Mt. Miwa (a cone-shaped gentle mountain in Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture) (三輪山)
Mt. Miwa is a cone-shaped gentle mountain in the southeastern part of Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture, which is located in the southeastern part of Nara Basin across the farthest north part of Nara Prefecture. 467 meters high, 16 kilometers around. It is also called Mimoroyama.
It is said that Mt. Miwa has been worshipped as a god, perhaps, since Jomon period or Yayoi period, as an object of primitive belief in natural objects. When it entered Kofun period (Tumulus period), large tumuli were made one after another along the foot of a mountain. From here onwards, it is considered that a leading political force in Japan island, that is, Miwa Regime (dynasty), which was equivalent to the early Yamato regime, existed mainly in this area. Large tumuli, from 200 meters to 300 meters, were lined up, and it is said that the Imperial mausoleums of the 10th Emperor Sujin (Andonyama-kofun Tumulus) and the 12th Emperor Keiko (Shibutani Mukoyama-kofun Tumulus) were among them. Besides, it is assumed that Hashihaka-kofun Tumulus is the tomb of Himiko, the queen of Yamatai-Koku kingdom, who was depicted in Gishiwajinden (an 'Account of the Wa' [inhabitants of the western Japanese archipelago in the late third century] in "The History of the Wei Dynasty" which comprises "The History of the Three Kingdoms" written by Chen Shou, where the account is known as the first historical record of Japan). "Kiki" (the Kojiki [The Records of Ancient Matters] and Nihonshoki [Chronicles of Japan]) contains the legend of Omononushi no mikoto (also known as Miwa-myojin), the enshrined deity of Omiwa-jinja Shrine in Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture as legend of Mt. Miwa. Thus, it is believed that Mt. Miwa is kannabi (divine mountain), a mountain which holds a god.
As it has been believed since the ancient time that Mt. Miwa holds a god and Mt. Miwa itself is a god, Mt. Miwa was regarded as a mountain which common people are prohibited to enter. In the Edo period, Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) issued a strict order that people are allowed to enter the mountain only when they had a tablet of the mountain (山札) from a shrine.
In the Meiji period, 'the guideline for visitors' was defined based on the tradition. Today, anybody who follows the guideline can enter the mountain. To climb the mountain, the climber have to receive the permission at the shrine office of Sai-jinja Shrine, an auxiliary shrine of Omiwa-jinja Shrine, which is located in the precincts, 250 meters away to the north-northeast from Omiwa-jinja Shrine. There, pay 300 yen after writing the one's name. Then receive a white sash that is a permit to climb the mountain, and is purified. It is prohibited to take off the sash during the trip. In general it takes about two hours to go down the mountain. There is a rule that one should go down the mountain within three hours. In addition, all activities including eating or drinking, smoking, and shooting photograph in the mountains are prohibited.
A number of megalithic remains, ritual sites are scattered in the mountains, but photography is not permitted as a general rule. God is considered to be in all trees and leaves in the mountains. Therefore, cutting the tree is not permitted, and the mountains are covered in big trees such as pine trees, cedar, and cypress.
To visit Mt. Miwa without climbing, viewing and worshipping it out of Haiden (a hall of worship) of Omiwa-jinja Shrine is possible. Since Omiwa-jinja Shrine is not equipped with Honden (main shrine), Mt. Miwa, a god, can be directly worshipped at Haiden (a hall of worship).
Ritual sites of Mt. Miwa include megalithic group such as Hetsu-iwakura, Nakatsu-iwakura, and Okitsu-iwakura, and Kinsokuchi (tabooed land) site that is behind the Haiden of Omiwa-jinja Shrine, Yamanokami Site, and Shin-keidaichi (新境内地) site in the west of Sai-jinja Shrine.
Takamiya-jinja Shrine is worshipped on the mountain top, but Miwaniimasu Himukai-jinja Shrine as Shikinai Taisha (first-ranked shrine listed in Engishiki laws) is listed in Jinmyocho (the list of deities) of Engishiki (codes and procedures on national rites and prayers). It is assumed that Miwaniimasu Himukai-jinja Shrine is worshipped on the top of Mt. Miwa, and it was deeply involved with rituals worshipping the sun.
There is a large flat area around the top of the mountain. There are a number of rocks as tall as 2 meters in the place, about 30 meters from east to west, and 10 meters from south to north, to the east of the shrine. These are the Okitsu-iwakura. It is the only iwakura (dwelling place of a god, usually in reference to a large rock) that can be viewed in the mountain.