"...any being whatsoever which possesses some eminent quality out of the ordinary, and is awe-inspiring, is called Kami.”
Sugiyama Sect 杉山信仰
Sugiyama Jinja Featured on this site in:
Yokohama: Tsuzuki-ku, Nakagawa Tsuzuki-ku, Chigasaki Kōhoku-ku,Shinyoshida Midori-ku, Nishihassaku
Compared with the roughly 32,000 Inari and 25,00 or so Hachiman Jinja the number of Sugiyama Jinja is, at 51 or so, miniscule. There were probably as many as 74 at one time but mergers and closures have reduced their number. They are usually described as being in the drainage basin of the 40km long Tsurumi River which flows into Yokohama Bay: the majority are located in the northern part of Yokohama city and Kawasaki in Kanagawa Prefecture to the southwest of Tokyo. There are also some in Machida and Inagi in the capital south of the Tamagawa River close to Kanagawa.
There are at least two other Sugiyama Jinja well away from the Tsurumi River basin: one of these, the Sugiyama Inari Jinja, is in Fukuoka-shi in Kyushu, and the other is in Sakurai in Nara-ken. I have also come across a single reference to one in Aomori-ken in Tōhoku but have been unable to find any confirmation of its existence
While they may be few in number at least one Sugiyama Jinja is quite old. A Sugiyama Jinja is mentioned in the Engi–shiki, but there are two earlier references and I shall look at those first before returning to the Engi-shiki.
The first mention is in the Shoku Nihon Koki, published in 869 and the fourth of the Six National Histories. We are told that in 838 a Sugiyama jinja in Tsuzuki district in Musashi was considered virtuous enough to warrant an offering from the central government’s Department of Worship. Three years later the same body granted the previously unranked kami of the Sugiyama Jinja a “Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade” designation. Unfortunately the kami is not named.
Back to the Engi-shiki. Doubtless reflecting Musashi’s remoteness in the tenth century from the Imperial court in Heian-kyō, the current Kyōto, and its relative unimportance to the power structures of the time, only 44 of the 2,861 shrines listed in the Engi-shiki are to be found there. However, one of these is a Sugiyama-jinja, but it is not clear which of the now existing shrines of the name it refers to, if any.
Jumping forward nine centuries brings us to the Shin-pen-Musashi-Fudo-Kiko, which mentions the existence of 73 Sugiyama Jinja, 37 in the Tachibana district, 25 in the Tzuzuki district, and six and five in the Minami-Tama and Kuraki districts respectively.
Of these 75 shrines, four are considered as possibly being the one mentioned in the Engi-shiki. None of the cases for the four candidates are interesting so I will not give details here. All four are in what is now Yokohama. Two of them are in Tsuzuki-ku, one in Midori-ku, and one in Kohoku-ku. Links to them are here. Another uncertainty of the Sugiyama Jinja is the lack of a head shrine, similar to e.g. the Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyōto or the Usa Hachiman-gū in Kyushu. A similar comment can be made about the main kami of the Sugiyama Jinja. As mentioned above, the Sugiyama Jinja kami who was given official recognition in 836 was not identified so unlike many other shrine groupings which enshrine a common ancestor kami there is no particular Sugiyama deity.
The Sugiyama-enshrined deities can probably be fairly described as generic. There are two main ones, Yamato Takeru, enshrined at 15 Sugiyama shrines, and Iso Takeru, enshrined at 13.
Amaterasu is enshrined at one Sugiyama Jinja, along with Iso Takeru in fact, and Susano is enshrined at another one, also in the company of Iso Takeru. Iso’s worship at the Sugiyama Jinja may stem from his status as the Tree God.