Kanno-Hachiman Shrine – 920 Years Birthday Party
Today I visited a birthday party, the 920th year of Shibuya’s Kanno-Hachiman Shrine (金王八幡宮)! Today 920 years ago a shrine was built to worship a God from the oldest parts of Japanese mythology and today it’s nestled-in between sky scrapers, offices and streets dedicated to modern entertainment. I chanced upon it while taking a short cut from Roppongi to Shibuya and although I must have walked within fifty meters of it hundreds of times I never saw it until today. The celebrations coincided with the huge Shibuya festival and although the sun was beating down on us several scores of celebrants had already left after taking part in the cleansing rituals at the shrine. In English we simply call this a shrine, but there are subtle differences between the basic four (well, five really) types of shrines, and this is a “hachimangu” (八幡宮), which, roughly speaking is the middle type of shrine. It’s different from the regular shrines in that it houses or worships named Gods from the earliest Japanese mythology instead of local animistic spirits. But please don’t quote me on this. The Japanese shrine systems are extremely complicated and 99.9% of all Japanese haven’t got a clue as to the difference between various shrines and how they operate, so I have no one to ask and I can’t read a tenth of all the really obscure vocabulary that shows up in Japanese religious texts. I am sure there are readers of this blog who knows more about this than I do.
If you travel around Japan you’re bound to run into a hachimangu every now and then, so just remember that they are step above the local shrines and often have some specific mythology attached to it. Also, usually, they are much much older, and even at 920 years old this shrine is one of the younger hachimangu around.