Takuhi Shrine, , Nishinoshima, Oki Islands, Shimane Prefecture 焼火神社
Takuhi Shrine is the most important and also the oldest shrine on the island of Nishinoshima in the Oki Islands of Shimane Prefecture in western Japan. It is located about three quarters of the way up 452 meter high Mount Takuhi, which is the cone in the middle of the sunken caldera that forms the Dozen Islands.
Because of its position the shrine was used as a lighthouse and was well known for protection of those at sea. Many legends attribute miracles to the deity here including one about the exiled Emperor Gotoba who became lost on his sea journey to exile in the Okis.
Sailors on the kitamaebune ships on the important Sea of Japan trade route would perform rituals on their ships to the shrine, and sailors from the other side of Japan would even make pilgrimages here.
Nowadays the shrine is mostly known for being built partially in a cave. The rear-most structure, the honden, where the god resides, is back inside a small cave and the larger haiden, prayer hall is in front. It is believed that originally yamabushi, mountain ascetics, used the cave as a place of worship.
History of Takuhi Shrine
Some time during the Heian Period (794-1185), a temple, Takuhizan Unjuji, was built here, and like many shrines throughout Japan it was in fact a temple for most of its history until the late 19th century when it was converted into a shrine.
Evidence of its Buddhist history still remains though. The current honden, featuring elaborate reliefs and carvings, was built in 1732 and interestingly was not constructed here but in Osaka and then shipped and reassembled in its present location.
Getting to Takuhi Shrine involves a 15 minute walk up a mountain trail from the road below. The area around the shrine is a nature preserve and a side trail can take you to the very top of the mountain, so it can be experienced as a nature walk as a well as a cultural visit.
You pass through a couple of torii and past some smaller shrines on the path up through the dense, green, and often wet woodland. When the path levels off and opens up you come to the large and imposing priest's residence. Though no longer permanently inhabited, the current head priest can often be found at the shrine. He grew up here as a child but the family later moved down to the base of the mountain.
He is the 21st generation of his family to serve here as priests, but it must remembered that most of those would have been as Buddhist priests.
Takuhi Shrine Cave
A few more minutes, past a huge and ancient tree and more sub shrines and statues, the shrine itself, climbing up into the cave, comes into view.
Steps lead up at the side of the shrine enabling a closer look at the carvings on the honden as well as to a couple of other smaller shrines, one of which has a statue of the Buddha.
According to the priest, higher up the mountain is another shrine enshrining Sanjin, that he explained as a form of Tengu, showing the strong connection between the shrine and the mountain worship of the yamabushi.
The shrine's main festival is on July 23rd, and following ceremonies and Miko dances, Dozen-style kagura is performed all through the night in the priest's residence.
There is no public transport to Takuhi Shrine. The parking space from where the trail goes up the mountain is about 8 kilometers from the ferry port in Beppu, or 4 kilometers from Mita, so rental car, taxi, or bicycle is used.
Takuhi Shrine, Mita, Nishinoshima-cho
Oki-gun Shimane 684-0303
Tel: 0851 22 1577
Getting Between the Oki Islands
A fairly frequent and fast ferry service connects the three islands of Dozen, but between Dozen and Dogo you need to use the car ferry or fast ferry.
Read more about access to the Oki Islands and getting around the islands.
Useful Oki Island Resources
- Oki Islands UNESCO Global Geopark
- Oki Islands Events Calendar
- Oki Islands Nishinoshima
- Oki Kisen Ferries