Located at the base of Mt. Yahiko that rises up from the center of the vast expanse of the Echigo Plain, Yahiko Shrine has remained immensely popular among the local populace since long ago, and has earned the honorific name “Oyahiko-sama”. The forests in its precincts are dense, and the tall, ancient cedar and keyaki trees are tangibly divine. A verse about this shrine appears in Manyoshu, Japan’s oldest anthology of poems. After passing through the first red torii gate, which stands out against the surrounding foliage, you will soon cross the Mitarai-gawa River that runs from Mt. Yahiko. A little further up the river, there is a divine bridge, called Tamano Hashi, which makes the atmosphere even more solemn. On the right side of the stone-paved approach is the Shinen garden, where many Satozakura cherry trees stand among huge trees and produce pretty flowers in the spring, offering a feast for the eyes of worshippers. The Shinen garden is accompanied by the Rokuen garden, in which about a dozen deer are kept. The deer kept in this garden were called “Kamijika” in ancient times, and Manyoshu also contains a verse about these deer. The present shrine pavilion was rebuilt in 1916, after the former building burned down in 1912 in a fire that started in the temple town.
－Yahiko Shrine Precincts and Facilities－
The precincts of the shrine cover an area of about 13 hectares (about 40,000 tsubo) and are surrounded by ancient cedar and keyaki trees that are 400 to 500 years old. Behind the shrine pavilion is a 634-meter sacred mountain – Mt. Yahiko. The forest area of the precincts and other areas cover about 200 hectares (about 600,000 tsubo). The shrine has a number of buildings in its precincts, including the Bu-den (dancing stage), Saikan, Ema-den, Sanshu-den, Koro, Homotsu-den (treasure hall) and Shamu-sho (shrine office). In the precincts, there is also a garden called Rokuen that is reminiscent of the ancient Manyo era. About a dozen deer are kept in this garden. The shrine also keeps chickens, with about a dozen domestic species being bred in cooperation with amateur chicken breeders from around the prefecture. Both the deer and chickens are designated as natural treasures.
－God Enshrined in Yahiko Shrine －
Enshrined in Yahiko Shine is Ame no Kagoyama no Mikoto – a great-grandson of Amaterasu Omikami. He joined the other gods when they descended from Takamagahara and lived in Kumano, Kishu Province. During the Advance to the East by the Emperor Jinmu, Ame no Kagoyama no Mikoto was offered the Hutsu no Mitama sword and was praised for his distinguished service. After unifying the nation, the Emperor Jinmu acceded to the throne at Kashiwara no Miya in Yamato. Four years later, Ame no Kagoyama no Mikoto was ordered to develop and manage the Echigo region. After sailing across the rough Sea of Japan, he landed at the Nozumi no Hama shore in the province of Etsu. Ame no Kagoyama no Mikoto got down to work immediately. He taught fishermen to produce salt by boiling sea water and to catch fish by using nets and hooks. The god then settled in Yahiko, subdued wild local tribes and instructed the local populace on how to produce rice. Six generations of his offspring cooperated with him and passed on their techniques, thus establishing the foundation of the industrial culture of the Echigo region. Ame no Kagoyama no Mikoto was a god who founded the development of the Echigo region and the establishment of Echigo culture and industry. Yahiko Shrine was built on this spot to honor Ame no Kagoyama no Mikoto as the god of the Echigo region’s development. While it is unclear exactly when that was, the shrine is obviously more than 1,300 years old, given that it is mentioned in Manyoshu. According to the Shaki (shrine records), the god precincts were expanded and a new pavilion was constructed in 711 in response to an imperial edict, by which time the shrine had already been built.
▼Sessha (Auxiliary Shrines) and Massha (Subsidiary Shrines) of Yahiko Shrine
The offspring of the enshrined god took over the task of Echigo development, forming the base of the industrial culture of the region. In various places both inside and outside the precincts of Yahiko Shrine, there are sessha and massha shrines dedicated to subordinate god Umashi Hoya Hime no Mikoto and other generations of gods. Massha Tobashira Shrine is a thatched-roof building that was constructed during the Genroku period and which features techniques that are typical of the Muromachi era. It was designated as an important cultural property in 1950.
▼Bridge for Gods – Tamanohashi Bridge (Yahiko Shrine)
The ancient record of Yahiko Shrine mentions the “Tamanohashi” bridge as being one of the structures that were built in the precincts when the shrine pavilion was rebuilt in 711 in response to an imperial edict. Among these structures is an ancient bridge for gods that is located halfway along the approach to the shrine. The bridge is depicted in old pictures of the shrine precincts in the Muromachi era. * For religious and structural reasons, walking on the bridge is prohibited.
▼Sacred Tree (Yahiko Shrine)
Next to the site of the former pavilion (near the second torii gate) stands a huge clumpy chinquapin tree that is surrounded by a stone fence. This is the sacred tree. According to the shrine records, when the god of this shrine stuck his chinquapin wood cane into the ground and said, “Flourish if this is where we should live,” the cane burst into leaf and spread its roots, instantly growing into a giant tree.
▼Gosin Byo (Sacred Mausoleum) (Yahiko Summit)
The sacred mausoleum (inner shrine) for the god and goddess is located at the top of Mt. Yahiko (634 meters).
▼Big Torii Gate
The big torii gate was put up in 1982 to commemorate the opening of the Joetsu Shinkansen line. It is 30.16 meters tall and has a shrine plate as large as 12 tatami mats at the top. This torii gate honors the sacred mausoleum at the summit of Mt. Yahiko.
▼Yahiko Summit Park
At the summit of Mt. Yahiko (634 meters) stands a 100-meter rotating and elevating observatory tower, called the Panorama Tower, which offers you magnificent 360-degree views including Sado Island far off the coast.
This driving course with a total length of 13.7 kilometers lets you enjoy marvelous views from Mt. Yahiko. Park your car in the summit parking lot, and watch the sun set in the Sea of Japan down below. It is a 20-minute drive from Yahiko Station to the Yahiko summit. Drive across Mt. Yahiko, and you’ll find the “Echigo Nanaura Seaside Line” – a 13.9-kilometer-long coastal driving route connecting Nozumi, Nagaoka City, and Kakudahama, Niigata City. It offers several spots where you can watch the beautiful burning sunset.
* The Yahiko-yama Skyline is closed between December 1 and March 31 every year.
The Yahiko-yama Ropeway takes you to the Yahiko summit in about five minutes while affording you excellent views of the natural environment around you. At the summit, you get 360-degree panoramic views, with Sado Island in the Sea of Japan to the west and the Echigo Plain, famous for its high-quality rice, to the east.
▼Yahiko Cycling Stadium
“Keirin” (bicycle racing) is a Japanese-born sport, which is officially included in the Olympic Games and enjoys widespread popularity around the world. Cyclists streaking in front of you at speeds comparable to those of automobiles, as well as their well-thought tactics, are compelling features rarely found in other sports. In the last straight of the course, top-class cyclists often reach speeds as fast as 70 kilometers per hour. With the goal in sight, every competitor, eager to finish first, resorts to every possible act of gamesmanship including head-butting and bodychecking. That is why bicycle racing is called a “combat sport on wheels”. Come to the Yahiko Cycling Stadium, and see for yourself what real bicycle races are like.
A road linking the worship hall of Yahiko Shrine to the Sanroku Station of the ropeway. Of all the plants mentioned in the Manyoshu anthology, 60 varieties, all indigenous to Mt. Yahiko, are planted along the road to help hikers conjure up the verses of the Manyo period.
▼Yahiko Station Building
The building of Yahiko Station on the JR Yahiko Line was designed to resemble the pavilion of Yahiko Shrine. Built in 1917, it is one of the few station buildings in Japan that feature the architectural style of a shrine, and one of the assets of the modernization in Niigata Prefecture.
With an area of 160,000 square meters, Yahiko Park has waterfalls, mountain streams, hills and tunnels, each blending together in beautiful harmony. The Kangetsukyo Bridge, a reproduction of an old wooden bridge, is particularly spectacular when set against the autumn colors. With plants, such as azaleas and irises, planted all over the park, we can enjoy beautiful views flowers in every season.
▼Onsen Hot Springs(Onsen)
Yahiko Village has three onsen hot springs, each famous for its unique type of high-quality spring water. Come and enjoy these renowned onsen hot springs with your family and friends!
– Yu-jinja Onsen Hot Spring –
A hot spring with colorless, simple alkaline water. The therapeutic benefits of this spring water include the relief and treatment of neuralgia, muscle pain, articular pain, frozen shoulder, motor weakness, stiff joints, bruises, sprains, chronic gynecological diseases, hemorrhoids, poor circulation, convalescence, fatigue, and overall health promotion.
– Yahiko Sakurai-go Onsen Hot Spring –
A simple sulfur hot spring with colorless water. Visitors can enjoy its soft and smooth water that is said to be good for adult diseases. The therapeutic benefits of the spring water include the relief and treatment of diabetes, neuralgia, muscle pain, articular pain, frozen shoulder, bruises, chronic gynecological diseases, poor circulation, convalescence, fatigue, chronic skin diseases and female disorders.
– Climbing Mt. Yahiko -
Mountain trails lined with cedar trees, wild birds chirping – you can enjoy the rich natural environment and beautiful scenery, as well as learning about the history and culture of the region, while trekking at your own pace. Some parts of the climbing route are not easy for casual hikers. When you go for a climb, make sure that you are well equipped and wear clothes that are suitable for climbing. The climbing route has map panels and information boards, like the ones shown below, at the entrance to each mountain trail and near the historical sites.
A map of the mountain trail is shown.
Information about the historical site and related events is presented.
Checking the number painted at the back of the post against the number on the route map lets you find out where you are now.
You can see more than 400 varieties of plants on and around Mt. Yahiko.
The Yahiko summit is a good spot for watching the setting sun and enjoying night views. After watching the sunset over Sado Island in the Sea of Japan, you will be fascinated by the night views that start to glitter below your eyes. Enjoy a gorgeous sweeping view of the Echigo Plain, with fish-luring fires burning in the Sea of Japan and city lights glimmering along the coastline.
▲Gosin Byo (or Okumiya)
Yahiko Shrine’s inner shrine, called Gosin Byo, is located at the summit of Mt. Yahiko (634 meters).