Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha Shrine (often called simply “Sengen Taisha”) is located at the southwestern foot of Mt. Fuji, in Fujinomiya City, Shizuoka Prefecture. Since long ago, the shrine has been revered as ichinomiya, which roughly means “the first shrine people should visit,” or “the most influential shrine in the district.” This is a beautiful place with a lot of sakura trees (Japanese cherry trees). And if you are thinking about exploring the southern side of Mount Fuji, I recommend you include this place in your Japan tour itinerary.
Many famous generals and feudal lords throughout history prayed there and offered gifts. And in 1896, the Meiji government at that time gave the shrine the rank of kanpei-taisha, a government supported shrine of the first rank.
Also, Sengen Taisha in Fujinomiya City is the head shrine of 1,300 sengen shrines throughout Japan. Generally speaking, “sengen shrines” are the ones where Mt. Fuji is the main object of worship (although there are a few exceptions). The kanji characters for sengen can also be read as asama, which is the name of the ancient kami (Shinto deity) of volcanoes. And in the Middle Ages, Mt. Fuji was the most violent and feared volcano in the nation. So the people built sengen shrines all around Japan and tried to appease the raging deity of Mt. Fuji by worshipping the mountain.
So, Sengen Taisha has been very closely connected with Mt. Fuji since long ago. The shrine used to be called the “gateway to Mt. Fuji” because it was the place where people prayed and performed ablutions before ascending the mountain.
In the old days, climbing Mt. Fuji was a kind of a religious act, rather than one of leisure. These activities of the medieval climbers are well documented in a religious painting from the early 16th century called Fujisan Mandara, which is kept at this very shrine as an important cultural asset of the nation.
The shrine also has a branch shrine at the summit of Mt. Fuji, which is called Sengen Taisha Okumiya Shrine. And surprisingly enough, the area above the eighth station (approximately the 3000 meter point) of the mountain is actually the part of the shrine’s precinct. And since olden times, the summit crater has been considered to be the place where kami actually reside.
Photographs: taken at Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha,
by Koji Ikuma, with Fujifilm X-T1 & Summar 5cmF2