If you walk from the center of Ryotsu to Haguro Shrine, it will take more than one hour. Sado is always bigger than you think it is. Check bus schedule carefully for avoiding two hours walk for go-and-back. Some of #2 buses (Minami-sen) from Sawata go to "Ryotsu Bunka Kaikan" as the final stop. That bus stop that is located at still 2 kilometer (1.3 mile) before the shrine. The less frequent #4 bus (Uchi Kaifu-sen) takes you to "Hama Umezu" bus stop that is also at 2 kilometer distance from the shrine. You may think that the Torii gate is the place of the shrine. However, you still have to walk a long way, actually a long stairway, to the prayer hall. It is not a straight upstairs from Torii gate as in a typical shrine, but it is go-up, go-down, and go-up again in Haguro Shrine.
Photo.81.1 Entrance of Haguro Shrine
Annual festival is on June 15, prayer festival is in March, and Harvest festival is on November 241). This shrine started by sharing the spirit of Ukano mitamano mikoto from of Haguro Shrine in Dewa Country, then-Yamagata, in 770. It was first settled on the top of Haguro Mountain a.k.a. Samidare Mountain of 305 meter height. Poet Kyogku Tamekane who was expelled to Sado in 1298 made a Haiku from the scene around this area using the name of Samidare Mountain2).
All through the years, what piled up in the Lake Koshi might have been dews in the Forest of Samidare Mountain. by Kyogoku Tamekane3)
And then in 1135, the shrine was moved to the current location4). Folklore tells a funny story; when carrying the spirit to be enshrined from Yamagata to Sado, the ship got leakage on the way. Then many sea shells of abalone came to the ship in order to save the ship. They filled the hole with themselves and stop the leakage. Thanks to the ear shells, the spirit had safely landed on Sado. Local residents worshiping Haguro Shrine never eat abalone shells because of this story 5).
This website introduces 10 Shinto shrines and 16 Buddhism Temples. Shinto and Buddhism are two major religions in Japan. Shintoism was originated in Japan, while Buddhism was brought from foreign countries since 6 centruy. Actually the summation of numbers of two religion's believer is bigger than Japanese population. What this means is that two had been coexisted. Also both religions had been influenced each other, and sometimes mixing had happened. So it was quite usual that a temple and a shrine were built in the same place. In the area of Haguro shrine, too, there used to be Shoko Temple. In 1295, a bell was dedicated to the Shoko Temple. But that bell is now kept in Jinguu Temple in Niibo6).
The reason of transfer of the bell was that Shoko Temple was discontinued by the radical movement in the Meiji restoration in 1867. The movement was Haibutsu-Kishaku meaning "Demolishing Buddhism and Abandaning Gotama shiddhartha". When Japan ended the long Samurai government systems and started as a western style nation state, some leading figures in the new government prioritized Japan's originality while opening the country to outer world. They didn't like things imported from foreign countries like Buddhism. The radical movement destroyed so many temples and Buddhims treasures all over Japan.
Photo.81.2 The Main Hall of Haguro Shrine
In the case of Sado, the movement was done in more radically by one person. It had resulted in destructions of many Buddhism temples. His name was Okudaira Kensuke. He came to the island November 11 in the first year of Meiji Era, 1867. He landed on Ogi with 180 strong men, reached Aikawa on November 14, and started radical changes against Buddhism Temples in Sado7). He pointed out that there were too many temples of 539 on small land of Sado with its population of 81,360. In average sense, ratios were like only 35 families for one temple, only 75 persons for one priest. Most of priests were not educated, does not have knowledge, spending an easy life of pleasure, cheating people to get and save money, and living by others helps on rice and foods that were produced by hardworking of farmers8).
And then he gave a short notice to reduce the numbers of temples by demolishing and/or merging. He cut the communication between Sado temples and the head temples in the main land by banning priests to go outside of the island, burned many Buddhist statues and altar fittings, melting and casting metallic fittings. By his order, temples decreased to be only 80. Many priests lost the land and some became farmers. Okudaira's reform was radical and caused many troubles between islanders9). He left the island on August 4th 1868. He went back to his own place, Hagi, and then caused a revolt there. Because of it, he was beheaded in December 3rd, 1876 at the age of 3610).
Although the number of temples decreased much, it is said that some Jodoshin-shu temples resisted and contributed to minimize the damage by the Okudaira's order11). Research done in 1915 (Taisho-4th yr) says that number of temples came back to about 55% of that of Edo era12). However, Shoko Temple, one of the biggest of demolished temples, has never had a revival.
Photo.81.3 The Prayer Hall of Haguro Shrine
Some books say about a ritual of shooting arrow from horseback in the Festival of Haguro Shrine13). Note that there are some different Haguro Shrines in Sado. There is another Haguro Shrine in village of An'yoji that has a Noh stage designated as Prefectural cultural heritage. But it is not the Haguro shrine that this page introduces.