Thursday, January 6, 2011

Minatogawa Shrine 湊川神社

Early evening inside the main hall, Honden, of the Minatogawa jinja. A private ceremony, possibly for shogatsu, is being held for these four apparently important gentlemen. Two priests, including the head priest, and two maidens are in attendance and many rites and dances are preformed. In this image the maiden at the center of the Hoden is captured mid-twirl while preforming one such dance.

Minatogawa, in Kobe, is a Shinto shrine located near the city center. It is dedicated to Kusunoki Masashige, a general who fought for Emperor Go-Daigo during a period in Japanese history filled with political upheaval. He obeyed a strategically absurd command from Go-Daigo to meet a superior force at Minatogawa. The decision meant certain death for Kusunoki Masashige, his brother, and hundreds of his men. He committed ritual suicide (seppuku) and was said to utter these famous last words, "I wish I had seven lives to give for my country" - securing him as a symbol of loyalty to the emperor.

These same words would be drilled into every student’s head over the next half century, and ultimately Shichisei Hokoku became an often used expression during WWII, especially by kamikaze pilots.

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