Author: Richard Perkins
Photos/Videos Taken: 2021/05/24
Address: 3-1 Miyamachi, Fuchu-shi,
大國魂神社 (ōkunitama jinja) is a Shintō shrine in the city of Fuchū, Tokyo in which the main deity is 大國魂大神 (ōkunitama-no-ōkami). Ōkunitama-no-ōkami is a guardian that watches over 武蔵国 (musashi no kuni), which is the former name of Tokyo, Kanagawa prefecture, and Saitama prefecture. It's said that Ōkunitama-no-ōkami is the same deity as 大国主命 (ōkuninushi-no-mikoto), the deity of Izumo shrine (which is said to possibly be Japan’s oldest shrine).
On May 5th, 111 Ōkunitama shrine finished construction, making it a shrine with over 1900 years of history. Along with the main deity Ōkunitama-no-ōkami, there are 7 other deities enshrined here. Those deities include 小野大神 (ono-no-ōkami), 小河大神 (ogawa-no-ōkami), 氷川大神 (hikawa-no-ōkami), 秩父大神 (chichibu-no-ōkami), 金佐奈大神 (kanasana-no-ōkami), 杉山大神 (sugiyama-no-ōkami), and 御霊大神 (mitama-no-ōkami).
What separates Ōkunitama shrine from other shrines is that the main shrine is facing an unusual direction. Usually, a shrine faces a southern or eastern direction. A shrine usually faces either of these directions as this is where sunlight can best come in contact with the shrine and everything there can grow. Ōkunitama shrine was hit by fire and was rebuilt to face a northern direction. This direction signifies that the power which lies in the Imperial Court has a hard time reaching the northeastern region of Japan and that because of this the power of the deities will rule over that part (the northeastern region) of the country.
On the grounds of Ōkunitama shrine there are other smaller shrines. One of which is 宮乃咩神社 (miyanome jinja). At Miyanome shrine there are many 柄杓 (hishaku), a type of ladle found at Buddhist temples and Shintō shrines that are used to scoop out water when purifying oneself before visiting the main shrine, lined up along the sides of the shrine. Many people visit this particular shrine to pray for the smooth and safe birth of a child. Just like at other shrines across Japan, one writes their wish for a smooth and safe birth on an 絵馬 (ema), a wooden tablet designed for writing one’s prayers on, and then hangs it on the grounds here. However, after the wish of a smooth and safe birth comes true, there is a custom to dedicate a hishaku with a hole in it to this shrine. This particular hishaku symbolizes an effortless birth as water effortlessly runs through these hishaku without getting stuck.