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Masakado Tsuka

The back page of the June 28th issue of Jinja Shinpō was a full-colour special celebrating the completion of the refurbishment of the Masakado Tsuka in Ōtëmachi, central Tokyo.

Taira no Masakado was a leader and general of the early tenth century who rebelled against the central government and proclaimed himself the “New Tennō”. His rebellion was put down, and Masakado himself was beheaded, and the head taken to Kyoto to be displayed in public. After three days, however, it flew, shining with white light, back to eastern Japan, and landed at the site of the Masakado Tsuka. The earth shook, and the sun turned dark, so the people of the area built a mound (a “tsuka”) for the head, where it had landed in the precincts of Kanda Jinja. (It is possible that not all parts of this story happened exactly as reported.)

Kanda Jinja itself has moved, because the Masakado Tsuka is very close to the Imperial Palace, the site of Edo Castle, and there was not enough space for a whole jinja. The tsuka was preserved, however, and the location is still honoured today.

This location is interesting because it doesn’t fit many of the standard descriptions of Shinto. (Admittedly, it is connected to the tradition of honouring kami who might otherwise curse you.) It is nothing to do with nature worship, nor is there any particular connection to descendants of Taira no Masakado. It honours someone who rebelled against the Tennō. And it is a site honouring the flying disconnected head of a dead man.

Shinto has a lot of diversity.

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2 thoughts on “Masakado Tsuka”

  1. Hi, it may be a long shot, but is there any resources onto how a shrine is build?

    All I can find is the meaning behind why things are made that way, but I haven’t be able to finds schematics, measurements, or at least guidelines as to how the buildings themselves must be build.

    1. There are no strict rules for how they must be built, and there are books available with plans that include full measurements. Affiliate links below, but the books are in Japanese. (I don’t own these, so I do not know how much use they would be to someone who doesn’t read Japanese — or, indeed, whether you can read Japanese.)

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