/ Agencies) - For the first time in the modern era, the Kasuga Taisha Shinto
temple is set to open its doors to the public and showcase its cultural and
religious treasures. The structure, recognized as a "World Heritage
Site", is located in Nara Prefecture and is normally only accessible to
Shinto religious and the imperial family. Inside the temple there is a stone
where, according to the local cult, the divinity Takemikazuchi no Mikoto, the
patron of the martial arts, rests.
Originally the deity was worshiped in the Kashima Jingu temple: here a famous school of kendo and kenjutsu was created. According to tradition, the deity fled on a white deer and now rests in the stone. The deity's most famous devotees include Tsukahara Bokuden, the fifteenth century samurai, who spent most of his life at the temple mastering the art of the sword.
The temple will be opened on the occasion of Shikinen Zotai, , a ritual held every 20 years in which aged structures and interiors are replaced. Hirotada Kasannoin, the Shinto abbot, explains that elements of worship have been removed from Kasuga, but the cultural treasures and the stone will be on show for the public. It is the first time that the northern gate has opened in 140 years.
The treasures on display from March 29 to April 5, include a painting depicting the flight of the gods from Kashima temple, the indoor gardens and the four pavilions usually reserved for worship for the emperor and his family.