Monday, August 9, 2010

Travel Spot: Atsuta Shrine, Nagoya, Japan

Last week I posted an entry about Japan's most sacred shrines, the Ise Grand Shrines. Today I'd like to discuss the second most sacred shrine, the Atsuta shrine in Nagoya. Ise is important enough that it gets some foreign visitors. The Atsuta shrine, in spite of its importance, doesn't usually come up on the itineraries of visitors to Japan. That's too bad.
Atsuta is located south of the main downtown area, and is accessible by both train and subway. The shrine is not ostentatiously marked, and I had to wander a bit from the Atsuta station before I found it. It is notable from the outside mostly as a mass of trees and greenery in the urban landscape.
The shrine itself is said to house the sword of the Imperial regalia, although this is never on display and its presence is never officially confirmed. Atsuta has a 2000 year history, and in addition to the sword, it has over 4000 relics, including hundreds of Important Cultural Properties, and at least one National Relic of Japan. Many of these can be seen in the rotating displays in the shrine's treasure house.
The shrine also houses a school for Shinto priests, and in the morning the students can be seen, clad in white, sweeping the public areas of the shrine.
In addition to the student priests, there are many Miko attending the shrine. Miko, or shrine maidens, must be young and unmarried, and are often the daughters of priests. At the shrines, they run the shops that sell religious items, attend at ceremonies, and assist the priests.

Nagoya tends not to be high on the list of tourist stops, in spite of being the third-largest city in Japan. It is an industrial town, and a very busy port, and has the reputation of not having much to see. This really isn't true. In addition to Atsuta, there is Nagoya castle, the vibrant port with many attractions, a zoo, an art museum, and museums operated by Toyota and Noritake China, both headquartered in Nagoya. Nagoya castle, in addition to being a beautiful expression of Japanese castle architecture, is historically significant as the home of the first Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. Nagoya is definitely worth a visit.

Visiting information for Atsuta shrine is available here, and information on Nagoya is here.

1 comment:

  1. thank you for your beautiful photos of Ise-shi and Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya.
    i was fortunate to visit both last spring when I studied in Shinshiro with a traditional shibori artist, Hiroko Harada. Harada san took me to Atsuta Shrine and we had a wonderful visit. I too, saw a shrine maiden raking the gravel. So elegant and beautiful. I was happy to have spent time there before my solo trip to the Shrine of the Naiku. I felt like I was at the door of heaven trying to spot the golden roofs glinting through the towering