The question of Japanese religion is complicated. Most Japanese label themselves not very religious, while going to a shrine or a temple on special occasions and regularly making offerings at home altars. Being a buddhist doesn’t mean that the person is not a shintoist at the same time. Even distinguishing buddhism and shintoism is quite hard at times. But at least we can be sure that we are at a shinto shrine, if we have passed a specific gate, torii. From that point, you are entering a sacred territory. Although it is sacred even if we talk about a tiny shrine squeezed into residential area, but, of course, this sacredness becomes more evident in a big shrine, surrounded and supported by nature.
Kameoka Hachimangu, situated just a ten minute walk from Tohoku University Kawauchi campus, is a type of shinto shrine many foreigners picture when they imagine a real Japanese shrine. Old stone steps, ancient trees, monuments with almost unreadable engravings create a certain power spot aura.
The beginnings of the shrine should be searched in 1190, when it was built by Date family in Yanagawa-machi (Fukushima prefecture). In 1681 it was moved to the present place, where, eight years later, famous Japanese poet Basho stopped for a rest and a cup of tea. The shrine’s main building itself perished during the Bombing of Sendai in World War II, but the area between the gate and the steps leading to the shrine is the same as it was when Basho came here.
Go right under a big cherry tree, to pass a magnificent red bridge. Just by feeling the leaves touching your hair, you can understand that this place is always happy to greet a visitor.
Up the stone steps that look like they haven’t changed a bit in the last few hundreds of years, walk and walk and walk, looking at the peculiar objects scattered around the territory.
And again to the steps, stopping at temizuya - a purification spot, where you have to clean your hands and mouth to enter the sacred territory. And then climb again to the shrine’s buildings.
Three kami are being enshrined here. First one is Tamayori-bime - the daughter of the sea-dragon and the mother of Emperor Jimmu, Hachiman Daimyojin - the guardian of warriors, and his mother, Empress Jingu, a legendary warrior herself. It doesn’t mean that this shrine is suitable only for those who fancy a career in the armed forces - students, researchers, startuppers etc. - we all can be considered warriors, as we are fighting our own fights. That is why Kameoka Hachimangu amulet may become a great support in your everyday activity.
But the main reason to come to the shrine is just to enjoy the atmosphere. In this sacred forest, where people of many generations have prayed, everything is so pure and simple. I guess, this is what shinto is about.