The Shrine Secluded in a Cedar Forest
Kinpo-jinja is a Shinto shrine at the edge of a centuries-old cedar forest, in Semboku City, near Kakunodate feudal town, in Akita prefecture in the north of Japan. The shrines benefits from a remote location in the heart of nature to display a sublime and enchanting atmosphere.
Kinpo shrine is a place one chooses to visit. A dense suginami forest of tall cedar trees is hiding the small Shinto enclosure and its raw wood pavilions from the road and make it blend into the natural environment. Besides, the site is a designated Akita prefecture natural monument.
Away from the hustle and bustle, Kinpo-jinja’s enclosure is empty most of the time, which is particularly enjoyable and gives the shrines its secret and old-fashioned aspects. A handful of worshipers and sightseers purposely come to visit the site, accessible by car 🚙 from the nearest stations, or by foot for those who like walking. The shrine’s yearly matsuri festival takes place on August 18.
Founded in 718, the shrine was moved to its current location at the end of the 12th century. It worships no less than 14 Shinto kami deities, including the most important of the pantheon such as Izanagi and Izanami, the archipelago’s founding couple, and Amaterasu the sun goddess. Several spirits related to the natural elements and good harvests are also venerated, as well as Empress Jingu (169 – 269), Emperors Ojin (200 - 310) and Ankan (466 - 536) among others.
Several Shinto kami and omnipresent nature
The 3 discreet torii ⛩️ gates marking the entrance of Kinpo shrine are overshadowed by the impressive height (about 30 meters high) of the huge cedar trees. Then, the Nio-mon gate stands, a raw wood construction dating to 1857. It shelters 2 Nio guardians warding off the demon spirits, that are usually placed at the entrance of Buddhist temples. Each statue measures 3,8 meters high and was carved into a single piece of a giant cedar tree. Visitors are fascinated by the guardians’ wrathful stare, from which it takes a moment to move away and climb a stone stairway covered in cedar needles.
2 stone komainu statues await parishioners in front of Kinpo-jinja’s main cult pavilion:
- The Haiden hall, dedicated to prayer, built in 1921; and,
- The main hall Honden, where the kami are enshrined, designated Semboku City Important Cultural Property, for its building that has been preserved since 1752.
Moss is omnipresent and covers every part of the shrine and the foot of the trees. The forest’s humidity and darkness allows it full development. The huge cedar trees, aged between 350 and 800 year old for the most ancients, give a feeling of protection. They really are impressive, and while they are silent and still, one can still feel their mesmerizing presence. The pavilions truly blend in a complete harmony with the centuries-old forest.
Kinpo-jinja is a place perfectly suitable to amateurs of ancient and subdued places of worship. Standing in the heart of nature, the shrine is off the beaten touristic tracks while not too far from Akita prefecture’s major sightseeing sites, such as the feudal city of Kakunodate or Lake Tazawa-ko.