Yoshino Mikumari Shrine: The Atheist Husband’s favourite!


The first time I visited Mt. Yoshino was the fall of 2012. It was only one night and 2days. When I arrived, my first impression of Yoshino was just like visiting a little small local town somewhere in Japan.

Anyway, I have already written about Yoshino’s history and details here to read.

奈良県吉野山 4 Reasons Why You Should Visit Yoshino in Nara than Kyoto!

But when we started walking around the area, it’s so contained and full of individual holy places, and it is very spiritual.

Then I realised two days were not enough to enjoy this area at all.

Then, in 2014, my husband and I came back to Kyoto and Nara (actually he wanted to go to India) for his 50th birthday, we stayed two nights and three days to explore.

At this time, we had lovely weather, and I had asked Yukawaya-inn to make a lunch box (rice balls and Japanese pickles) for hiking.

We found a magnificent shrine on the way to hiking Yoshino mountain.  Now, I introduce you to this particular shrine, the Mikumari-jinja at a shrine that my husband likes best in Japan (more than a Buddhist shrine in Kyoto)!

The ancient God of Water and Fertility

Yoshino Mikumari Shrine

I think people living in Mt. Yoshino should have only owned small vehicles (I didn’t see any large local cars neither).

Most of the streets are really narrow. The roads are just wide enough a tiny car can be going pass. And it’s a mountainside, so there are many slopes too.

My husband and I thought we both liked walking so that it wouldn’t be too much trouble, but it’s hard, really, it was hard walking up these slopes.

If you climb up such a narrow slope, you will see a typical type of “local shrine” at the corner of the Y-junction. The Y-shaped road is sometimes regarded as a sacred area in Shinto and is suitable for the shrines and temples’ property.

This shrine calls Yoshino-Mikumari-jinja for water and fertility god, and it has been the centre of local beliefs of Shinto worship.

History and origin of Yoshino Mikumari-jinja

Yoshino Mikumari Shrine
A wooden statue of the deity Tamayori hime by Wiki commons
A wooden statue of the deity Tamayori hime by Wiki commons

TOYOTOMI Hideyori built the six main buildings (for six deities) of this shrine in 1605, so it is 414 years old. But it’s still well preserved original structures and very graceful.

Along with this shrine is one of the four water gods; “Katsuragi Mikumari-jinja Shrine”, “Tsuge Mikumari-jinja Shrine” and “Uda Mikumari-jinja Shrine”. Then it has been worshipped by local people in Yamato Province since ancient times.

“Mikumari” refers to the water god (the god who distributes water to the fields) and “Ame(heaven’s) no Mikumari(water) no Okami(god),” the main enshrined deity of this shrine.

This region is also called Yoshino Mikumari-no-mine Mountain (Aonegamine), and it seems to have a deep relationship with the existence of the same water god too.

Yoshino Mikumari Shrine

The shrine has evolved through many different names by local people. From around the middle of the Heian period, ‘mikumari (water saver)’ became ‘mikomori,’ and came to be called ‘Komori Myojin, (nanny god or babysitter god)’ which was nicknamed ‘Komori-san’ and worshipped as the god of childbirth or fertility.

It is said that Mikumari-jinja Shrine used to be enshrined in the upper reaches of the Shokawa River, and there is the ruin of the former Mikumari-sha Shrine.

Also, Mikumari-jinja Shrine used to be enshrined in the upper reaches of the Shokawa River, and there is the site of the former Mikumari-sha Shrine. And the research shows that there might have the relationship between Mikumari shrine and the Miyataki Ruins that flourished from the middle of the Jomon period to the Nara period.

The shrine also houses six deities that are more or less related to mikumari (Takami-musubi-no-kami, Sukuna-hiko-no-kami, Mikogami, Ama-tsu-hiko-hi-no-ninigi-no-mikoto], Tamayori-hime-no-mikoto, and Yorozu-hata-toyo-akitsushi-hime-no-mikoto). A wooden statue of the deity Tamayori hime is registered as a National Treasure of Japan.

There is more info for this Mikumari shine in Wikipedia.

Yoshino Mikumari Shrine
Sakura tree in Mikumari shrine.

For my husband, he is an Australian and grew up Catholic family background and then when he was a very young age, went to a Catholic boarding school.

During his Catholic school experiences made him an atheist, he doesn’t believe any of spiritualities which related to the supernatural.

However, he did a study of Buddhism and as well as he has a more profound knowledge of Shintoism. Because he also did edit my thesis during my degree courses at uni.

Therefore he has quite different views towards Japanese religious perspectives which has philosophical aspects rather than supernatural spiritualities compare to what I believe.

And he thinks my view of religious beliefs;
“Religious beliefs should be an individual and a very private thing. So, even if I don’t believe it, but I won’t force to agree with my thoughts, and I always respect what you believe, and that is your truth anyway.”

And I totally agree with him about the personal beliefs towards any other religions. Well, therefore if I feel something odd or any supernatural things that he doesn’t believe, but it’s true to me.

However, he thinks this shrine is something very special to him, and he just falls in love with this shine.

During our Yoshino trip, he asked me to go there again, that meant we had to walk up the steep hill back…. seriously he loves this shrine that much. You have no idea how steep that slope is!

Yoshino Mikumari Shrine
Photo credit : Wiki Commons baggio4ever

Then I went back to Yoshino with my Japanese best friend in 2018. We tried to visit this Mikumari-jinjya, but it was closed. It was just past 3 pm.
Are there any regular closed day for the shrine?

I’d never heard of it….

When we get back to the Yoshinoya-ryokan then we asked the manager, Yamamoto-san, then he explained to us that the former priest had used to live nearby, but the current one was living a bit away from this shrine so that he might go home early sometimes.

Well, it was low season, and there was only us on the street, yes, we understood.
But there is someone who might come for this shrines like us, and I wished it was open. I was looking forward to showing my best friend.

However, my best friend said,
“If I was meant to be there, I can come back again.”

Right, so my husband was meant to be there, and there was some connection between them. If this kind of theory would work, that’s very interesting.
I think if you think (well, normally people thinks it’s just a coincidence) there is something more than a coincidence, that makes the world feel a little different.

Yoshino Mikumari Shrine
Photo credit : Wiki Commons baggio4ever

Let me explain why this shrine is special. This shrine’s atmosphere is like very soft, and I can use Japanese expression “it’s wrapped in cotton.”

This shrine’s main deity is originally a water god, but it’s an entirely different atmosphere compared to other water gods’ ones (I’ve been so many water gods’ shrines before).

Most water gods are like belong to the mountain so that their atmosphere is more likely strict or sacred. Thus, my impression of this shrine is very different from them.

I think that’s because the shrine’s another name, “Komorimiya (babysitter god)” is so deep in its belief and worshipped by local people for the god of fertility, providing safe labours, and protecting children.

Therefore, this shrine is the centre of the parents’ hearts and love for their children. And their worshipping beliefs become all this shrine’s symbol of its faith.

So, maybe that’s why my husband has been falling in love with this shrine so much. He’s a very loving father, and he can die for our family that’s him. Hence, his heart and love for his children might synchronise with its religious beliefs.

Anyhow, he would love to go back there again one day.
Well, I’m sure we will go back there again because we really have to see cherry blossom (I haven’t seen for more than 20 years for god’s sake!)

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Yoshino Mikumari Shrine
Yoshino Mikumari Shrine


I hope you enjoyed my story of Mikumari shrine in Yoshino mountain. Hopefully, you found it useful and make you got there too! Here are a few more interesting articles about Yoshino that I recommend you read next:

Nakai Shunpu-do Review: Must finish Yoshino kudzu within 10 minutes 奈良県吉野山金峰山寺 Yoshino Kimpusan-ji : Must Visit one of the Oldest Temples in Japan, Yoshino Nara 奈良県吉野山 4 Reasons Why You Should Visit Yoshino in Nara than Kyoto!