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The main belief system of the Japanese people is called Shintoism.  Shinto is more than a religious faith. It is an amalgam of attitudes, ideas, and ways of doing things that through two millenniums have become an integral part of the way Japanese people live their lives. In Shinto, whatever seems strikingly impressive, possesses the quality of excellence, or inspires a feeling of awe are considered “kami.” Things such as birds, animals, trees, plants, mountains and oceans all fit this description. And, of course, human beings do as well. Kami are the deities of the Shinto religion, but they are different from “gods.”

Now that you understand Shinto, let’s talk about the Ontake shrine. It is located in the territory of the Shinagawa shrine but the Shinagawa shrine does not organize them, rather they are organized by “Ontakeko.” Ontakeko is a type of religious faith of the mountain Ontake[1]. Mt. Ontake is the second highest volcano in Japan after Mount Fuji. Ontake is a major sacred mountain and following older shamanistic practices, actors and artists have gone to the mountain to put themselves into trances in order to get divine inspiration for their creative activities.


The Ontake shrine was built during the Edo period but no one at the Shinagawa Shrine knows the exact date. In the Edo period, the religious faith of the mountain was very popular and it spread throughout Japan. At that time, the Ontake shrine, which is located at the Shinagawa shrine, was much larger than it is currently and people were allowed inside. Nowadays, however, visitors are not allowed inside since the shrine is being re-built due to decay.

So if you visit Mt. Ontake, be sure to also visit Ontake shrine.  It is believed that doing so will bring you the same relaxed feeling you acquire from climbing Mt. Ontake.


[1] Mt. Ontake is located around 100km (62 mi) northeast of Nagoya and about 200 km (125 mi) west of Tokyo, at the borders of Kiso and Ōtaki, Nagano Prefecture, and Gero, Gifu Prefecture.


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