddha Statue at the Todaiji temple (東大   ). Work on the statue began in 747 and was finally dedicated in 752 after a series of difficulties. The statue consumed a vast quantity of bronze and labour. The Hachiman kami issued a number of divine oracles, identifying good mines for gold and iron, as a result of which the construction proved to be a great success.
Out of a deep appreciation for these oracles, a shrine dedicated to Hachiman was established at Mt. Tamukeyama in Nara and became the guardian kami of Todaiji temple.
When the capital moved by the Yamato imperial court to Kyoto in 794, the Hachiman kami issued another oracle and requested that the Hachiman shrine be moved to the capital in Kyoto in order to protect the whole country. Following the oracle, another shrine, named Iwashimizu Hachimangu (石清水八幡宮), was built in Kyoto in 859.
In this way, the Hachiman faith grew amongst the aristocracy and within the Imperial Court.

II. The Rise of the Samurai Class

Towards the end of the Heian period, samurai, the warrior class, who were initially guards for the aristocrats and their manors in the countryside, began to enter politics. As aristocratic government became increasingly effete and corrupt, the influence of the samurai increased, uniting at the end of the 12th century under the two major clans, the Taira and Minamoto. Although the Taira were the first to seize power, they quickly succumbed to typical aristocratic habits. In 1192, Yoritomo, the Minamoto chief, defeated the Taira and established a military government in Kamakura as Shogun. Being conscious of his origins, Yoritomo never followed the aristocratic way but was devoted to the politics of the realm and stayed far from Kyoto in Kamakura.

III. The Minamoto Clan and Hachiman Faith

The Hachiman faith owed much to Yoritomo’s ancestor, Yorinobu, who publicly announced that “Hachiman kami is the guardian kami of the Minamoto clan.” He gave as the reason for this announcement that “The Genji (Minamoto) clan are descendants of Emperor Seiwa. Emperor Seiwa is a descendant of Emperor Ojin. Emperor Ojin is the main kami enshrined in Hachimangu. Therefore, Hachiman shrine is the guardian shrine of the Genji clan.”

Later, Minamoto Yoriyoshi who commanded a historic campaign from 1051 - 1062 against an uprising in the North-East of Japan, prayed for victory at Iwashimizu Hachimangu before sending his troops into battle and received divine arrows from the shrine. When he returned to Kamakura flushed with victory, he built a new shrine in 1063 on Yuigahama beach, and dedicated the divine arrows to the kami.

In 1180, Minamoto Yoritomo built the Tsurugaoka Wakamiya shrine on the present site in Kamakura, choosing Kamakura because of its close associations with his ancestors. His deep reverence for Tsurugaoka Hachimangu became the spiritual backbone of his shogunate. The city of Kamakura thus had its origins in the Hachimangu shrine.

IV. Samurai Spirit

The Kamakura period was the first period in Japanese history when the non-aristocratic, samurai class assumed political power over the realm. During this period, a new and rival culture based on the Hachiman faith flourished, and “candidness and vigor”, came to be admired as the spirit of the samurai. These cultural characteristics constitute one aspect of the Japanese spirit and were inherited in due course  by the Tokugawa Shogunate.
With the rise of the samurai class, the worship of Tsurugaoka Hachimangu strengthened, and the Ashikaga and Tokugawa shogunates which succeeded the Kamakura shogunate inherited this reverence for Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. The present shrine building was built by Tokugawa Ienari, the 11th Tokugawa shogun, in 1828.

In the Edo period, ordinary people also started to worship at Tsurugaoka Hachimangu, which continiues to the present day. Now, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is one of the most popular shrines in Japan with more than 18 million visitors a year.

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