Kuzuharaoka Shrine

Access Map


KuzuhaaThe story dates back to the chaotic time in the 1330s when the Kamakura Period (1185-1333) was nearing an end. Back at the time, the emperor in Kyoto was ambitious Godaigo (1288-1339) and he was trying to restore the nation's supremacy by overthrowing the Kamakura government. Around him were a number of loyal and talented court nobles. One of them was Toshimoto Hino and as a loyalist he shared the same view with the emperor. Though not a samurai warrior, he practiced martial arts devotedly to take part in the overthrowing attempt, and secretly began to recruit fellow members disguising himself as a priest in the Kyoto and Osaka area. However, their plot was somehow leaked out and made known to the Kamakura Shogunate. He was captured in 1324 on charge of the rebel attempt and brought to Kamakura for trial. Fortunately, the court acquitted him and he was pardoned to return to Kyoto.

Emperor Godaigo did not give up the plot, however. Neither did Hino. He was secretly getting support and help from the powerful priests (almost like warriors) of Enryakuji near Kyoto, the headquarters of Tendai sect Buddhism, where Prince Morinaga (1308-1335), son of Emperor Godaigo, was the chief priest. Enryakuji back then was like a fortress employing quite a few fighting priests comparable to samurai warriors. The secret plan proceeded as had been scheduled.

Seven years after the first plot, however, one of the chief retainers of the emperor tipped the Kamakura Shogunate off their planned conspiracy. Hino was captured again and brought to Kamakura for the second trial. He was convicted guilty this time and sentenced to death by decapitation. As its ringleader, Emperor Godaigo was sent off to an island called Oki, roughly 80 kilometers off the coast of Shimane Prefecture. (The island is well known to the Japanese as a ancient prison. From 724 to 1868, nearly 2,000 criminals including two emperors were exiled to this small island on charge of political offense.)

The execution took place on June 3, 1332 at the place where the present-day Shrine stands as it was the execution ground during the Kamakura Period. He read a farewell tanka, or a 31-syllable verse, before the execution, which can roughly translate as follows:

"I will die and vanish here like a dew, but, the bitter feeling of the dew will never disappear."

Very regrettable though it may have been to Hino, his long-cherished and deadly wish was materialized the next year in 1333 by a military lord named Takauji Ashikaga (1305-1358), the founder of Muromachi Shogunate, and another loyalist lord Yoshisada Nitta (1302-1338), who succeeded in conquering Kamakura after the fierce battle. Nearly 870 samurai warriors of Hojo (Kamakura) troops committed mass suicide near Hokaiji ending the 150-year rules by the Minamoto and Hojo clans. Thus, the imperial supremacy was restored. Nevertheless, it did not last long. Takauji Ashikaga took over the ruler's position in 1336, and the new regime under the Ashikaga Shogunate started.

HinoHokyointoThereafter, Hino's story of martyr had long been forgotten. It was only after the Meiji Imperial Restoration of 1868 that an idea of founding a shrine to honor Hino's loyal spirit came up. Proposed by Emperor Meji, Kuzuharaoka Shrine was at long last established in 1888, five and a half centuries after his death. (Emperor Meiji also erected Kamakuragu Shrine in memory of Prince Morinaga).

The Shrine stands here quietly surrounded with trees at the north part of Genjiyama park. Today's Shrine was rebuilt in 2008 at its 120th anniversary of the founding.

Hino's Hokyo-into tomb (Picture; right)

About 100 meters south of the Shrine to the west side of the road is his Hokyo-into tomb. It is 113.2 centimeters high and a Historic Site designated by the Agency for Cultural Affairs of National Government. The tomb was erected in the mid-14th century shortly after his death, and today, it is supervised by the Imperial Household Agency, while the Shrine itself is an independent religious institute. The Japanese Constitution enforced after World War II does not allow the Agency to support specific religious sects.

On October 9, 2004, Typhoon "Ma-on", the most powerful one over the past decade, hit the Kanto region, bringing heavy rain and strong winds. It struck Irozaki cape on the southern tip of Izu Peninsula with the fiercest winds at 243 kph, or 152 mph, the sixth-strongest ever recorded on the Japanese archipelago. The typhoon also brought about rainfall of as much as 70 millimeters, or 2 3/4 inches, for one hour in central Tokyo. About 6,200 households in central and eastern Japan were ordered or recommended to evacuate. Transportation systems in the area were paralyzed. Bullet trains on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line stopped running all day long. Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways cancelled all flights leaving and arriving at Tokyo's Haneda Airport. According to the National Police Agency, the typhoon flooded more than 300 houses and caused 100 landslides. The death toll reached 22. It was the Japanese version of Hurricane Katrina. "Ma-on", which means horse saddle in Cantonese, passed by Kamakura on the evening of October 9. Violent winds and torrential rain caused landslides and felled a lot of trees, giving damages on many historic sites. Hokyo-into for Toshimoto Hino was totally damaged by fallen trees, but was restored immediately by the rich Imperial Household Agency.

Memorial Day for the Loyalist

On weekend of early June, a week or so after Memorial Day in America, a memorial service for Hino is held quietly and solemnly at the Shrine. The service stars at 11:00 a.m. hosted by three Shinto priests. The Shrine's door, which is otherwise tightly closed, is opened, and priests, proceeding to the altar one by one, recite a Shinto prayer. Songs of Japanese bush warblers beautifully echo together with priests' reciting in this wooded shrine grounds as if they are singing in chorus. After about 30 minutes service by the priests, Shintoist visitors, about 50, each wearing a suit, step forward one by one to the altar, receiving a sacred staff made of a sprig of sakaki tree and zig-zaged white paper strips. Before the altar, each places the staff on a stand and pray in Shinto manner, in other words, bows twice, claps hands twice and bows once again. The service lasts for about one hour, and then they go to Hino's tomb to perform requiem rites.

Genjiyama Park
The Shrine is located in a part of Genjiyama park. Given the nature of temples and shrines that are sacred spots for religious people, there are little places in Kamakura for sightseers to take lunch outdoors or tend to a barbecue. But, this 9-hectare park provides them with a good space to open lunch boxes. However, don't come here on weekends of late March to early April at the time of cherry blossoms. The park will be fully occupied by local picnickers (and some revelers), spreading plastic sheets on the ground under the canopy of blossom.

(Updated August 2013)