Gosho Jinja Shrine

Access Map


GoshoMHUntil 1908, there were five independent shrines in this neighborhood by the names of Mishima, Yagumo, Konpira, Mirume and Yasaka, each enshrining its own Shinto deity. It was in 1908 that they were consolidated here at Mishima, and renamed the merged shrine Gosho. This is the reason the Shrine is dedicated to five Shinto deities. Gosho means five places and the namesake of Gosho Jinja. The current main hall was rebuilt in 1931.

Portable Shrines
The Shrine has three portable shrines, weighing more than 700 kilograms each. All of them, stored in a small warehouse near the main hall, are gorgeously decorated. One was made at least before 1642 and the other two before 1847 as records show they were repaired those years (later again in 1954 and 1956). At the annual festival held early Sunday of June each year, the portable shrines carried by parishioners parade down the street into the Kamakura beach. This annual festival used to take place on July 7. However, the beach getting increasingly crowded in July with beach-combers, the Shrine brought forward the date by one month.

(Note. On December 3, 2010, a tornado hit Kamakura and a giant ginkgo tree nearby fell over the roof of the warehouse, and one of the portable shrines was damaged.)

Itabi {e-tah-be}, or Stone tablets
The Shrine has a stone tablet called Itabi, a sort of cenotaph. Made in 1262, it measures 1.3 meters high and 42 centimeters wide, and yet kept in good condition. An ICA, it looks like a monument made of stone slab with a triangular top. Itabi was often produced during the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) to console the souls of the departed.

On the slab, an image of Fudomyo-o, or the Immovable (Acala-vidyaraja in Sanskrit), is engraved, and this one here is the only Itabi in Kamakura that represents Fudomyo-o. The Itabi is stored in a shed and visitors may be allowed to view it. Why is the Itabi, a symbol of Buddhism, standing here at this Shinto shrine? Because it was originally installed at an old temple called Kan'noji. When Kan'noji went insolvent, it was brought here. A typical example of eclectic mix of Shinto and Buddhism. For most visitors, however, it rarely crosses their mind why the Itabi is in the Shrine. A typical Itabi can be seen at Nagareyama city's website in Chiba Prefecture.

Koshin is one of the sixty names allotted on each day (and year) in lunar calendar. There is a cyclical system to count days and years based on Chinese zodiac called Eto. The system consists of two groups of ideographs, the twelve-cycle branches (zodiac) and ten stems, which are combined in couples to form an endlessly repeating cycles of sixty units. The twelve branches match with an animal name, such as the Monkey, the Rat, the Tiger etc. The stems begin with Koh and ends with Ki (See Eto in Kamakura Terminology).

is one of this sexagenary cycle. In ancient days, people believed that if they sleep on this Koshin night, three worms living inside their bodies come out while they are asleep and report to the heavenly god all the sins they committed. Since the heavenly god controls their lifetimes, he may shorten them depending on what the worms report. Superstitious though it may seem to today's people, pious people sat up all night at this koshin night so that the worms might be contained in their bodies, and refrained from any wrongdoing. This folk belief is based on Taoism in China, not Buddhism, and was introduced into Japan during the Heian Period (794-1185). Gathering at night and talking all night every sixty days were well accepted by people and the practice flourished like a social party to have a chat and exchange information with neighbors.

are stone markers put up usually every three years to mark the practice. In the Shrine, there are 13 Koshin-to. All had been standing near the Kamakura beach before, but were brought here as the area near the beach was developed with road construction. In Meguro ward, Tokyo, there are some 70 Koshin-to standing even today. Here is one of them.

A pair of statues of Chinese Lion
A pair of stone-carved lions statues standing at the entrance are different from those of other shrines. To be precise, they are Chinese lions which also originate in Taoism. The Shrine is unique in that it shows mixture of Shinto, Buddhism and Taoism.

(Updated December 2010)