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Tamatsukuri Inari Shrine

Tamatsukuri Inari Shrine in Osaka had a long history before it enshrined

Inari and became famous in that regard.Its founding is said to be 12 B.C.E.

during the reign of Emperor Suinin when it originally worshiped Shitateru Hime.The name Tamatsukuri,literally“jewel making”,is the name of the area around the shrine and refers to a guild of jewel makers (Tamatsukuri-be) that inhabited this areas during the Yayoi period (200 B.C.E.-250 C.E.).The jewel here is the comma-shaped magatama of great sacred and shamanic power.A tradition associates Shôtoku Taishi (574-622),the first regent of Japan,with this shrine.In 587,when fighting the Mononobe clan over the buddhism problem,Shôtoku stuck a piece of white chestnut wood (some traditions say a chopstick) into the ground at this shrine and said :“If I will win,let this stick bring forth leaves.”It did,and he did,and buddhism took firm root in Japan.

  Inari became associated with this shrine sometime in the late Heian period.In the Muromati period (1392-1568),the kami were formally enshrined as the“Inari of Five happinesses”(Inari Gokô Daimyôjin).A fire during a battle in 1576 destroyed all shrine buildings and records,and when Hideyoshi built Osaka Castle,this shrine became its protector.At this time the shrine was called Toyotu (Abundant Bay) Inari Shrine and had several Buddhist halls within the precincts.Its Kannon Hall became one of the thirty-three sites for Kannon pilgrimage in this area,made famous by mention in a Chikamatsu play.The shrine burned again during the fall of Osaka Castle in 1615 and was rebuilt only to burn again,two centuries later,in a great city fire in 1863.After rebuilding in 1870,Tamatsukuri received the rank of village shrine (gosha) from the government ; in 1928 this was raised to the rank of prefectural shrine (fusha).Bombing raids completely destroyed the shrine in 1945,and the present sanctuary of ferroconcrete was completed in 1954.

  Foxes lived in the area of this shrine from the Edo period up until the end of World War Ⅱ,and people would put out offerings for them on the road (called Inari-suji) that ran between Osaka Castle and the shrine.As people offered fried tofu and rice with red beans (sekihan),they called out “Nosengyo-ya!”-literally “field alms here”.An interesting feature of this shrine is the replacement of the usual wish-fulfilling jewel (nyoi hôju) motif found at most Inari shrines with the magatama curved jewel.Curved jewels appear on the paper lanterns,roof tiles,and amulets of this shrine,and a necklace of these jewels graces the neck of the female fox statue at one of the subshrines to the right of the main sanctuary.In addition,the shrine has erected a small museum in a haniwa-style building of the type in which the jewel-crafting guild would have lived.Inside is a small but detailed exhibit concerning the history and production of magatama.


  Jewels are said to have been worshiped as kami and also served as the repository for the kami (shintai).The repository of one of the five kami worshiped as Inari at Tamatsukuri Inari in Osaka was a large magatama curved jewel.As soul or spirit,jewels are connected both with fertility and birth and also with death.They contain the animating force that creates a new life and leaves the body when it dies.


  At Tamatsukuri Inari Shrine,where the curved jewel is the dominant motif,the head priest has developed a kind of magatama philosophy.In addition to describing the four souls possessed by all people,which must be kept in balance,he elaborates a theory of social and marital harmony.If there is a good fit between two magatama in a yin-yang pattern,they form a circle and can roll smoothly.In similar fashion,when two people's souls fit in this way they can work well together to progress in the world.A special comma-shaped amulet helps keep these spirits in balance.


( Extract from The Fox and the Jewel)

Karen A.Smyers holds a doctorate in anthropology from Princeton University.She is the recipient of a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science grant,Fulbright-Hays,Japan foundation,and A.W.Mellon fellowships,and the author of articles on various aspects of Japanese religion.Currently assistant professor in the Department of Religion at WesleyanUniversity.

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