In the middle of the busy city of Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, there is a small forested area with a torii gate in front, leading to a tall flight of stairs with stone lanterns on the sidelines. This is the Sendai Toshogu Shrine an enshrine of Tokugawa Ieyasu.Tokugawa Ieyasu was the first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate.Tokugawa Ieyasu exists as the deity of this shrine.
After walking up the stairs, you reach the Zuijin-mon Gate (on the right) with its guardians on each side. Each guardian has their mouth disposed a certain way. One is appeared to be making the sound “Aa,” as in the letter ‘A,’ while the other is appeared to be making the sound “Nn,” which would be the Japanese equivalent to the letter ‘Z.’ This signifies the beginning and the end of everything, the alpha and the omega.
Passing through the Zuijin-mon Gate, I approached the last set of stairs, leading up to the haiden (worship hall) of the shrine. Behind the haiden is the honden (main hall) where the kami, or god, is enshrined; this is where you pray. First you put a small amount of money into the saisen box (box to put money offerings to the gods), bow twice, clap your hands twice, say your prayers, and then bow one more time when you are done praying.
On the left is the kagura-do which translates literally to ‘god entertainment hall.’ This is where performers for the gods will dress in traditional masks and costumes which appear strange to most westerners, and do dances or play taiko drums at festivals. This is quite common in Japan, and these performances are widely celebrated.
On the right we have the house of the mikoshi-do (hall used to transport the gods, a portable shrine). A mikoshi-do is carried through local communities on ceremonial occasions to symbolize the presence of the deity. Depending on the size of the mikoshi, it could take dozens of people to carry it, not to mention up and down large flights of stairs.
The picture above is of the Furumine-Jinja Shrine. As you can see from the picture, they are very humble compared to some larger shrines.
There are many shrines on the same precinct that enshrine different gods.
I made my way down the large steps, reflecting on my journey to this shrine. I realized the fewer people at a shrine the better; it is just a much more peaceful experience when you know it’s just yourself and kami. Also, shrines are typically beautiful, and it is nice to look in any direction and see absolutely no one. I know I enjoyed it, this was one of my favorite shrines, and the quietness of the surroundings mad my visit even more worthwhile.