Tenkawa Daibenzaiten-sha Shrine (天河大弁財天社)

Tenkawa Daibenzaiten-sha Shrine (or Tenkawa-jinja Shrine) is a Shinto shrine located in Tsubonouchi, Tenkawa Village, Yoshino County, Nara Prefecture.

Enshrined Deities
The main enshrined deity is Ichikishimahime (or Ichikishimahime-no-mikoto). Since it is known as a deity of public entertainments, this shrine is popular among people related to show business even now. The original name of the enshrined deity was Benzaiten (Sarasvati).
After the execution of the edict for the separation of Shinto and Buddhism, the deity has came to be called 'Ichikishimahime-no-mikoto.'
As shown by the shrine name 'Tenkawa Daibenzaiten-sha' Shrine which includes the word 'Benzaiten,' the shrine is also believed to enshrine 'Benzaiten.'
The shrine is one of Japan's three major shrines enshrining Benzaiten along with Itsukushima-benzaiten and Chikubujima-jinja Shrine (Enoshima-jinja Shrine in Enoshima also claims to be one of Japan's three major shrines enshrining Benzaiten).

In addition, Kumano Sanzan (three major shrines, Kumano-Hongu-Taisha, Kumano-Hayatama-Taisha and Kumano-Nachi-Taisha), Yoshinonimasu-okami, the departed souls of four emperors of Japan's Southern Court (Emperor Godaigo, Emperor Gomurakami, Emperor Chokei and Emperor Gokameyama) and 100 mythological deities from Amenominakanushi-no-kami are enshrined.

Benzaiten enshrined in Tenkawa Daibenzaiten-sha Shrine is usually closed to the public except during the special event of gokaicho (unveiling an image) held once every 60 years, when the 'Reitai-sai Festival' is held and various performances including nohgaku (the art of noh) are presented. Many of tourists and believers from all over the country visit Tenkawa Village to worship. As this shrine enjoys quite high popularity among people related to show business, many celebrities from Tokyo and other districts nationwide visit the shrine. The most recent Gokaicho was held on July 18, 2008.

Circa 700, EN no Ozunu (EN no Gyoja) founded a temple at the top of Mt. Omine in Tenkawa Village where he practiced asceticism before founding Shugendo (Japanese ascetic and shamanistic practice in mountainous sites). The Tamonin Diary describes that EN no Gyoja founded Tenkawa Daibenzaiten-sha Shrine. Before Zao Gongen (the principal image of the Kimpusen Zaodo, and the highest worship object of Shugendo) was enshrined at Mt. Omine, Tenkawa Daibenzaiten-sha Shrine was founded as the shrine of the chinju (local Shinto deity) of the highest peak of Mt. Misen. Kukai (Kobo Daishi) practiced asceticism at Mt. Omine before founding a temple at Mt. Koya. Tenkawa-jinja Shrine was the largest place of ascetic practice in the area. Articles belonged to Kobo Daishi have been offered to the shrine.

The failure of the projects to rebuild the shrine's main building and maintain the precinct under a faulty financial plan resulted in the shrine being declared bankrupt in 1992. The real estate was put up for auction but remained unsold. In the end, the shrine was saved when the creditor renounced the claim.

Oku-no-in is at the summit of Mt. Misen (1895m).

As the shrine has been closely associated with nohgaku, many items related to nohgaku that have been dedicated to the shrine are kept there.

Main events

January 1: Saitansai Festival (Saitansai is a Shinto ritual to mark the beginning of New Year, followed by a special sharing of sake in the barrel and a rice cake pounding ceremony)

January 17: Goo Festival (a festival to distribute Goo talismans)

February 3: Setsubun Festival (the bean-throwing festival of celebrating the coming of spring)

July 16, 17: Reitai-sai Festival

November 2: Autumn Festival


Bus operated by Nara Kotsu Bus Lines Co., Ltd from Shimoichiguchi Station on the Kintetsu Yoshino Line.

Drive south on National Route 309 and turn right at the Tenkawa-Kawai Intersection.

[Original Japanese]