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Hometown heritage focus with Satoshi Takahashi #3: A Shinto god guiding women's path

A family smiles after praying for the healthy growth of their newborn baby at Karamatsu Jinja in Akita Prefecture's city of Daisen on May 16, 2021. (Satoshi Takahashi) =Click/tap photo for more images.

Japanese photo journalist Satoshi Takahashi, renowned for pictures of the political unrest in Cambodia over the past decade or so, has recently focused on the diverse heritage of his hometown, the northern prefecture of Akita. For the third article of this series, Takahashi visited Karamatsu Jinja, a Shinto shrine, in the city of Daisen.


    Magnificent old cedar trees are lined up beside the path to the shrine as if to welcome worshippers.

    Since ancient times, Karamatsu Jinja has housed a Shinto god believed to protect women through their lives. Annually, some 60,000 people from all over Japan make the pilgrimage to pray for marriage, pregnancy and safe birth, as well as for children to grow strong and healthy.

    Those who are blessed with babies return to adorn the hall of worship with bells. The ornaments I saw were a mixture of old and new, and the enormous amount proved how long the tradition has persisted.

    Back in the Edo period (1603-1867), a new custom became popular in which groups of women visited the shrine on the 8th of each month. Each organization was known as the "Karamatsu confraternity for the 8th" or simply "Karamatsu confraternity." It peaked from the Meiji era (1868-1912) to the pre-World War II years. For the devotees, the voyages became the base of their religious thoughts, and eventually became a pillar supporting their lives.

    The 64th generation chief priest, 75-year-old Sakihito Mononobe, reflects that, "Changing lifestyles after the tempestuous post-war times led to a decrease in the number of confraternity pilgrimages. That said, mental connections originating from these gatherings were passed on, and Karamatsu Jinja was preserved by such people's benevolence."

    I was moved by the dignity of this site, imagining the milestones of numerous lives it must have shared. That was when my camera caught a family with their newborn girl on her first visit, with smiles entirely enveloped in a sense of relief.

    The smiles are a result of years of trust that people have place in this shrine, and these smiles are what have shaped its history.

    (The Japanese original by Satoshi Takahashi was published on June 30, 2021)


    Satoshi Takahashi was born in the city of Akita, Akita Prefecture in 1981. Residing in Phnom Penh from 2007 to 2018, his photos captured the social problems of Cambodia and were published globally. In 2019, his publication titled "RESISTANCE" (the subtitle roughly translates to "the undaunted spirit of Cambodians") won the 38th Domon Ken Award sponsored by the Mainichi Newspapers.

    In Photos: Akita Pref.'s Shinto god asked to guide women's path

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