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Iwafune Shrine Part 2. The Sacred Caves of Iwafune Jinja.

In the blog post 'Iwafune Shrine Part 1' we introduced Iwafune Jinja, in Kitano, Osaka, close to the borders of Kyoto and Nara. This is a shrine that has a story going back 1,500 years when the the enshrined deity Nigihayahi no Mikoto, the grandson of the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu, descended from the heavens down to Earth. Nigihayahi no Mikoto's mode of transport was a large 'ship'. After it had served its purpose the story tells that the ship turned in to a huge rock. The rock now sits firmly in place at Iwafune Shrine, and legend also has it that during the construction of Osaka Castle, the builders wanted to use the rock but were unable to either move it or break it down. Nigihayahi no Mikoto's rock ship would not leave the shrine!

But there is more to Iwafune Jinja than just the rock ship and the shrine itself, there are the Sacred Caves of Iwafune! Passing through the caves is seen as an ascetic Shinto practice, and some folklore stories tell that the Sun Goddess herself, Amaterasu, meditated in these caves. Those passing through the caves can 'experience' the practice of Gankutsu-meguri (being born again). There are a number of stipulations for those that want to enter the caves, as listed below. There is also a small charge.

  1. Wear white tasuki sash that you receive at the shamusho (the office of the shrine).

  2. Appropriate footwear must be worn, and you may not enter alone.

  3. It is for the ages of 10-74 only.

  4. You are not allowed to go into the cave after drinking alcohol.

  5. It is closed at night, when it rains, or when the river in the cave has risen.

After visiting the shrine office and receiving you paper sash, entry ticket, you are ready to go down into the caves. The caves only take about ten minutes to go through and are made up mainly of huge rocks that are supported in place by each other. Inside there is also plenty of light. The entrance is just beyond the shrine and accesed by descending stairs. Pictured below, the gated entrance to the caves.

Pictured below, a narrow set of stairs descends down into the first section of the caves. White painted arrows on the rocks, as seen in this pictur eon the left, mark your route through the cave system.

Pictured below, at the bottom of the stairs we see the white arrows on the rocks guiding the way ahead leading to a wooden bridge and on towards the next section.

Pictured below, a closer look at the bridge and we can see the next white arrow shoqing that the path through the caves turns to the left, between and under huge rocks.

In the next blog post 'Iwafune Shrine Part 3' we will go through the caves and out the other side.

Access - 9-19-1 Kisaichi, Katano City, Osaka

Tel: +81 72-891-2125

The nearest train station to Iwafune Shrine is Kisaichi Keihan, which can be reached by transferring to a local train at Hiratakashi on the Keihan mainline between Osaka and Kyoto. By car the shrine is on route 168. 9 Chome-19-1 Kisaichi, Katano, Osaka 576-0033.

Disclaimer - Entering the caves at Iwafune Shrine can be dangerous, extreme caution is required and HIDDEN PATHS takes no responsibility for any injuries or damages caused. Follow all guidelines of the shrine staff and notices.

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