Kujirazuka is a mound enshrining the whales that were washed up ashore on the beach, and is a uniquely Japanese custom.
It was a mound built to show gratitude and mourn the fact that the area was saved or profited by capturing (passive whaling) and utilized the whales called yori-kujira or nagare-kujira for food or resources, and is related to Ebisu (god of fishing and commerce) and 'yorigami shinko' (belief in the god that comes from another distant world beyond the sea). Since whales were deified (some areas called them Ebisu, viewing them as incarnation of 'Ebisu'), it was also a mound to enshrine them so that they did not become Araburu Kami (Malignant gods) due to their losing their lives accidentally, or from whaling. They are seen at Kagata-jinja Shrine in Shinagawa, Tokyo, Kujira-jinja Shrine in Miyake-jima Island, Tokyo, etc.
Since Edo period when organized whaling was established, these mounds were built to mourn and show gratitude even in areas where whaling was a regular vocation, and they are seen in areas such as the Ryushima area near Ukishima-jinja Shrine in Katsuyama, Chiba Prefecture and Taiji-cho, Wakayama Prefecture.
Since the influx of whales and the influx of schools of fish coincide, whales were believed to have spiritual power, and were used as pilots. Thus, it was also a mound to wish for a 'good catch and memorial service' with whales, which are the temporary form of 'Ebisu,' worshipped as the god of fishery, or as 'prayers for marine safety,' worshipping whales as Watatsumi (tutelary of the sea).
Similarly, in areas where whaling, including passive whaling and accidental whaling was a regular vocation from long ago, 'kujirabaka' (whale grave) and 'kujirahi' (whale monument) exist, and including kujirazuka, there are around 100 of these in Japan.
They exist along the coasts nationwide.
Oshu (Northern Honshu, the region encompassing Mutsu and Dewa provinces)
The case of Karakuwa-cho, Kesennuma City, Miyagi Prefecture is as follows.
On a stormy day, two white whales carried a boat which was about to sink, to the shore by supporting it from both sides. Since then, people of Karakuwa-cho have not eaten whales for generations.
In the precincts of Misaki-jinja Shrine in Karakuwa-cho, there remain several stone monuments of 'kujirazuka' as memorial service for whales. This is not the origin of the previously mentioned tradition, but is what remains from the days of whaling. It is believed that after the end of whaling, the tradition above was born as an interpretation of the kujirazuka.
Yoshu (Iyo Province)
The case of Akehama-cho, Seiyo City, Ehime Prefecture is as follows.
There are three kujirazuka in the Akehama-cho, Seiyo City area (former Akehama-cho), and the kujirazuka in the Takayama district is the most well-known. It is on the roadside of the National Route facing the ocean, between Takayama-shuraku village, where the Akehama general branch of the city exists, and Osozu Coast. This place was called Maruishiajiro in ancient times.
Its origin dates back to June 21, 1837, when a large whale was washed up on this coast. They had been suffering due to a great famine called (Great) Tenpo famine, but thanks to this whale, the villagers managed to escape starvation. The villagers were grateful, and showed respect, calling it kujira-sama. A kaimyo (posthumous Buddhist names), Rino-inden Hokkaizenka-daikoji, was given, and was carefully enshrined. DATE Munetada-ko, the lord of Uwajima Domain, wrote the inscription on the gravestone. The kaimyo, inden daikoji, is tono-sama (a person with higher rank) class of the time, and is very rare nationwide.
Designated as important tangible folk cultural property by the town.
Kujira-jinja Shrine is a familiar name for shrines that have a deep relationship with whaling, such as shrines building mounds to show gratitude and mourning for whales and enshrining the body of whales as goshintai (object of worship housed in a Shinto shrine and believed to contain the spirit of a deity), or shrines viewing and worshipping whaling itself as a Shinto ritual.
It is located in Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Prefecture, and dedicates an event called 'Nagasaki-kunchi Festival' that imitates whaling. Refer to Nagasaki-kunchi Festival for details.
It is in Tosayamada-cho, Kami City, Kochi Prefecture. Originally, it was built in a kanjo (ceremonial transfer of a divided tutelary deity to a new location) of a branch shrine of Hachioji-gu Shrine in Omi to former Hachioji, Meiji-mura in 1469. It was relocated to its current location in 1640, and until today, remains the ujigami (a guardian god or spirit of a particular place in the Shinto religion) of a whaling group, Ukitsu-gumi, continuing from Edo period. It is a shrine, but whale ihai (ancestral tablets) are dedicated.
It is in Sabigahama, Ako, Miyake-mura, Tokyo. There is no formal name, and it is simply called Kujira-jinja Shrine. In the Tenpo era, when Miyake-jima Island was struck by famine and was in a crisis, 'nagare-kujira' arrived in 1832 and was sold to the people after inspection by the authorities, and the whale was divided among the five villages, saving the villages from famine. It began when the whale bone was buried and a hokora (a small shrine) was built to show gratitude.
The oldest in Japan is the torii of 'Ebisu no miya' in Taiji-cho, Wakayama Prefecture. This is described in 'Nihon Eitaigura' by Saikaku IHARA, published in 1688, as 'In a village called Ominato, Kiji, Taiji, a wife and child sang. This place has prospered, and among the Wakamatsu Village, a torii celebrating the Kujira ebisu no miya stands, made of bones from the trunk of the fish, and about three-jo (jo is a unit of length, 1-jo is about 3.03m length) high.' indicating that it existed before 1688. Other than this, it is in the Kaido-jinja Shrine of Arikawa-cho, Nagasaki Prefecture, and was dedicated by Nitto Hogei Co. in 1973, but according to records, the current torii is the third one, and it is unknown what the previous ones were made of. These are the only kujira torii in Japan today, but there were kujira torii in three locations including Oluanpi (Goose Peak)-jinja Shrine in Oluanpi at the southernmost part of Taiwan, which was under Japanese rule back then, Satsutoebisu-jinja Shrine in Sakhalin, and Shikotan-jinja Shrine on Shikotan island in the northern territories. The five locations above are all directly or indirectly (base for whaling, etc.) related to whaling.