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Home » 6. Belief and Practice » Shrines and Cultic Practices
Kasuga Shinkō
Kasuga Taisha is a shrine in the foothills of Kasuga Mikasa Mountain in which the Fujiwara "clan kami" (ūjigami) have been "established" (kanjō), the "enshrined kami" (saijin) of Kashima, Katori, and Hiraoka. Since the shrine's founding, due to the Fujiwara clan's position as the maternal line (gaiseki) to the imperial house, the Kasuga Festival became state sponsored, and the shrine received favor from the imperial court. Devotion to the Fujiwara ujigami was central to the cult of Kasuga, but over time it took on various other characteristics. Another important element is the cult that developed around Mount Mikasa taking it as a "mountain-abode of kami" (shintaisan), a belief thought to predate the founding of Kasuga Shrine. In the medieval period, cults of "thunder kami" (raijin) and "dragon kami" (ryūjin) also developed there. In the late Heian period, when the temple Kōfukuji became designated as the "superintending temple" (bettōji) of Kasuga Shrine, devotees placed heightened emphasis on Kasuga's deities' role as protectors of Kōfukuji and of the Hossō sect of Buddhism. During Kōfukuji's "sacred protests" on the capital known as gōso in which rowdy monks and shrine servants carried holy objects to the capital to exert pressure on courtiers, Kasuga Shrine brought out a sacred tree (shinboku) to support and protect them. Based on the honji suijaku doctrine, separate Buddhist avatars (honjibutsu) were designated for Kasuga shrine's Shisho Myōjin, "Four Bright Kami," and Kasuga daimyōjin the collective name for the "Four Bright Kami" and the uber-kami that those four comprise was considered a Shinto manifestation of the Buddhist Boddhisattva Jihimangyō Bosatsu. A sub-shrine (wakamiya) dedicated to the "offspring" (mikogami) of Kasuga's kami was established in 1135, and Kōfuku Temple organized a large-scale Kasuga Wakamiya Festival during which many types of performance, including bugaku, sarugaku, and dengaku, were performed as offerings to the shrine. Furthermore, deer were worshipped as "messengers of the kami" (shinshi) and Kasuga deer mandalas depicting the deer-kami were painted. The legends contained in the Kasuga gongen genki reveal other various aspects of medieval Kasuga faith. Kasuga faith spread throughout Japan due to the many Kasuga-kō confraternities that developed among the commoner class and due to the fact that Kasuga Daimyōjin was counted among the "three-shrine oracles" (sanja takusen), along with Ise and Hachiman.

— Satō Masato
"Establishment of a National Learning Institute for the Dissemination of Research on Shinto and Japanese Culture"
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