Upon coming to Wakayama, don't miss Niutsuhime-jinja Shrine - where Shintoism meets Buddhism - Waku Waku

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Upon coming to Wakayama, don't miss Niutsuhime-jinja Shrine - where Shintoism meets Buddhism

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Upon coming to Wakayama, don't miss Niutsuhime-jinja Shrine - where Shintoism meets Buddhism

Wakayama is a prefecture located in the western part of Japan, which is only one hour by train away from Osaka. Therefore, it is very convenient for you to drop by this place to learn more about the rural and close-to-nature life in the journey to discover Japan. Moreover, Wakayama is also famous for its important cultural heritage. This time, I had the chance to visit Niutsuhime-jinja Shrine, a World Heritage!

Vy Nguyen

Vy Nguyen

Published on 23 Apr, 12:00

Upon coming to Wakayama, don't miss Niutsuhime-jinja Shrine - where Shintoism meets Buddhism
When I first heard about this shrine, I was surprised since "hime" in Japanese means princess, so is this the place to worship a Japanese princess in the old time?!

However, after some research, I know that Niutsuhime is the name of a goddess, the younger sister of the goddess of the sun Amaterasu – the most revered deity in ancient Japanese culture. The goddess Niutsuhime is said to have a deep connection with water and is the deity spreading agriculture to the land of Wakayama.

Moreover, the word Ni (丹) in her name means cinnabar - the traditional material used to dye temples red. The Niutsuhime-jinja Shrine is also located right on a cinnabar ore. Isn't it interesting that many things can be interpreted just from the name of the temple?

"Taiko-bashi" bridge with a gorgeous bright red color

I visited Niutsuhime-jinja Shrine on an early May day during Japan's great Golden Week holiday, yet the atmosphere here was still dignified and quiet.

Upon entering, one of the things that impressed me the most was a prominent bright red semicircular bridge at the entrance. This bridge is called Taiko-bashi, and legend has it that it was built to welcome the gods passing by. From the top of the bridge, we can see the main hall looming in the distance.

Japanese people, no matter which religion they follow, all respectfully bow before the gods when entering the temple
Japanese people, no matter which religion they follow, all respectfully bow before the gods when entering the temple

There are 4 main buildings inside Niutsuhime-jinja Shrine to worship 4 different gods:

  • Niutsuhime - the goddess who prevents disasters to protect and nourish all living beings, gives blessings on crops and textiles as well as bring immortality
  • Takanomiko - the son of Niutsuhime and brings happiness to life
  • Ogetsuhime - the deity of grain and food
  • Ichikishimahime - the deity of fortune and talent with a Buddhist origin.

This place is also recognized as the largest construction of the Kasuga-zukuri Shrine architectural style in Japan. It is easy to catch a glimpse of Japanese people respectfully bowing to pray at the shrine.

Another angle from the top of the bridge
Another angle from the top of the bridge

Why Niutsuhime-jinja Shrine is said to be where Shintoism meets Buddhism?

The reason traveled quite far back in time, in the year 816 when Kobo-Daishi discovered this area. At that time, Kobo-Daishi went to Niutsuhime-jinja and asked the gods who ruled this place to develop Shingon Buddhism here. Of course, he got the gods' consent to build this place into the Sanctuary for Koyasan Buddhism, which became very famous later on.

From then on, traditionally, monks, after practicing for 100 days at Koyasan, will go to Niutsuhime-jinja to give thanks to the gods.

Upon coming to Wakayama, don't miss Niutsuhime-jinja Shrine - where Shintoism meets Buddhism
The area in the shrine is filled with the green color of nature, bringing peace and comfort to anyone who comes here

There are also small huts on the premises for people to rest and chat. When I saw this scene, I immediately thought of the famous cartoon "The garden of words", when the two main characters met at a hut like this in the middle of the rain. Anyone thinking like me?

You can choose a cute dog-shaped Ema or a dignified painting, whichever you like
You can choose a cute dog-shaped Ema or a dignified painting, whichever you like

Tada, one unexpected cute thing here is lucky items such as lucky charms and Ema plaques, etc., which have an adorable dog-shaped design! Legend has it that the two dogs, one black and one white, are messengers of Takanomiko, and had accompanied him to escort Kobo-Daishi to this sacred land.

It will take you more than 30 minutes to visit all places inside the Shrine. From Niutsuhime-jinja Shrine, you can go to many famous attractions in Wakayama, including the Buddhist Sanctuary Koyasan or the Jisonin Temple, with the symbol of feminism being a woman's breast on Ema plaques.

Therefore if you love nature and the tranquil atmosphere of shrines and historical stories, don't miss Niutsuhime-jinja in your journey to discover Western Japan!

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