Shrines you need to experience! Explore the shrines in Ama-no-Iwato five-shrine tour
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As you might know the Ama-no-Iwato Shrine is a famous Takachiho tourist landmark. What might be news is that the Ama-no-Iwato Shrine together with four other shrines, comes together and is referred to as the “Five Shrines of Ama-no-Iwato.”
Don’t miss out on the statues of the gods from the Ama-no-Iwato kagura (ancient Shinto music and dance ritual), which located at all the shrines.
A visit to the five shrines, also known as “the five-shrine tour” takes about two hours by car. The start at Ama-no-Iwato Shrine is located a 15-minute drive from Takachiho. Be careful when making the drive, as the Iwato area, where the Ama-no-Iwato Shrine is located, has many narrow mountain roads.
Maps for the five-shrine tour (天岩戸五社めぐり) are located at the Takachiho Town Tourist Information Center, Michi-no-Eki Takachiho and the various shrines. Please use it as reference during the tour.
Ama-no-Iwato Shrine, which enshrines Amaterasu-Omikami, the god of good luck and warding off evil spirits
Ama-no-Iwato Shrine has two main shrines: the West Main Shrine (西本宮) and the East Main Shrine (東本宮). However the one that usually appears in car GPS systems and guidebooks seems to be the West Main Shrine.
Enshrined in the West Main Shrine of Ama-no-Iwato is Ohirume-no-Mikoto (大日霎尊). This is another name for Amaterasu-Omikami.
The shrine offers blessings in good fortune and warding off evil spirits.
Next to the parking lot of the West Main Shrine is a statue of the 30th dance in the Ama-no-Iwato kagura, “Totori” (戸取). It is a statue of Ame-no-Tajikarao (手力雄神), who threw away the rock at the cave entrance in which Amaterasu-Omikami was hiding.
The East Main Shrine of the Ama-no-Iwato Shrine is located about a 10-minute walk away from the West Main Shrine. The legend says this is where Amaterasu-Omikami first lived.
Just outside of the torii gate is a big parking lot, it is recommended to park here when the parking lot at the West Main Shrine is full.
Enshrined in the East Main Shrine of Ama-no-Iwato Shrine is Amaterasu-Omikami. While the god enshrined here is the same as in the West Main Shrine, the names are different.
Completely unlike the atmosphere from the West Main Shrine, the East Main Shrine is a shrine where you can enjoy a moment of tranquillity.
Pass through the torii gate of the East Main Shrine and to your right-hand side will be a statue of “Uzume” (鈿女), who appears in the 29th dance of the Ama-no-Iwato kagura. Uzume was the goddess who danced in front of the cave in which Amaterasu-Omikami was hiding, and is said to have been the model for the main character in the film Suzume. By the way, Uzume is also a goddess of the performing arts!
Ochitachi Shrine, which enshrines Izanami-no-Mikoto, the goddess of pregnancy and safe childbirth
Ochitachi Shrine (落立神社) is located about 1.5 kilometers, or a three-minute drive away from Ama-no-Iwato Shrine. There is a parking lot across the street from the torii gate that fits several cars.
The god enshrined here is Izanami-no-Mikoto (伊邪那美命). The shrine offers blessings in pregnancy and safe childbirth.
To the left-hand side of torii gate is a statue of the 31st dance of the Ama-no-Iwato kagura, called “Maihiraki” (舞開). It is a statue of Omoikane-no-Mikoto (思兼命), celebrating the appearance of Amaterasu-Omikami from the cave.
31st dance is the scene after Uzume danced in front of the closed cave where Amaterasu-Omikami was in hiding. Amaterasu-Omikami, curious to see what the fuzz outside was about, opened up the closed cave for a small peak.
Hoko Shrine, which enshrines Hikohohodemi-no-Mikoto, the god of good harvest and protection from wind
Hoko Shrine is located about 10 kilometers, or a 17-minute drive away from Ama-no-Iwato Shrine, on Prefectural Road No. 7. The parking lot is located at the bottom of the stone steps leading up to the shrine.
The god enshrined here is Hikohohodemi-no-Mikoto (日子穂穂出見命). The shrine offers blessings in good harvest and protection from the wind.
At the bottom of the stone steps leading up to the shrine is a statue of the 18th dance in the Ama-no-Iwato kagura, called the “Yatsubachi” (八鉢). It is a statue of Susanoo-no-Mikoto (素戔嗚尊), dancing with joy as he welcomes his wife.
Futatsudake Shrine, which enshrines Hachiman Okami, the god of family safety and victory
Futatsudake Shrine is located about 9 kilometers, or a 15-minute drive away from Ama-no-Iwato Shrine, through Prefectural Road No. 7 and past Kami-Iwato Ohashi Bridge. The shrine’s torii gate faces the road, with a parking area a little bit ahead after cross the road from the torii gate.
Hachiman Okami (八幡大神), the god enshrined in Futatsudake Shrine, refers to the 15th Emperor of Japan, Emperor Ojin (応神天皇), as well as his mother, Empress Jingu (神功皇后).
The shrine offers blessings in family safety and victory.
To the left-hand side of the Worship Hall is a statue of the 26th dance of the Ama-no-Iwato kagura, called “Shibahiki” (柴引). It is a statue of Futotama-no-Mikoto (太玉命) placing a sakaki tree from Mt. Ama-no-kagu that he has pulled out, roots and all, and placing it in front of the rock at the entrance of Ama-no-Iwato Cave. In Takachiho, sakaki trees are called “shiba trees.”
Ishigami Shrine, which enshrines Kunitokotachi-no-Mikoto, the god that created the foundation for the nation
Ishigami Shrine is located about five kilometers or a 12-minute drive away from Amano-Iwato Shrine, on Prefectural Road No. 204. There is a large parking lot next to the torii gate of the shrine.
The god enshrined here is Kunitokotachi-no-Mikoto (国常立命). This is the god that created the foundation of the nation, and is also known to be the patron god of cattle and horse livestock.
Next to the torii gate is a statue of the 28th dance of the Ama-no-Iwato kagura, called “Tajikara.” It is a statue of Ame-no-Tajikarao (手力雄神), searching for the cave in which Amaterasu-Omikami has hidden herself.
Goshuin for the five-shrine tour
Expect from the Ama-no-Iwato Shrine, the other four shrines are all unmanned. You can collect the goshuin, a seal stamp for shrine visitors, for the Ama-no-Iwato Shrine, Ochitachi Shrine, Hoko Shrine, Futatsudake Shrine and Ishigami Shrine, all at the shrine office at the Inner Shrine of the Ama-no-Iwato Shrine’s West Main Shrine.
What do you think about the Ama-no-Iwato five-shrine tour?
The area also offers rental bikes, if you have the time, it may be a good idea visting the shrines by bike to really experience the nature of Takachiho.
There are also lots of power spots at each of these shrines that we couldn’t cover in this article. Enjoy the world of the Ama-no-Iwato legend as you go around these five shrines.