Now Reports

Iimori Shrine: Keeper of Ancient Rituals

Located at the foot of Mt. Iimori in Nishi Ward, Iimori Shrine is an ancient shrine said to have been founded in 859 and dedicated to the mountain itself. The shrine used to have three buildings at different elevations, and roof tiles inscribed with the date 1114 have been excavated from the ruins of the building at the mountain’s summit. The main building, with its exquisite sculptures, was built in 1786. Inside, there still exist guardian lion dogs and ancient documents from the Northern and Southern Courts period (1334 – 1392).

There are also several ancient rituals that are still practiced at Iimori Shrine. One of these is the kayu-uranai (rice porridge fortune telling). On Feb. 14, rice porridge (kayu) is prepared and offered to the shrine and, on Mar. 1, the mold growing on the porridge is “read” to determine how the year’s rice crop will turn out. The area around the shrine has been farmland for centuries, and the ritual reveals how local people have long revered the shrine gods as guardians of their crops.


Later in the year, on Oct. 19, there is a yabusame (horseback archery) competition held as part of the annual fall festival. This ritual, which is mentioned in a document dated to 1573, prays for bumper crops, continued good fortune in war and finally, good health. After a ritual cleansing in the ocean in the morning, the archers change into warrior garb and wow the crowd with their skills. The archers are members of households in which yabusame has been handed down for generations.

Another unique event at Iimori Shrine is the genpuku-shiki. Nowadays there are coming of age ceremonies, but in the genpuku-shiki, young men and women wear traditional warrior’s clothing styled on those from the Kamakura period (1185 – 1333) and are crowned with traditional eboshi caps. The word genpuku originally means “to coronate,” and the traditional hats that the young men and women don symbolize their entry into adulthood. This ceremony is now held on the modern Coming of Age Day, the second Monday in January.

Originally published in Fukuoka Now Magazine (fn216, Dec. 2016)

Art & Culture
Fukuoka Prefecture
Published: Nov 25, 2016 / Last Updated: Jun 4, 2019

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