Usa Jingu (Oita Travel): One of the Superb Views in Japan Known for Spiritual Energy
Oita Prefecture is famous for hot spring resorts like Beppu or Yufuin, but do you know other important sightseeing spots you shouldn’t miss? Please visit Usa Jingu, a Shinto shrine surrounded by big nature, with a history over 1000 years. It will surely fill your spirit with equanimity.
One of the Top Three Hachimangu Shrines in Japan
Usa Jingu is located in Usa City, Oita Prefecture, and it has a long history, first built in A.D. 725.
There are as many as 110,000 Shinto shrines in Japan, and the biggest group among them is Hachimangu group. Hachimangu group makes up well over 40,000 among the 110,000 shrines. Usa Jingu in Oita Prefecture we introduce this time is the parent shrine and the highest rank in Hachimangu group exceeding 40,000 memberships. The importance of Usa Jingu is said to be only second to that famous Ise Jingu in Mie Prefecture.
Usa Jingu is famous throughout Japan for its powerful “power spots”(places believed to be filled with spiritual energy). In addition, Usa Jingu has a large collection of arts and crafts recognized as important cultural properties in Japan.
CNN/USA Selected Usa Jingu One of the “31 Most Beautiful Places in Japan”
Usa Jingu is known internationally, not only for its long history but also for its beauty with the vermillion color of the buildings and deep green of its forest.
Related: Motonosumi Inari Shrine: The Amazing View of the Torii Selected by CNN
Japanese Pop Music Group “EXILE” Are Avid Worshippers of Usa Jingu
Usa Station, https://ja.wikipedia.org
The closest railroad station to the shrine is Usa-Station. It is spelled as “Usa” in alphabetized letters, like USA. “EXILE” is a top music group in Japan, and one of its member’s names is also USA. So USA of EXILE visited the Usa Jingu in 2007 to pray for success of their new music. His prayer was answered and the new music was a big success, and the group reportedly has returned many times ever since to date.
The Way to Show Respect Is Different from Other Shrines!
Usa Jingu’s torii (“torii” is a vermillion-colored wooden gate) is unique to the extent that it is called Usa-torii. This unique torii’s top horizontal bar is a small roof made of Japanese Cypress tree barks, and there is no framed calligraphy underneath (most “torii”s have a frame). Vertical poles are decorated with black rings at the top.
- At Temizu (a fountain with its literal meaning “hand & water”) cleanse your hands and mouth, and proceed to go under the Usa-torii.
- Climb the stone steps all the way to the top shrine.
- Three gods are enshrined in the top shrine, and visit them from left to right. You might feel the urge to start at the center, but start from the left. This practice applies in many Hachimangu-group shrines, so please keep this in mind.
- The style to show respect is to bow twice, clap your hands four times, and then bow once more, unlike in other shrines where you bow twice, clap twice, and bow once more. Usa Jingu’s 2-4-1 style signifies its exceptional long history; there are only two shrines in Japan that follow this ancient style today. Make sure you don’t confuse the styles.
- Climb down the stone steps, and visit Gegu. Show your respect from left to right, by 2-4-1 actions each (2 bows 4 claps 1 bow again) in the same manner. Keep note that visiting one shrine and skipping the other is considered taboo.
Three Recommended Spots to Visit in the Shrine Compound
Once you paid your respect to the deities, take a slow stroll in the shrine compound. This is the top shrine of the Hachimangu group, so it’s huge, and surrounded by nature. It’s a pity if you miss its large, precious collection of National Treasures (historically important arts and crafts in Japan) and other cultural assets.
1. Sacred Tree Is Eight Hundred Years Old!
When you visit the shrine, you cannot miss this enormous, stately tree next to the main building. Many people touch the sacred tree, hoping its divine energy flow into them. It is one of the well-known “power spots”.
2. One of “Japan’s 100 Best Bridges”: Kurehashi
Kurehashi is located on the Western Causeway. This sacred bridge is considered a rarity in Japan, as it is roofed with Japanese Cypress tree barks. This wooden bridge with beautiful curves is said to have been constructed in the Kamakura Period (12th ~ 14th century) or earlier.
Kurehashi is generally not open for traffic. Only once in 10 years when the emperor sends an envoy, the door to the bridge is opened. The last festival to welcome the envoy was held in 2015. This bridge is highly recommended to visit when you are there.
3. Meoto Iwa (meaning “husband and wife stones”) Blesses You with a Good Relationship
This is also one of the “power spots” in the Usa Jingu. Meoto Iwa is a part of the pavement of the stone steps leading to the upper shrine. They are two flat stones bigger than other stones, set side by side.
If you are there with your significant other, step on Meoto Iwa, each of you on one stone, together with your hands held. It will bring happiness to your relationship. If you are there alone, step on the two stones simultaneously; it is said to bless you with a good relationship in the future.
Usa Is Famous for Fried Chicken!
Nowadays Usa is very popular throughout Japan for its fried food. Oita Prefecture is said to be the biggest consumer of chicken in Japan, and Usa City is especially crowded with many restaurants offering fried chicken. This is one of the local specialty dishes you would like to try when you visit the Usa Jingu.
The Usa Jingu is undoubtedly one of the top sightseeing spots in Japan, and it will give you a full satisfaction that you touched authentic core of the Japanese culture. Enjoy its vast nature and long history.