Trip to Spiritual Spots
Wara – Encountering Romantic Myths

Writer : TABITABI Gujo Editor Team
Posted date: 2022-02-22 Last updated: 2022-08-09

[Legend of Oni-no-kubi] Seeing the Head of Demon from 1000 years ago!

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We are reaching our climax of our trip! We are going to visit Matsuzawayama’s Nenkoji Temple of the Shinshu Ohtani-ha (Japanese Buddhist movement) where the head of demon is enshrined. It is only a few minutes walk along a single path from Togakushi-jinja Shrine. As there is no information counter, we ring the interphone and wait for the priest to come. He welcomes us and guides us to the main building. There is a miniature shrine with doors at the back of the room, and chairs are placed in front of it. Is it…? The priest asks us to sit on the chairs and starts telling us the legend of demon.

◆Legend 4 : Facts and objects left in Wara [Legend of demon slaying at Fukubegatake]

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During Tenryaku era (947 – 957), the 62nd generation Emperor Murakami, a demon came to the village and played tricks on the fields, livestock and people. It transformed into different things to scare people. The villagers were confused and asked the emperor to help exterminating the demon. Fujiwarano Takamitsu was sent from Kyoto to Fukubegatake. However, the demon disappeared for 1 to 2 years.
One day, he was led by an eel at Kayukawa River to the upstream and found the cave of the demon. The demon looked very scary and strong. He transformed into different forms. Takamitsu prayed to Akasagarbha (One of the eight great bodhisattvas) for more knowledge to slay a demon.
He dreamt that “Shoot the big eagle with this arrow flying in the sky in the morning.” And found an arrow.
When Takamitsu woke up, he found a white feather arrow by his pillow.
He went to the demon’s cave and found him! Demon was scared by the arrow and escaped into the mountain. Although Takamitsu chased him, the demon went into the mist. A big eagle appeared and flied into the sky. Takamitsu shot with his white feather arrow and hit! The eagle dropped into the bottom of a valley. Takamitsu went to the valley and saw the demon fall. He cropped the demon’s head with his sword. He was successful in slaying this demon! Takamitsu’s children were left at the Kayukawa River and protected the head for generations.

After 700 years of time, head of demon was transferred to Wara

Around 300 years ago, during Genroku era (1688 – 1740), Kaigawa Taroemon, the descendent of Takamitsu, moved to Wara.
Although the demon has hurt lots of people, it was 700 years ago, nothing you can do for it. All lives are precious.” He planned to enshrine the head of demon and searched for a temple. He found it difficult to find a temple which agree with him. Finally, he reached Nenkoji Temple and got the head enshrined here. The head was kept secret for 250 years, no one saw or touched it. Until 50 years ago, it became one of the documentary cultural properties. It was transferred to the main building and was displayed. Despite it is now displayed publicly, in the past, storm came only because the door was opened. Therefore, it was kept secret.

Let face the head of demon now!

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We are all fascinated by the story that the priest told us. He finally opens the door. Let us see the head of demon!

The size and shape of the skull is different from human. Two horns are growing from the head. With high cheekbone and long jawbone, the back of the head is very big. We ask if we can take a photo for this report. But the priest says misfortune came upon many people who took photos of the head. Taking photos is forbidden. Please come and listen to the story told by the priest and see it by your own eyes!

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In addition, this temple is famous for drooping cherry blossom. A whole picture of flowers can be seen in April. If we come one month earlier, we are able to see the cherry blossom. But the fresh green in May is also refreshing!

◆Special epi : One more place in the legend, Kayukawa River

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According to the priest, the legend of demon slaying has 3 important remaining. We are curious about that and go to visit again on another day.

First is the name of this place. The waterfall where Takamitsu has shot his arrow was named Yatogabuchi, means a pool where arrow is shot. Maybe the arrow was purified by the water?! Takamitsu prayed demon would not appear again. Akasagarbha whom he dreamt was enshrined at the Hoshinomiya-jinja Shrine. The eel in Kayukawa River guided Takamitsu was consider as the servant of the god. Eels are protected that no one can catch or eat till now.

Legends of demon slaying are spread all over Japan, but the demon skull, names of places and shrines left in Gujo. Maybe it is more than a legend, or maybe it is a fact?

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Walking around from Jaana to Nenkoji Temple for around 4 hours, all places are located nearby. You only need half day to visit all the spiritual spots within Wara. We find “Choju-dango (Longevity dumplings)” at Roadside Station Wara when we are heading home. The avenge length of life of male in Wara-cho is 80.6 years old, which is the longest in Japan ! This “Choju-dango” is made of tofu with refined rice flour and soy sauce using agaricus mushroom, a specialty in Wara. The staff of the shop is so friendly that they tell us all about the origin of its name and recipe. It is great that we can encounter all these during our trip!

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TABITABI Gujo editorial

TABITABI Gujo is a general media site for sightseeing in Gujo introducing attractive tourist spots in Gujo with a slogan of “Gujo, a place you want to visit many many times.” While knowing more about Gujo, we continue providing information on travel suggestions during each season in different areas, as well as the latest information of Gujo-shi.

Photographs by TABITABI Gujo Editor Team

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