Tsubaki Grand Shrine : An Ancient Mythology Comes to Life

Tsubaki Grand Shrine : An Ancient Mythology Comes to Life

When it comes to Shinto shrines in Japan, Ise Jingu in Ise City, Mie Prefecture, reigns supreme. Widely known simply as “Jingu” (The Shrine), one can easily imagine just how important this sacred site is in the life of the Japanese people, so much so that spiritual seekers in Japan embrace it as “the soul of Japan.”
Today, however, I would like to bring your attention to a much lesser-known shrine but one that is full of rich history and significance in the same prefecture – Tsubaki Grand Shrine.

Written by Cheeserland(https://cheeserland.com/

In Japanese, it is called “Tsubaki Okami Yashiro,” or as affectionately nicknamed by the locals, “Tsubaki-san” This sprawling complex is tucked away in the lush greenery of Suzuka City, and the deity enshrined here is Sarutahiko no Okami, an earthly deity.

To understand the very interesting origin of Tsubaki Grand Shrine, a little bit of knowledge about Japanese mythology dating back to ancient times is needed. A quick review of Kojiki and Nihon Shoki – Japan’s oldest extant chronicles – reveals that when Ninigi no Mikoto, the grandson of Amaterasu, the sun goddess, descends from the High Heaven, he meets a fierce towering figure with a long nose – Sarutahiko – who is standing at the crossroads between heaven and earth.

At first, Ninigi no Mikoto and his party were stopped by this ruddy-faced deity, but Ame no Uzume, the deity of performing arts, charms Sarutahiko with her bright smiles into opening his heart. Finally, Sarutahiko agreed to guide Ninigi no Mikoto to the earth ground that he will reign over.

Now, does something sound familiar? That’s right. Ame no Uzume is the deity who, in the famous Kojiki episode, performs a provocative dance to lure Amaterasu out from her hiding inside a cave (the “Heavenly Rock Cave”). She then later marries Sarutahiko and they continue on to pioneer the land from Mie to all over Japan, and now there are over 2,500 Sarutahiko Shrines nationwide, with Tsubaki Grand Shrine being the head shrine of them all.

Now that we have revisited the backstory of Sarutahiko, it is apparent why other deities like Ninigi no Mikoto and Ame no Uzume are also enshrined in the same precincts.

Now we also know why Sarutahiko is known as the deity of guidance and travel, leading worshippers to the right path in a positive direction. Meanwhile, Ame no Uzume is famously revered as the “Great Persuader,” since she has successfully convinced both Amaterasu and Sarutahiko to yield positive outcomes for the world.

You can find the auxiliary shrine of the goddess, “Tsubakikishi Shrine,” located at the back of the precincts, as well as a waterfall called “Kanae-no-Taki” next to it, which is said to have purifying effects on one’s soul. Some even say that taking a photo of it and using it as a screen saver will bring good luck in romance, since she is also a deity of love and marriage.

After offering prayers and making wishes, you may want to retreat to a serene little tea house located within the shrine compound for a break. Called “Reisho-an,” you can relax on the tatami and enjoy a matcha tea and sweets set for only 800 yen.

The best thing is, you can bring home the meimeizara, a small serving plate on which the Japanese sweet was served. What a steal!

Can’t get enough of soothing green tea, which is a famous specialty of this region in Mie? “Tsubaki Saen” is a stylish tea cafe located just along the approach leading up to Tsubaki Grand Shrine that offers a wonderful assortment of local premium tea served in a cute Setoyaki ceramic cup.

It must be that the people in Suzuka City are extra generous, because here, too, you can bring the cup back home as a souvenir!

Before we leave Tsubaki Grand Shrine, here are just a few fun facts I have gathered.

Fun fact 1:
It is said that the current guuji chief priest in charge of Tsubaki Grand Shrine is the direct descendant of the Sarutahiko himself. Whether or not this is too far-fetched for you to believe, a visit to this direct gateway to ancient mythology may make you curious to peek further into the mysterious past….

Fun fact 2:
There’s actually Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America, the first Shinto shrine built in the United States after WWII. This branch of the Mie Prefecture’s namesake is located in the State of Washington.

Fun Fact 3:
If you are a manga fan, you may have from the start recognized the names of Sarutahiko and Ame no Uzume, as depicted in manga artist pioneer Osamu Tezuka’s “Phoenix” series. If you are a fan, here’s your chance to collect special goshuin stamp books with those characters’ illustrations on the cover.

The access to Tsubaki Grand Shrine is challenging, as one of the nearest train stations is Kintetsu Yokkaichi Station, and from there you need to catch a bus that comes only every two hours, which will take you to the shrine in 50 minutes.

But, perhaps, this is also perfectly why this slice of intriguing real-life mythology is still so well hidden even after two millennia….

Tourist attractions covered by this article