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Goryo Jinja Shrine

Official Name Goryo Jinja
Religious sect Shinto
Founded in Latter half of the 12th century
by unknown
Main object of worship Spirit of a brave samurai
Address 3-17 Sakanoshita, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0021
Area size Approximately 3,500 square meters
Location 1,800 meters southwest of Kamakura Station
Time needed to get there 25 minutes
Admission Free (open yard)
Annual event Festival on July 20 and September 18
Phone number 0467-22-3251
Available Not available

Historical Overview



The Shrine is dedicated to the soul of an extraordinarily brave samurai with great physical strength who had lived here before the Kamakura Period (1185-1333). His name is Kagemasa (Gongoro) Kamakura {kah-ghe-mah-sah (gon-go-roe) kah-mah-koo-rah} (1069-?), thereby local people call the Shrine"Gongoro-san". (san is an honorific).

At the age of 16, he joined a battle at a southern part of Akita Prefecture as a retainer of Yoshiie Minamoto {yoh-she-e-a me-nah-moh-toh} (1039-1106, great-grandfather of Yoritomo Minamoto, the founder of Kamakura Shogunate). During the bitter battle, his left eye was shot by an enemy's arrow. Undaunted, he bravely continued fighting. When he came back to the camp, the arrow was still in his eye. His colleague tried to help remove it putting his foot on Kagemasa's forehead. Kagemasa got furious and accused the colleague of his rude manner. Samurai were full of pride and self-respect those days, and the face being stepped on by foot meant to break the samurai code and was never bearable for Kagemasa. The colleague apologized for his rudeness and the arrow was eventually pulled out in proper manner. To commemorate this episode, a pair of fletchings were employed as the crest of the Shrine and they appear on the tiles of roof. Kagemasa's prowess and manner were highly praised as a role model of Kanto samurai. Hence the Shrine is credited by the locals with its power of healing eye diseases. Also to praise his braveness, a Jizo statue named Yagara (arrow) was made and had been enshrined at Engakuji. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by the 1923 earthquake. Today, a stone monument for this statue stands at Keisho-an of Engakuji and is listed 14th of the Kamakura Twenty-Four Jizo Pilgrimage.

In the Shrine's ground, there are a pair of round stones which are dubbed Tamoto-ishi {tah-moh-toh e-she} or a "sleeve stone" and Tedama-ishi {teh-dah-mah} or a "stone in one's hand". Legend has it that the larger stone (left) weighing 105 kilograms was in Kagemasa's sleeve-pocket and the smaller one weighing 60 kilograms was in his palm as if they had been his toys. The stones are to show he was a man of muscle.

There are quite a few Jinja named Goryo in Japan. Go is a prefixal honorific and ryo means souls. According to Shinto dogma, those who died an unnatural death, died by violence or in a state of anger or resentment need to be buried with courtesy and reverence, and their souls should be enshrined. Otherwise, it is believed, people will incur divine wrath and punishment, or revenge will be exacted by the malevolent spirits of the dead. Goryo Jinja were thus erected throughout Japan to exorcise evil spirits, and special services are performed regularly to soothe the revengeful spirits. In the Shrine, wooden statues of Kagemasa and his wife are enthroned on the altar, but they are not visible. As usual in Shinto shrines, only a round mirror is placed in the center.

One of the Seven Deities of Good Fortune

In the storage house down the main hall are masks to be worn at the Mengake {men-gah-keh} Procession. The door is usually closed. Visitors can view them paying a fee of 100-yen to the Shrine office. Among the ten masks is that of Fukurokuju {foo-koo-roh-koo-jew} or the God of Wealth and it is one of Kamakura Shichifukujin {she-chee-fook-gin} or the Seven Deities of Good Fortune. The office is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Annual Events

July 20 Festival for Ishigami sub-shrine
After Shinto rituals, several young men go to the shore and swim, with a bowl of parboiled rice with red beans, to the point from where Enoshima {eh-no-she-mah}, a small island in the neighboring city of Fujisawa, can be seen, in other words, the point where the divinized stone was supposed to have been sitting, and drop the rice into the sea. Rice boiled with red beans is called sekihan {seh-key-han} or "red rice" and often served on auspicious or festive occasions.
September 18 Mengake Procession
Kagemasa is thought to have died on September 18. The Shrine's annual festival takes place on this day. It undertakes a unique Mengake (masked) Procession, which is the highlight of the festival. A group of ten wearing grotesque or comical masks and kimono, will leave the Shrine usually at 2:30 p.m. and parade through the nearby streets accompanied by portable shrines and festive music. The names of the masks are also unusual: Jiji {gee-gee} (elderly man), Oni {oh-nee} (demon), Igyo {e-gyo} (strange appearance), Hananaga {hah-nah-nah-gah} (long nose), Karasu-tengu {kah-tah-soo ten-goo} (crow goblin), Okina {o-kee-nah} (aged man), Hifuki-otoko {he-foo-kee o-toh-koh} (fire-blowing man), Fukurokuju {foo-koo-rok-jew} (one of the Seven Deities of Good Fortune as noted above) and two Okame {oh-kah-meh} (fat-face woman). Okame is a discriminatory word to express women's aspect which are moon-faced with flat nose, plump cheek and prominent forehead. (Japanese slang has ten classifications to evaluate the face of women ranging from the most beautiful to the ugliest. Okame ranks 6th.) In the parade, one Okame is disguised as a pregnant woman followed by the other who is a midwife.
What is the origin of this peculiar masks? Legend has it that when Yoritomo Minamoto was in power as the First Shogun, he got an underclass girl pregnant. The girl and her family had to serve Yoritomo secretly to conceal their identity. The masks were good tools to disguise themselves. As a matter of fact, one of the ten paraders is disguised as a pregnant woman. Later, these masks were used as an attraction for the festival. Others say that the parade was modeled after the Gigaku {ghe-gah-koo}, which was imported from Korea in the early 7th century. Either way, today's procession by the 10 masked men is a novelty and can be seen nowhere else. It is designated, therefore, as an Intangible Cultural Asset by the Prefectural Government of Kanagawa.


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