Aichi Prefecture is home to Atsuta Shrine, Japan’s second most revered Shinto shrine after the Great Shrine of Ise, and dates back over 2,000 years. The atmosphere here is different, it is special. There is a mysterious, yet calming feeling about the wide, forest-covered grounds of the ancient shrine. Atsuta Shrine is dedicated to the Five Great Gods of Atsuta, and is home to the Sacred Sword, the Kusunagi no Tsurugi, one of the Three Imperial Regalia of Japan. The sword received its name “The Grass Cutting Sword” as the warrior, Prince Yamato Takeru used its magical powers to cut his way out of a grass fire started by a treacherous enemy. Atsuta Shrine was said to have been established to house and protect the sword for the Emperor.
（Japan’s second most revered Atsuta Shrine）
Despite having the sword, it is never displayed, however Atsuta Jingu (Jingu means shrine) does have a large and impressive collection of samurai swords on rotational display in its Treasure Hall. The Treasure Hall houses over 6,000 relics, including Important Cultural Property and National Treasure ranked items including sacred garments, manuscripts, masks, mirrors, furniture and its large array of swords. In the entranceway is a 221cm long, 4.5 kg sword that was supposedly used once in a battle!
(Atsuta Shrine’s Treasure Hall)
(A huge sword on display at the Treasure Halls entranceway)
Located along the old Tokaido in the south of Aichi’s capital, Nagoya, over 9 million people visit Atsuta Shrine annually, and over 70 ceremonies and festivals are staged there every year. One of the busiest times is over the first few days of January, when thousands flock to make their New Year’s prayers.
(Crowds gather to pay their respects at New Years)
Amongst the ancient trees and shrines, is a high, tile-topped wall made from traditional kawara roof tiles sandwiched between a basic cement. This is the Nobunaga Bei, a wall built around Atsuta Shrine by the warlord of Western Aichi, Oda Nobunaga following his victory in the Battle of Okehazama in 1560, when he took on the 25,000 samurai of Imagawa Yoshimoto with just 2,500 of his own men. Despite the ratio of ten to one, Nobunaga defeated the numerically superior enemy, and in gratitude, the warlord dedicated the “Nobunaga Wall”. Very little of the original wall remains, as much was destroyed the air raids of WW2, but it remains one of the three most important Otsuchi Walls, along with those of the Sanjusangen-do of Kyoto and the Hyogo Nishinomiya Shrine’s walls.
(The famed Nobunaga Wall, built for the shrine by Oda Nobunaga)
Tokugawa Ieyasu, warlord of Eastern Aichi also prayed for victory here before going on to win the decisive Battle of Sekigahara. Many more famed warriors have prayed here, including Kato Kiyomasa, Miyamoto Musashi, Maeda Toshiie, …the list is endless, and so Atsuta is seen as an auspicious shrine for samurai.
(Atsuta Jingu’s Great Torii Gate)
(The shrine’s great holy tree, an ancient camphor tree)
Make sure you see Asuta Jingu, Japan’s second most important Shinto Shrine, and home to the Imperial Sword when you visit Aichi Prefecture.
Chris Glenn is a bilingual radio DJ, TV presenter, producer, narrator, MC, copywriter, author and columnist, and Japanese historian, specializing in samurai castles, battles, armor and weapons. He is an inbound tourism advisor, and is often called upon as a lecturer and speaker on Japanese history and topics. He was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1968, and has spent over half his life in Japan, most of that time in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture. Chris is dedicated to promoting and preserving Japans’ long history, deep culture, traditions, arts and crafts.