Temples Of Japan

Mefu Shrine

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Mefu Jinja Shrine
Approach to the Mefu Shrine

Mefu Shrine is located in the Takarazuka city of the Hyogo Prefecture in the Kansai Region.  Mefu Shrine was said to have been established in 610 AD; it is a small, hill top Shrine and is very popular with the Takarazuka residents.  This Shrine can be easily reached by taking the Hankyu Railway Train to Hankyu Mefu Jinja Station. 

Most famous temple in the Takarazuka City, the Nakayamadera Temple is one station away on the Hankyu Takarazuka Line.

Even though this Shrine looks small and insignificant place of worship for casual visitors, compared many Grand Shrines (Taisha or Jingu), Mefu Shrine has a very deep history associated with it.  This history has to do with the origin of Buddhism and spread of Buddhism itself in Japan.  Mefu Shrine is one of the Shrines that was mentioned in "Engishiki"; which is one of the important texts from the ninth/tenth century AD, that describes various sacred Shinto ceremonies and rituals of the ancient Japan.

Mefu Shrine was built as a place of worship for a warrior noble clan called Mononobe clan.  Mononobe was a title given to the guards of the imperial palace and were very close to the Emperor.  This clan was also, one of the fiercest opponents to the introduction of Buddhism in Japan in the sixth century.  Mononobe clan were ardent Shinto followers and they wanted to preserve their way of life and ancient Japanese traditions from a foreign religion. 

Even though then Emperor Yomei was considerate to the introduction of the new religion of Buddhism from Korea, Mononobe clan did not want Shintoism to be replaced by Buddhism.  Another noble clan associated with the Emperor called the Soga Clan, supported the introduction of Buddhism.  Because of this differences; the Mononobe clan often clashed with the Soga Clan.  The Emperor's other supporters in the court were also at times took sides with either Soga clan or Mononobe clan.

During the period when Emperor Yomei died and the nation was in a bit of a disarray, the clashes between Mononobe clan and the Soga clan became the fiercest and often with disastrous consequences for both sides.

One of the important and last members of the Mononobe families, Mononobe no Moriya, during his battles with the Soga family, set fire to many early Buddhist Temples in the Kansai area.  He was also responsible for throwing out, an old image of Buddha that was presented to then Emperor by the Korean ruler, in the Naniwa canal, along with other Buddhist artifacts. 

Because of the sacrilegious act, Soga no Umoko of the Soga clan, killed Mononobe no Moriya in a battle and wiped out his entire family.  After the Mononobe Clan was defeated, Buddhism flourished in Japan.  More information about this read my pages about Shintoism and Buddhism.

This Buddhist image that was thrown into the Naniwa Canal, was recovered later after the battles between Soga and Mononobe clans subsided.  This image was then enshrined in the Zenkoji Temple in the Nagano Prefecture.  This image is considered as one of the most important, historical and sacred artifacts of Japanese Buddhism.

Here is a video of this important Mefu Shrine that was built by and associated with the Mononobe clan for many years:

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