Karakuni jinja

Karakuni Jinja

Karakuni Jinja is an old Shinto shrine, categorized as shikinaisha, a highly-valued shrine listed in Engishiki*. Its construction dates back about 1,500 years ago, as mentioned in Nihon-shoki, the second oldest book of Japanese history. Karakuni Jinja was originally dedicated to Nigihayahi no Mikoto, who is believed to be the founding father of the Mononobe clan. In the Muromachi period (late 14th century), the shrine included Amano Koyane no Mikoto and was moved to the current location. In the late Meiji period (20th century), the shrine merged with the local Nagano Shrine; now it also houses Susanoo no Mikoto, to whom Nagano Shrine had been dedicated.


*Engishiki: a book of Japanese law and customs compiled in the middle Heian period (early 10th century).

Honden, the main hall

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. The honden of Karakuni Jinja has copper elements in its roof, which describes a beautiful curve against the sky.

Komainu, a pair of lion- or dog-like statues

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.

Chozusha, a pavilion for ablutions

The chozusha (or temizusha)  is a space which houses a canopy and a trough. The trough contains water for the visitor to wash his or her hands and mouth before approaching the shrine, as a means of ceremonial purification.

Torii (Ni no torii), the second gate

Some shrines feature several torii, and in such cases they are called “ichi no torii (the first gate)”, “ni no torii (the second gate)”, “san no torii (the third gate)”, etc., counting from the outside. Ni no torii of Karakuni Jinja is made of stone, and originally belonged to the neighboring Fujiidera (Fujiidera Temple). It was moved to this shrine about 150 years ago.

Sando, the supplicant’s path

The sando is the path leading to the shrine. Karakuni Jinja’s sando extends as long as 180m and is surrounded by lush greenery. It’s listed in “Osaka’s Top 100 Natural Sights”, and each season (each hour, even) gives it a slightly different atmosphere.

Torii (Ichi no torii), the first gate

A torii is a shrine’s main gate, and it serves as a border between our world and that of the gods. The torii of Karakuni Jinja is has the same structure as the famous torii of Itsukushima Jinja (Hiroshima), categorized as ryobu torii, whose pillars are reinforced on both sides by square posts.

Manners at the torii gate

Straighten your clothes, take off your hat and sunglasses, and lower your head as you pass between the two pillars or posts.

Manners at the second torii gate

Straighten your clothes, take off your hat and sunglasses, and lower your head as you pass between the two pillars or posts.

Manners at chozusha

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.

Manners at the main hall

Throw coins (any amount) into the offertory-box.
Ring the gong hung above the offertory-box.
Bow twice, deeply.
Clap your hands twice.
Bow one more time, deeply.