This last weekend I made a trip to Atsuta Shrine. It is one of the more famous shrines in all of Japan since it is said to be the resting place of one of the three most important regalia in all of Japan. The three items consist of a sword, named Kusanagi, a jewel, yasakani no magatama, and last a mirror, yata no kagami. At Atsuta Shrine, the sword is said to be kept as one of the most famous symbols of Japan. It is not on display due to its high value and the risks that would follow from showing something so precious.
Although the sword is not on display, the scenery surrounding Atsuta Shrine is quite magnificent. Long walkways lead up to the shrine that are all covered in gravel. The shrine itself involves a few buildings, and each seems to be extremely well maintained and quite modern. I noticed the area was quite silent as I walked through to observe each area. As always, before I approached the main building there was a large gate, or 門(mon). Before I walked through the gate I observed that some people bowed as they entered or exited the shrine.
After passing through the gates there were a series of buildings. There was a main building that you could approach, but were not allowed to enter. Next to this building was an area to buy souvenirs or charms that will help you in certain aspects of your life. Each shrine has something like this available for people to purchase. On the other side of this building were some large and special trees. I have never seen trees that have such a unique pattern growing from them. It reminded me of a tropical area.
The trees lined the front of a different building. This seemed to be a more sacred area and was treated more reverently. Each person went up to the gate to toss a coin and say a prayer. Just past the gate were two young women who were raking the gravel in special uniforms. It was an extremely relaxing area and one of the first times I felt comfortable doing the proper etiquette while praying at a shrine.
Following my prayers, I had noticed a ceremony was taking place just beyond the trees. I approached a small crowd and stood a few minutes to observe what was taking place. It seemed to be a religious ceremony of some sort. Initially, I thought it could have been a wedding, but then I noticed the sign marking it as something different. Each person was wearing formal dress and seemed deeply involved in the ceremony. I couldn’t hear what was being said, but there was a lot of chanting and a sort of dance, or series of gestures done throughout the ceremony.
While I was looking around I was able to spot a cherry blossom tree 桜(sakura). It is a bit early to be seeing cherry blossoms since it is still cold in Aichi, even though it’s spring and should be warm by now. And if you don’t already know, cherry blossoms are a big deal in Japan. There is something called hanami parties in which people sit under cherry blossom trees and enjoy their lunch while they take in the mere sight of the trees. Some areas that are really popular can attract hundreds or even thousands of people to enjoy the blooming of the trees. Since the trees only bloom for about a week, people rush to see them once they have bloomed. However, some areas are warmer or colder than others which causes the trees to bloom at different times. This gives people a wide range of time to see the trees as long as they don’t mind traveling a bit.