Nearest station

Nakanobu

Asakusa,  Tōkyū-Oimachi Lines

Tōkyō-to, Shinagawa-ku, Futaba 4-4-12

東京都品川区二葉4-4-12

上神明天祖神社 

Kami-shinmei-tenso Jinja

Home page: (Japanese)

March 20, 2017

Kami-shinmei-tenso Jinja: History

The information given here comes from the notice boards in the shrines's grounds and its home page. During the Kamakura period, Hebiko, now the Futaba district of Shinagawa-ku, was under the control of a branch family of the Hōjō clan and in 1272 the then administrator of the district withdrew and entrusted the development of the area to his fifth son, Tokichiyo, and granted him several retainers.  Tokichiyo later founded a Buddhist temple, Gonsho-ji (厳正寺) in what is now Ōmori in Ōta-ku, and took the priestly name, Hōenshōnin (法円上人).

In 1322 Musashi Province was ravaged by drought and famine. The then head priest of Gonsho-ji, Hōenshōnin’s nephew, underwent intensive fasting and prayer in an attempt to bring rain to the area. He succeeded, and to thank the gods for their benevolence some of Tokichiyo’s retainers established a shrine, Tenso Jinja, in Hebiko Village. Another version has it 

Enshrined Deities:  

Main

天照大御神     Amaterasu Ōkami 

From Merged Shrines

応神天皇        Emperor Ōjin 

天児屋根命     Ama no Koyane no Mikoto 

In-ground Shrines: 

伏見稲荷社      Fushimi-Inari Sha

厳島弁天社      Benten Sha

Earliest mention of:   1322    

Annual Festival:    September 16

that the shrine was founded in the Kamakura Period by a wealthy local farmer by the name of Morita.

In 1644  the village was split into two, Upper (kami) and Lower (shimo) Hebiko: reflecting this the existing shrine was renamed Kami-shinmei-tenso Jinja and a new one, Shimo-shinmei-tenso Jinj, was consecrated in Shimohebiko.

Description

6-7 minutes on foot from Nakanobu Station. it is one of the Ebara Shichi Fukujin (Ebara Seven Lucky Gods) locations, and the particular kami it enshrines is Benzaiten. Kami-shinmei-tenso Jinja itself is of no real interest: the same cannot be said of its two in-ground shrines, Inari Sha and Benten Sha, particularly the latter. The Inari Sha is located on the left after passing through the torii. Its main feature is a pair of two unusually large and expressive kitsune; altogether the shrine houses three pairs of kitsune. The Benten Sha is located behind and to the right of the main hall. As the kitsune is the messenger of Inari so the snake (hebi) is the messenger of Benzaiten. 

The Legend of the White Snake: In the Kamakura Period there was a clear water spring next to the shrine’s main hall in which a white snake lived. With the passage of time the spring dried up and the snake found a new home in a nearby lake in what is now Togoshi Park. But no mere snake this. It appeared in a dream to a certain Morita Yukichi and pleaded to be allowed to return to its previous home. In response Morita-san persuaded the shrine’s chief priest (gūji) to build a shrine to Benten: this included a small lake containing a small shrine dedicated to the white snake in what is now the shrine’s parking lot.  Old people tell us that on the night when ceremonies were being held to celebrate the return of the white snake what had been a clear starry sky suddenly clouded over and thunder and gale force winds were heard and felt, astonishing everyone present. The Benzai Sha was restored to its current site in1954 through the efforts of a team of volunteers led by a local fireman.

The White Snakes of Benzaiten
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© Rod Lucas 2016-2019

All text and photos by Lucas unless otherwise stated