Goryo Jinja Shrine

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The Shrine is dedicated to the soul of an extraordinarily brave samurai with great physical strength, who had lived here before the Kamakura Period (1185-1333). His name is Kagemasa Kamakura (1069-?), commonly known as "Gongoro" and local people call the Shrine "Gongoro-san.' (san is an honorific).

GoryoMHAt age 16, he took part in a battle at Yokote, Akita Prefecture as a retainer of Yoshiie Minamoto (1039-1106), great-grandfather of Yoritomo Minamoto, who established the Kamakura Shogunate. During the bitter battle, his left eye was shot by an enemy's arrow. Undaunted, he bravely continued fighting and knocked the enemy down. When he came back to the camp, the arrow was still stuck in his eye. His colleague tried to help remove it putting his foot on Kagemasa's forehead. Kagemasa got upset and accused the colleague of his rude manner. Samurai were full of pride and self-respect those days, and the face being stepped on by foot offended him. Obviously, it was against the samurai code and was never bearable for Kagemasa. The colleague deeply apologized for his discourtesy and the arrow was eventually pulled out in proper manner. In addition, Kagemasa's injured eye was cured soon afterward.

To commemorate this anecdote, a pair of fletchings were employed as the crest of the Shrine and they appear on the tiles of roof and on the money-offertory box. Kagemasa's prowess and manner were highly praised as a role model of Kanto samurai. Hence the Shrine is credited by the locals with its power of healing eye-diseases. Also to praise his braveness, a Jizo statue named Yagara (arrow) was made. It had long been enshrined at Engakuji. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. Today, a stone monument for this statue stands at Keisho-an of Engakuji and is listed 14th of the Kamakura Twenty-Four Jizo Pilgrimage. At the Keisho-an's hall, archery lovers in Kamakura are often practicing archery before the altar.

In the Shrine's ground, there are a pair of round stones which are dubbed asTamoto-ishi , or a "sleeve stone" and Tedama-ishi, or a "stone in one's hand". Legend has it that the larger stone weighing 105 kilograms was in Kagemasa's sleeve-pocket and the smaller one weighing 60 kilograms was in his palm as if they had been his toys. The stones are to show he was a man of muscle.

There are quite a few Jinja named "Goryo'"in Japan. Go is a prefixal honorific and ryo denotes souls. According to Shinto dogma, those who died an unnatural death, died by violence or in a state of anger or resentment need to be buried with courtesy and reverence, and their souls should be enshrined to appease their curse. Otherwise, it is believed, people will incur divine wrath and punishment, or revenge will be exacted by the malevolent spirits of the dead. Goryo Jinja were thus erected throughout Japan to exorcise evil spirits, and special services are performed regularly to soothe the revengeful spirits. In the Shrine, wooden statues of Kagemasa and his wife are enthroned on the altar, but they are not visible. As usual in Shinto shrines, only a round mirror is placed in the center.

Ishigami sub-shrine

In the Shrine courtyard, there are four sub-shrines. One of them, Ishigami sub-shrine is dedicated to a big stone salvaged from the sea bottom off the Kamakura coast. In ancient days, the stone sitting on the seabed was obstructive for the fishermen, and fishing boats were often damaged mysteriously. One day, they pulled out the stone and enshrined it in the Shrine as their patron deity. Ever since, they have had no troubles. Though the object of worship is said to be the stone, we cannot confirm it as the doors are always closed.

One of the Seven Deities of Good Fortune

In the storage house down the main hall are masks to be worn at the Menkake Procession. The door is usually shut. Visitors can view them paying a fee of 100-yen to the Shrine office. Among the ten masks is that of Fukurokuju, or the God of Wealth and it is one of Kamakura Shichifukujin, or the Seven Deities of Good Fortune. The office is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


At the far right of the main hall are several tomb-like stones standing, which are called Koshin-to. For details on Koshin-to, see Gosho Jinja. In Meguro ward, Tokyo, there are roughly 70 koshin-to even today. One of them can be seen here in its website.

Annual Events

July 20: Festival for Ishigami sub-shrine

After Shinto rituals, several young men go to the shore and swim, with a bowl of parboiled rice mixed with red beans, to the point from where Enoshima, a small island in the neighboring city of Fujisawa, can be seen, in other words, the point where the divinized stone was supposed to have been sitting, and drop the rice into the sea. Rice boiled with red beans is called sekihan or "red cooked rice" and often served on auspicious or festive occasions. With respect to Enoshima, refer to Enoshima Shrine.

September 18: Menkake Procession

paradeKagemasa is thought to have died on September 18. The Shrine's annual festival takes place on this day. It undertakes a unique Menkake (masked) Procession, which is the highlight of the festival. A group of ten wearing grotesque or comical masks and kimono, will leave the Shrine usually at 2:30 p.m. and parade through the nearby streets accompanied by portable shrines and festive music. The names of the masks are also unusual: Jiji {gee-gee} (elderly man), Oni (demon), Igyo {e-gyo} (strange appearance), Hananaga (long nose), Karasu-tengu (crow goblin), Okina (aged man), Hifuki-otoko {he-foo-kee o-toh-koh} (fire-blowing man), Fukurokuju (one of the Seven Deities of Good Fortune as noted above) and two Okame (fat-face woman). Okame is a discriminatory word to express women's aspect which are moon-faced with flat nose, plump cheek and prominent forehead. (Japanese slang has ten categories to evaluate women's face ranging from the most beautiful to the ugliest. Okame ranks 6th.) In the parade, one Okame is disguised as a pregnant woman followed by the other who is a midwife.

What is the origin of this quizzical masks? Legend has it that when Yoritomo Minamoto was in power as the First Shogun, he got an underclass girl pregnant. The girl and her family had to serve Yoritomo secretly to conceal their identity. The masks were good tools to disguise themselves. As a matter of fact, one of the ten paraders is disguised as a pregnant woman. Later, these masks were used as an attraction for the festival. Others say that the parade was modeled after the Gigaku {ghe-gah-koo}, which was imported from Korea in the early 7th century. Either way, today's procession by the 10 masked men is a novelty and can be seen nowhere else. It is designated, therefore, as an Intangible Cultural Asset by Kanagawa Prefecture.
A ancient Gigaku mask on view at MFA.


Shibaraku: Popular number of Kabuki Play and Kagemasa

The name of Gongoro Kagemasa reminds us Japanese of a famous Kabuki play entitled Shibaraku {she-bah-rah-koo} meaning "Wait a moment!". The outline of the story: A distinguished court noble Kiyohara by name is visiting Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine accompanied by his attendants, where a pious devotee named Kamo {kah-moh} comes across. Kiyohara is jealous of Kamo having a beautiful fiancee and wants to take her by force. Kiyohara, an influential man in the politics, tries to crab with Kamo. But, Kamo does not respond. Kiyohara grow impatient and finally order his men to kill Kamo. At the very moment his man strike Kamo with his sword, someone shouts from behind, "Wait a moment", and here comes our Kagemasa as a retainer of Kamo. Not only does he protect Kamo, but he kills their enemy. The part of Kagemasa has always been played by famous actors. The play is one of the most popular 18 numbers. A woodblock print of "Shibaraku" played by Ebizo Ichikawa II (1688-1758) on display at MFA.

Mt. Chokai in Yamagata Prefecture
Between Yamagata and Akita Prefectures lies a volcanic mountain called "Chokai" with an altitude of 2,236 meters. The enemy who shot an arrow into Kagemasa's eye was a famous samurai, Yasaburo Toriumi by name. The Toriumi was a powerful samurai clan in this region until the mid-11th century. The family name "Toriumi" is also called "Chokai" in kanji (Chinese Characters). Mount Chokai is said termed after the family's name.

(Updated August 2010)