History of Asama Jinja
Mount Fuji has been worshipped in Japan for hundreds of years, initially by the Ainu, then Shinto, and finally Buddhism. Fuji is worshipped as a Goddess, giving fertile soils and clear water. To keep her happy eight Shinto shrines were erected around the base of Mount Fuji, with numerous smaller shrines across Japan. Once Buddhism came to Japan, temples were built on Mount Fuji herself. The snow line of Fuji was said to denote the line between life and the afterlife, and pilgrimages were taken to move between. Pilgrimages to the summit of Mount Fuji were undertaken from Kyoto or Tokyo, when they were the capital cities. As women were not allowed to climb Fuji due to being “impure”, they would travel to the Fuji shrines at the base.
Kawaguchiko Asama Shrine was constructed after the massive eruption in 864, in order to calm Mount Fuji from erupting again. At that time Fuji erupted for 10 days and changed the landscape of the region, covering that large lake to the north, forming two new lakes, Shojiko and Saiko, and the lava forest Aokigahara. Although Fuji erupted over sixteen times since then, no eruption had been as destructive, so the shrine must be working.
Asama shrine is registered as a World Cultural Heritage site, thanks to being part of Mount Fuji’s religious worship, and source of artistic inspiration. The shrine has been standing for over 1000 years, as have the towering trees which surround the shrine buildings.
The shrine is special because it is the only one of Fuji’s shrines have three religious services; worshipping from a distance, training, and worship with climbing. The shrine has beautiful gardens and ponds, along with a towering torii at the entrance, popular for wedding shots.
Asama torii: framing Mount Fuji
In 2019 a new torii was installed on the land between the Asama shrine and their subordinate shrine at Hananoshirataki. This torii (tenku no torii) is placed on the edge of the mountain, with a clear view of Kawaguchiko, Kawaguchikomachi and Mount Fuji.
The torii is relatively small, and not as robust as many free standing famous torii, such as at Hakone or Miyajima. The torii does offer a focal point, and the ability to worship Fuji from a distance.
New trees and plants are being set on this mountain side, and now rules are in place for enjoying this area. Photos taken from a camera phone are fine, if you want to use a proper camera you need a license which costs 500Y per year. The rules are also that no tripods are to be used, and you can only enter during hours of daylight. To read more about the rules click here. You also may find photos online of people posing under the torii, this is no longer allowed to protect the area.
This park is incredibly peaceful and gives such a wonderful view of the area, without having to hike up an entire mountain!
Two further subordinate shrines in Kawaguchiko also belong to Asama shrine; Hahanoshirataki Shrine and Ubuyagasaki shrine.
Hananoshirotaki shrine is a small shrine further up the mountain from Asama shrine and from the torii. The shrine is set against a beautiful waterfall, which freezes solid during winter!
Ubuyagasaki shrine is set on the northern shore of Mount Fuji, and is the smallest shrine, and the only shrine of Mount Fuji where you can see Fuji and a shrine in one shot!
You can take bus number 5 from Kawaguchiko station to Kawaguchi Asama Shrine, it is then a brisk walk up the hill to the torii.
To keep up to date with changes to the area you can follow their instagram page here.