Spring Heihaiden Building
Historic site, Nagano

Spotlight On: Suwa Lower Shrines

Suwa Shrine is located in Nagano Prefecture, south-east of the city of Matsumoto. Upper Shrines are located on the south side of Lake Suwa and lower Shrines are located on the north side of the lake. There is a myth that explains the reason why the upper and lower sections were separated. A couple of gods called Takeminakata (the husband) and Yasakatome (his wife) used to live together in the upper shrine, but after they had a quarrel, Yasakatome left him and started to live in the lower area located north of Lake Suwa. It is said that Takeminakata crossed Lake Suwa to meet with his wife at night.

In the cold winter, Lake Suwa is icebound and the surface becomes thicker at some points. The temperature difference between the day and night causes ice crack on the surface and this natural and rare phenomenon is called “Omiwatari” or the footprint of Takeminakata. Suwa shrines consists of two main shrines with four shrines.

Shimosha Harumiya (下社春宮): Lower shrine with Spring shrine

Shimosha Harumiya and Shimosha Akimiya enshrine sacred trees and there are no main halls. When you enter the site, you would see a wooden building, called Kaguraden hall where dance and music are dedicated. The Heihaiden hall, built in 1780, is located in the back. The Heihaiden hall is a place to make your money and food offerings and to pray.Spring's Kaguraden buildingThe same blueprint was given to two carpenters to build Shimosha Harumiya and Akimiya Heihaiden halls with the best construction technology at that time. The basic construction structures are the same but the designs and sculptures are different. Shimosha Harumiya has sculptures of lion, cock and dragon. You can feel the different impressions at each shrine when you stand in the front of the buildings.Spring Heihaiden BuildingSpring Haiheiden BuildingIt is said that in every August gods move from Shimosha Harumiya (spring) to Shimosha Akimiya (autumn) and in every February gods move back to Shimosha Harumiya. In Spring, rice-planting starts and gods stay at Kamisha Harumiya, in Autumn after rice-harvesting gods move to Shimosha Akimiya.Spring Heihaiden BuildingYou can also see “Banji stone buddha” and Gebanohashi bridge which is the oldest structure in Shimosha Harumiya.

How long to stay: 30 minutes to 1 hour

The site is not huge, but if you want to see details of the building one hour would be good.

Shimosha Akimiya (下社秋宮): Lower shrine with Autumn shrine

Shimosha Akimiya, built in 1781, is slightly curved, so if you clap your hands at Shimosha Akimiya Haihenden hall, you get more echo. The roof of Shimosha Akimiya Haihenden hall is slightly leaned back. It was not easy to tell the difference without a blueprint and the structure of the shrine seems the same, but you can try to find some subtle differences.Autumn Kaguraden buildingAutumn Shrine pillarAutumn Haiheiden buildingAutumn Haiheiden buildingAutumn Haiheiden buildingAutumn Kaguraden buildingSmall shrinesThe most astonishing part of Shimosha Akimiya is Kaguraden Hall for music and dance dedication. It was constructed in 1835. The sacred shrine shimenawa Rope (7.5 m in length) and one of oldest and biggest bronze guardian lion dogs (170 cm in height) are worth seeing.

How long to stay: 30 minutes to 1 hour

If you want to observe both Kaguraden hall and Heihaiden hall closely, more than one hour would be needed.

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