喜念権現

Kiinen Gongen


Useful Information

Location: Kinen, Isen, Tokunoshima, Oshima District, Kagoshima 891-8111.
(27.694138, 128.983357)
Open: no restrictions.
[2022]
Fee: free.
[2022]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave SubterraneaCave Church
Light: n/a
Dimension:  
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography:  
Address: Kiinen Gongen, Kinen, Isen, Tokunoshima, Oshima District, Kagoshima 891-8111.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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History

1729 building donated by the Tokunoshima deputy and his assistant.
23-FEB-1978 designated cultural property by the town.

Description

喜念権現 (Kiinen Gongen, Kinen Shrine) is located on the southern side of the island Tokunoshima. Follow the minor road which runs parallel to the upper highway, there is a small parking lot and an explanatory sign for the shrine and the cave. From the road it is a 500 m walk on a well maintained trail through the lush forest uphill and through a torii gate. The small limestone cave is only 5 m wide, 5 m long and 2 m high. A stone monument is enshrined inside, worshipped by the people of Kinnen village as a guardian deity. They once held a yearly festival to pray for rain and a good harvest. The stream to the west of the cave was a drinking water well for local people and a place of worship for the Shouji deity. There are two legends about beautiful women in Kinnen Gongen.

Once, there was a beautiful girl living in Kinen. For some reason she did not like people to see her face and never went outside. But the young men of the village somehow managed to catch a glimpse of her. One day, when the daughter sobbed because she had lost something, her sister joined her in searching the garden. A young man hiding in the shadows proudly shouted, "I saw it, I saw it", and ran out. The girl, disappointed that her face had been seen, hid herself in a cave deep in the mountains and became the deity of Kinnen Gongen.

A deputy from Satsuma was looking for someone to look after him during his tenure. Hearing that there was a beautiful woman in Kinnen village, he approached her for advice through the official. The daughter refused the offer, saying that she could not become an island wife during her short two-year tenure. The official then threatened the daughter's parents. The daughter felt that she should not cause her parents any trouble, so she went into a cave and took her own life. The villagers felt sorry for the daughter, who resisted the official at the cost of her life and kept her chastity. They began to worship her spirit as Gongen-sama.

On the left side of the cave, there is actuall a 1.3 m high lantern made of Yamakawa stone from Kagoshima Prefecture. The inscription says that it was donated by the Tokunoshima deputy and his assistant in July 1729. The building was also donated by the Tokunoshima deputy and his assistant. The question is now, is the legend a real event which is supported by this fact, or was it just composed using existing facts as a backup?

Kinnen Gongen is located in a thick forest of vertebrate and pine trees on the left-hand side of the farm road leading to Omo next to the Kinnen Bullring, about 1.5 km from the bullring. Pass through the torii gate and walk about 500 metres through the forest, and you will find a cave about 2 metres high, 5 metres wide and 5 metres deep. Inside the cave stands a stone monument, covered with white sand and flowers. This is a sacred place where the Gongensama, a deity of the township, has been worshipped since ancient times, and where festivals have been held to pray for rain or a good harvest. There is a spring on the western side of the cave and a stream runs through it. In the past, it was a place to fetch drinking water for the villagers and a place of worship for the god Shouji. It was called Sumiko Kinen Utaki, and the whole forest area was also an object of worship. The deity is a goddess, and even today, visitors to the shrine offer up the white beach sacks from the sea in hopes of easy childbirth and good fortune, revealing the simplicity and sincerity of their beliefs. Both shrines (Kinnen Gongen and Nitta Shrine) are venerated by the villagers as shrines with a burning spiritual power, and their annual festival is held on the middle day of the equinoxes every year. The shrine enshrined on the right is Nitta Shrine, where Shinto deities are enshrined. Both shrines have a custom in which a yabunikkei shiba (tamagushi) is dedicated. It is also unusual in that the names of the villagers are announced at the end of the prayer at the time of the festival. There are various theories as to the origin of the festival. There are old pine trees in the vicinity of both shrines, and they are also considered to be a breeding ground for plants and birds that require protection.
Public commentary from the Isen Town Magazine Compilation Committee 1978, Isen Town Magazine.