January 13, 2013
Gion Shrine, Kobe
The Gion Shrine in Kobe stands north of an area called Hirano (which itself lies due north of Kobe Station on he JR line), where the road forms a pass into the mountains. As the name indicates, it is linked to Kyoto's Gion, the Yasaka Shrine. As a small shrine standing within walking distance from where I live in Kobe, this year I visited the Gion Shrine for a "nonbiri" Hatsumode. The shrine's history is as follows. When in 869 Kyoto was troubled by an epidemic, soothsayers in those unashamedly superstitious days decided that was caused by angry spirits that could only be subdued by the deity Susanoo. Susanoo happened to be honored in the Hiromine Shrine in Himeji and his "split-off spirit" (bunrei, from flame to flame) was brought to Kyoto where it was housed in the Tokoji temple (now the Yasaka Shrine of Gion fame). On the way to Kyoto, the spirit of Susanoo spent the night in Kobe, in the area called Hirano that belonged to a priest, Tojobo, who was connected to Enkyoji temple in Himeji (which was again linked to the Hiromine Shrine of Susanoo). That became the origin of the present shrine. Networks are as old as the world. It is a nice place, with a good view over Kobe. There is not much to see, but the steep staircase leading up to the shrine provides a good exercise and the Gion Shrine also has a nice summer festival (13-20 July).