TOUR OF THE SHRINE PRECINCTS
A worshipper enters Tsubaki Grand Shrine on the omotte sando, the main road, passing the shinboku, the sacred tree that stands in front of the Shishido or Lion Hall, where cars are purified. The first stop is the Te-mizu-ya, the ablution pavilion, where the visitor washes his or her hands and mouth, ladling water first on the left hand, then on the right . A final scoop pours water in the left hand with which to rinse the mouth. Waste water is poured in front of the trough and the visitor proceeds through the great gate, or torii, up the pathway to the main complex.
On the left is the area known as Mifunetakara, according to mythology the place where Ninigi-no-Mikoto landed when he descended from heaven to earth. A shimenawa or rope marks off this purified or holy place, which, in view of its importance in Japanese mythology, is one of the most sacred spots in the whole of Japan.
Beyond, also on the left, is the grave of Sarutahiko OKami. Although graves theoretically are never found in shrines, because the physical aspect of death causes impurity, the grave of a Kami is a rare exception, especially if it is the Kami enshrined in that place. As head of the earthly Kami, Sarutahiko occupies a special place not only in Japanese mythology but in Japanese pre-history as the bridge between the earthly and the heavenly Kami.
Opening to the right is the pathway, or sando, to the place where Ame-no-uzume-no-Kami is enshrined.
Beyond that is the pathway to the Gyomando. This building represents that aspect of Japanese religious life when Buddhism and Shinto were very close, and when worship was often syncretistic. The spirits of sacred deceased persons are revered there, and at Tsubaki Grand Shrine, the souls of those who were dedicated supporters of the Shrine and who in the making of Tsubaki and its long traditions.
The first of the main buildings is the Haiden, or outer worship hall, where the worshipper at the shrine may worship either inside or outside, performing the ritual of worship ac cord ing to the time-honored sequence - two bows, two claps and a final bow - in Japanese ni-hai-ni-hakushi-ippai.
The Haiden is unique because the architecture of Tsubaki Grand Shrine viewed from the side is known as Gongen-zukuri. Gongen means incarnation and refers to styles of buildings where Shinto and Buddhism were mixed in the past. It is common in old mountain shrines. But Gongen has a unique roof style which Tsubaki does not share. The roof is Shinmei-zukuri which we share with the Grand Shrines of Ise. This also is unique to this shrine, because with the Grand Shrines of Ise, Tsubaki is one of the two shrines that most people will wish to visit once in their lifetime. Between 1.5 and 2 million people now make pil grim ages to Tsubaki Grand Shrine every year.
To the left of the Haiden is the Shamusho or shrine offices. To enter the Haiden you go through the office entrance where the pho to graphs of famous visitors are dis played, including almost all of Japan's Prime Ministers since the end of the Pacific War.
Inside the Haiden, also called the Kaguraden, various services take place, including the chohai or morning worship and assembly of all the shrine staff at the beginning of each day at 8 a.m. The young priests begin cleaning the grounds, brushing the gravel and washing the stones in front of the Haiden, just after 6 a.m. The morning assembly includes a welcome to any visitors, a report on the events of the day as well as anything else of importance.
Later in the morning, if members from far-flung chapters are visiting, young shrine maidens, Miko, perform Kagura, a re-enactment of the dance of Ameuzume-no-Mikoto. They wear their distinctive ver mil ion red hakama with the white kimono top and ancient headdress. They perform the dance to centuries-old music. To appreciate the subtlety of the dance, one needs to see it many, many times.
In the Heiden or Noritoden as it is also called, more specialized rites take place, including the presentation of a branch of the sakaki tree, an evergreen that grows only in Japan. This is decorated with a strip of gohei, the sacred paper that enables the human soul and that of the Kami who alights on the evergreen to effect a meeting in which the human soul is purified and inspired. This branch is presented with the formal two bows, two claps and one bow by the representative of the group. It may also be presented by an individual to complete the act of sampai or formal shrine worship.
The Heiden is in front of the Honden or inner sanc tu ary and is the closest anyone except a priest may go, (and indeed only a priest of high rank or status.) The worshipper then passes in front of the Honden, and is served a small cup of sake with which to conclude the communion with the Kami.
After the devotions, visitors may walk through the grounds to enjoy the atmosphere, and may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of, or be startled by, one of the many huge foxbats that sleep atop the tall hinoki or Japanese cypress trees that cover the shrine area. Some of these trees are hundreds of years old and seem almost to be a ladder to the Plain of High Heaven.
To remind people of some of the treasures of Japanese culture, Tsubaki has a tea house, Reishoan, dedicated by Mr. Konosuke Matsushita, founder of Matsushita Corporation. In the 16th century in Japan, the art of tea-making and tea drinking was elevated to a semi-mystical ceremony with deep religious and philosophical meaning. Here visitors can experience the peace and tranquility that Chado, the Way of Tea as set forth in the Tea Ceremony, can give to its practitioners--a calming end to the encounter with Tsubaki Shinto.