18. KOKEGESAN SHRINE
An Important Cultural Property of Kawasaki City
Original location: Okagami, Asao Ward, Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture (In the precincts of Tōkōin-Temple)
Type of building: Shrine and protective covering building
Built: 1863 (Inscription on a wooden tablet nailed to the rear wall of the shrine)
Form: The shrine – One bay shingled gable-entry (Kasuga Style) building, with a cusped gable (Ikkensha, Kasugazukuri, mukai-karahafu, kokera buki)
The covering building – Thatched roof, half-hipped at front, hipped at rear
Length (parallel to ridge): 4.6 m, Width: 2.7 m
This is a small shrine (kūden) dedicated to the patron deity of sericulture, Kokagesan Daigongen, contained within a covering building to protect it from wind and rain. It was located in the precincts of Tōkōin, a local Buddhist temple, and was an object of veneration for years. However, as the silk industry declined, it became difficult for the village people to afford the cost of maintenance, and so the building was moved to Nihon Minkaen.
With a half hipped roof at the front and a hipped roof at the rear, the covering building is a gable entry structure designed to be as impressive as possible when viewed from the front. Although relatively small, its roof makes it look magnificent, with deep eaves supported by long jettied members on all four sides (Segai Zukuri). The grass ridge (shibamune) of the thatched roof has irises planted in it, which look beautiful when they bloom in the spring. The space at the front of the building is an open earth-floored area, conceived as a kōhai (the porch area provided for the use of worshippers at the front of a temple building). The shrine (kūden) is set in the innermost recesses of the floored part of the covering building, surrounded by sliding panels and walls. The inner part of wooden floor, where the kūden stands, is elevated, emphasising the respect in which the shrine is held.
The shrine is of the Kasuga Style type (i.e. it is modeled on the gable-entry shrine buildings of Kasuga Taisha in Nara) with a karahafu (cusped) gable at the front. It is known from the munafuda nailed to the rear wall of the building that the shrine was built in 1863. The shrine is decorated with relief carvings. Among them, the relief on the side wall of the shrine, which tells the story of the Golden Princess, is especially noteworthy. The Golden Princess was born in northern India, and after overcoming four hardships, she arrived in Japan, as an incarnation of the Boddhisatva Memyō Bosatsu, and introduced the technology of sericulture. It is said that the four hardships symbolize the four dormant stages in the life of a silk worm before it pupates.