This is the sixth of the ex post facto shrine reports I compiled while under self-isolation during the Covid-19 State of Emergency in Tōkyō. I visited it in November 2014.
Sukuna-hikona Jinja offers a very good example of the unity of the spiritual and commercial worlds. It was founded in the building of a trade organisation specialising in traditional Japanese and Chinese herbal medicines, and to this day the organisation continues to function under the aegis of the shrine.
The district in which the shrine is located, Doshō-machi in Ōsaka’s Chūō-ku, first became a centre for the dealing of traditional East Asian medicines during Hideyoshi’s ascendancy in the late sixteenth century. In the Edo
Shinno Entei 神農炎帝
From Merged Shrines
Annual Festival: November 23
Period the Tokugawas entrusted a merchant guild, the Ise Religious Association (伊勢講), consisting of 124 dealers to conduct the trade. As medicine can have both good and bad impacts on human life careful scrutiny of what it is is essential, and for help in this the Association turned to the deities. In October 1780 the kami of the Gojo-Tenjin-sha 五條天 神社 in Kyoto, Sukunahikona-no-miko, was brought to Ōsaka through the bunrei process and housed, along with Shennong, the traditional god of Chinese medicine, in the Association’s headquarters. This is seen as the origin of Sukunahikona Shrine. There was a cholera outbreak in Ōsaka in 1822 and one of the most popular remedies for it was a pill containing a tiger cranium compound. People also made paper figures of tigers and prayed at the shrine for immunity or a cure and to this day the tiger is closely associated with the shrine, as attested to by two of the photos below.
The Association’s headquarters, now the Sukuna-hikona Jinja, was one of the many buildings burnt down during the Ōshio Heihachirō rebellion (大塩平八郎の乱) of 1837, but a new shrine was soon built within the Association’s grounds. In 1906 the shrine’s operators were asked to choose between merging with a nearby shrine or continuing independently: they chose the latter option in order to keep the original kami and a new shrine was built. The formal enshrinement ceremonies were held in 1910. The shrine fortunately escaped damage in the US air raids of 1945. In 1980 the main hall and prayer hall were renovated and a new shrine office built to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Sukuna-hikona’s enshrinement: this was commemorated in a festival held on November 22 of that year. Since then a commemorative festival has been held every ten years. By 2007, but probably long before then, the Ise Religious Association had morphed into the Yakusokō, (Medical Founders Association (?) 薬祖講) and in April of that year It was designated an intangible folk cultural property by the city of Ōsaka. The association’s function is to maintain respect for and support the shrine: a major responsibility is ensuring the smooth performance of its rituals and ceremonies.
The Enshrined Kami
Sukuna-hikone is closely related with Ōkuni-nushi, whom he helped “make and consolidate the land” which became Izumo. He first appeared to Ōkuni-nushi wearing the skin of a tadpole, and it was not until the toad Tani-guku informed Ōkuni-nushi that Kue-biko-kami, later revealed to be the scarecrow of the mountain paddies, would be able to confirm Sukuna-hikone’s identity that he was able to do so. He turned out to be the son of one of the Three Kami of Creation. Shinno Entei is the Japanese reading of a more formal name for Shennong, and the shrine is popularly known as Shinno-San.
Note that the ohotos of Shennong and Sukuna-hikone Kami below are reproduced from the shrine's webpage.