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  • Writer's pictureDia KL

Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple 高塚愛宕地蔵尊


Torii at the entrance path to the temple and shrine. Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊
Torii at the entrance path to the temple and shrine.

I am really lucky that one of my friends is performing in Shonai Kagura (Japanese sacred dance) and she invited me to their next performance in a beautiful temple (which also has a shrine) in Hita during a small local festival. So in a nice spring rainy day I came to Takatsuka Atago Jizouson (高塚愛宕地蔵尊). Reaching the grounds you are greeted with a torii and then you have to go up the stairs with shops that lead up to the temple/shrine.


Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊
Stairs leading up to the temple/shrine.
Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊
Towards the end of the stairs reaching the bell tower.

There was a sacred Ginkgo tree which was over 1300 years old. I couldn't photograph it because it was so huge but you can see part of his base at the photo below, it has a "shimenawa" around it - a shimenawa is a thin or thick twisted rope made of straw which indicates sacredness and is usually strung around an object or hung in front of a space.

Genkgo sacred tree base at the back with the shimenawa around it. Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊
Genkgo sacred tree base at the back with the shimenawa around it.

Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊

Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊

There are many statues of "Jizo", the guardian deity of children and travelers. Red is the colour the protects and wards off evil so you will see many red bibs and hoods.


Temizuya to purify. Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊
Cute temizuya.

Temizuya is a water font and basin used to purify yourself in the form of cleaning your hands and rinsing your mouth. And of course everything in Japan is cute so there were sweet rubber ducklings on it.


I purchased my candle and incense, lit them up and placed them before I went forward.

Candles at the temple / shrine. Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊
Candles at the temple / shrine.

The incense burner. Japan temple shrine. Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊
The incense burner.

Takatsuka Atago Jizo is known for it's rare Jizo statue which retains the form of a mixture of Shinto and Buddhism, reminding us that these two religions were intertwined in Japan for around 1200 years, until they were forcibly separated by the state in the early 19th century (this is a really interesting story, will write about it in another post). That is why there is a torii gate (toriis are part of shrines, not temples), marking the sacred ground to the auxiliary shrine for the sun goddess, Amaterasu Omikami.

Every year, on the 24th of March, the Spring Festival takes place in the temple. Worshipers come to pray, watch the Kagura dance and there is even a lottery with prizes for everybody who attends.


lucky lottery during the spring festival in Japanese temple. Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊
Central area and the lucky lottery house.
lucky lottery during the spring festival in Japanese temple. Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊
A closer look of the lucky lottery house.

When the lucky lottery started they had put barricades and everybody were in the line. You drew a number and then you received mochi (rice cake) and two items which could be anything from snacks and instant noodles to cooking oil and toilet paper. The elders giving the items were a bit surprised and happy to see a foreigner! I got napkins and toilet paper :)

Further on, there was a Ichinendo cave, a cave-like tunnel with many Jizo statues.

Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊

Ichinendo cave

Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊

The worship tunnel was built in 2002 to commemorate the 1050th anniversary of the temple. So the temple at the moment is more than 1070 years old! More than 2000 Jizo statues, donated by worshipers, are enshrined above, in and around the tunnel.

Before entering the tunnel there was a cute statue of three characters which I think represented the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil", which is known as the "three wise monkeys" who are carved in the Tosho-gu shrine in Nikko. The Buddhist teachings said that if we do not hear, see or speak evil, we ourselves shall be spared from evil.

"see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" characters, Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊 in Takatsuka Atago Jizoson temple
見 see - 言 speak - 聞 hear
Beautiful temizusha to purify yourself, before entering the tunnel. Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊
Beautiful temizusha to purify yourself, before entering the tunnel.
Entering the Ichinendo tunnel. Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊
Entering the Ichinendo tunnel.

At the temples and shrines, before the worship or image hall, you will find a "saisenbako", an offering box with a screened top, in which the worshipers toss money. Directly over the offering box or behind it you will have a kind of bell attached to a thick rope, either a "waniguchi", a flat round hollow metal slit gong, or a "suzu", which looks exactly like a big bell. The worshiper shakes the rope to ring the bell after money has been deposited to the offering box. The purpose is to call the attention of the deity before offering a prayer. In Takatsuka Atago Jizoson they had both a waniguchi and a suzu.

People shaking the bells before offering a prayer. Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊
People shaking the bells before offering a prayer.

Afterwards I got my "omikuji", a paper fortune. It can be anything from great blessing to great curse or misfortune. Fortunately mine was good fortune :)

omikuji in japanese temple. Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊
My omikuji.

But the reason I was there was to watch the Shonai Kagura dance (next post)! And it was one of the most beautiful performances I've seen during my time in Japan!


During a break of the performance I looked back at the temple, although it was raining it was beautiful with the cherry blossoms all around the area.

Takatsuka Atago Jizoson temple with rain and cherry blossoms. Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊
Beautiful even during the rain.

When the Kagura finished, going down some other stairs, I noticed another beautiful cherry blossom. All the shops apart of one were closed, I had a look and there was a lovely smiling grandma which I found irresistible not to buy something to support her.

Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊

Takatsuka Atago Jizouson temple for Shonai Kagura sacred Japanese dance, Kusu, Oita prefecture, Japan. 高塚愛宕地蔵尊
Posing for a photo under the cherry blossom and in front of the sweet grandmas lonely shop.

Everything was perfect and now was time to find a nice onsen to relax...


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