When entering a place of worship it is respectful to remove a hat from your head but at this quirky shrine all types of headwear are often left as offerings. However, all is not as innocent and harmless as it may seem as there is a rather sinister backstory for why this happens!
This shrine attracts people who believe it is the place to go to pray for health benefits and injury recovery from the neck upwards. How has this happened though?
It is all to do with a man who is considered to be Japan’s very first samurai. Taira no Masakado was a minor but successful warlord in the early 900`s who met a tragic ending. He revolted against the central government in Kyoto as he disagreed strongly with them squeezing money out of farmers via high taxes. Furthermore, a huge earthquake and the eruption of Mount Fuji caused more stress for the farmers so Masakado did what he could to help.
Rebelling against the government resulted in a bounty being placed on Masakado`s head and he was later killed by his cousin as an act of revenge for what Masakado did to his father. That`s all quite straightforward but the following is a little difficult for me to understand!
According to theories, his neck yearned to be back in his hometown in the Kanto region and tried to fly there. Worried by this his head was then shot down with an arrow and the place where it fell was Mikubi Shrine which was later enshrined to calm the spirit of Masakado. People then presumably started visiting in the belief that it would help heal their neck and head pains.
The shrine is located very close to Arao Station in Gifu Prefecture. It may only be three minutes from Ogaki but trains are not so frequent so planning was of utmost importance for me as I was only in the area for a very short time. On my arrival I had just 14 minutes to disembark, find the shrine and take the pictures I needed before heading back to the station for the return train. I should add that a precious 60-90 seconds of those 14 minutes was spent waiting at the crossing for the train to depart and for the barrier to lift allowing me to cross the track! Thankfully the shrine was visible from the station and less than a minute away on foot!
The collection of hats are all enshrined on the walls of one quite small hall. This particular part of the shrine is only open from 9am whilst the rest of the place is open 24 hours a day. Had it been open earlier I would`ve gone there sooner in the day than I did but as it was it all worked out well with the rest of my schedule.
All manner of hats have been dedicated by visitors in the hope that it would be beneficial to their neck or head pains. The range of headwear is very diverse and includes yellow school hats, baseball caps, beanies, berets, bucket hats, fedoras, trilbys and many others.
The rest of the shrine is all pretty normal with wooden prayer plaques, red torii gates, statues, lanterns and the main wooden hall all located amidst the tranquil greenery of this corner of Ogaki. It never surprises me too much when I see what visitors have left behind as offerings at such places, and this time it was cans of satsumas, some vegetables and a few packets of noodles!
- Mikubi Shrine is located at 1283-1 Araocho, Ogaki, Gifu-ken. It is open from 9:00 am till 4:30 pm every day.
Bonus: The grave of the aforementioned Taira no Masakado (903-940 AD) is tucked away between a couple of large buildings in Tokyo’s financial district facing the Imperial Palace (1-2-1 Otemachi, Chiyoda-ku). I visited this place as part of my `Cycling Tokyo’s most haunted sights…in one day` challenge way back in 2012. Attempts to move the grave have resulted in accidents or deaths for the construction workers involved so it seems that Masakado`s final resting place occupies some of the most expensive land in the world.
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