The minamimon (“south gate”) stands exactly south of the original location of the Domyoji Buddhist temple and served as the temple’s main gate. When Domyoji was moved to the west, the minamimon was converted to the south gate of the Domyoji Tenmangu (Shinto shrine). This shows the deep relation between Domyoji (Buddhist temple) and Sugawara no Michizane, the enshrined deity of Domyoji Tenmangu.
Domyoji Tenmangu was originally called Haji Jinja, a shrine dedicated to the patron god of the Haji family. But after the nation-wide deification of Sugawara no Michizane (a member of the Haji family), the shrine also started worshipping Michizane and was renamed Domyoji Tenmangu. As a tenmangu*, Domyoji Tenmangu is thought to be as old as the famous Kitano Tenmangu (Kyoto) and Dazaifu Tenmangu (Fukuoka), both of which were built about 1,000 years ago, in the middle Heian period. Among the more than 12,000 tenmangu in Japan, only Domyoji Tenmangu preserves Michizane’s genuine relics, which is solid evidence of the historical relation between Michizane and the shrine. Domyoji Tenmangu houses a number of treasures registered as Important Cultural Assets and National Treasures, including the Michizane relics.
*Tenmangu is a Shinto shrine which worships Sugawara no Michizane as Tenjin.
Straighten your clothes, take off your hat and sunglasses, and lower your head as you pass under the gate. Step over the raised threshold, not on it.
Suspended between the two shimebashira is a shimenawa, a thick rope made of rice straw that marks the border between our world and the gods’. You could call this a precursor of the torii, and it’s hardly seen in other Shinto shrines today. The shimebashira of Domyoji Tenmangu are stone pillars with an inscription of one of Sugawara no Michizane’s poems.
Pass between the two pillars, lowering your head.
The temizusha (or chozusha) is a space which houses a canopy and a trough filled with water. Before approaching the shrine, visitors wash their hands and mouths with water from the tap shaped like a dragon’s mouth, as a means of ceremonial purification.
1) Pick up a ladle with your right hand, scoop a ladleful of water and wash your left hand. (Don’t use all the water! You’ll need that one ladleful for the whole process.)
2) Pass the ladle to your left hand and wash your right hand.
3) Return the ladle to the right hand, pour some water into your cupped left hand and rinse your mouth. (Don’t use the ladle as a cup! You’re not supposed to touch it with your lips.)
4) Wash your left hand again after rinsing your mouth.
5) Hold the ladle vertically, allowing the remaining water to trickle down the handle and clean it.
6) Return the ladle to its original position, face down.
The bull is strongly associated with tenjin (god of learning, deification of Sugawara no Michizane, worshipped at “tenmangu Shinto shrines). At Domyoji Tenmangu, you can find a popular copper statue of a bull known as the “nade-ushi”. Stroke any part of the nade-ushi, and it’s believed that the same part of your body will be cured of all maladies.
The honden or shinden is the main and most sacred building where the shintai, a physical object that represents the shrine’s god or goddess, is housed. This building is also where rituals and ceremonies are held. With its magnificent roof clad in cypress bark, the honden of Domyoji Tenmangu is a fine example of the beauty of woodworking.
The komainu are a talismanic pair of imaginary creatures that guard the gods at the entrance of a shrine or temple. They look nearly identical, but one has an open mouth (as if making the sound “a”) and the other’s mouth is closed (“un”). The Japanese expression a-un no kokyu, meaning “an inherently harmonious relationship”, is derived from these statues.
Throw coins (any amount) into the offertory-box.
Bow twice, deeply.
Clap your hands twice.
Bow one more time, deeply.