The site of Ashikura Hachiman Shrine in northern Shirakawa-go is an ancient place of worship, thought to have been considered sacred long before a formal shrine was erected. The original objects of reverence are the twin boulders behind the present shrine building. The narrow space between these fufuiwa (“husband and wife rocks”) was believed to mark the boundary between this world and the world of the divine.
The first recorded mention of a shrine to Hachiman, the guardian deity of the warrior class, built on the site dates to the late sixteenth century. According to legend, the personal physician of the warlord Uchigashima, who ruled these lands, had a premonition that disaster would strike his lord. But the Uchigashima ignored his warnings, so the doctor left their castle with his family and traveled north along the Sho River. He soon heard that a landslide caused by an earthquake had buried the castle and the surrounding town, leaving no survivors. Believing that divine guidance had saved his life, the doctor planted a few cedar trees by the Hachiman shrine in the village of Ashikura to express his gratitude.
One of the trees believed to have been planted by the Uchigashima doctor still stands on the shrine grounds. This giant Japanese cedar is 35 meters tall and its trunk is roughly 12 meters in circumference. The Ashikura area is noted for cedar cultivation, providing saplings to be planted throughout Gifu Prefecture and beyond. The first Ashikura cedar saplings are thought to have been grown from the seeds of the Hachiman shrine tree.
This English description is provided by the "Multilingual Commentary Project 2021" of Japan Tourism Agency.
||Ashikura Hachiman Shrine and Cedar Tree
||Gifu Prefecture Designated Natural Monument
||Designated on November 13, 1974
* Please note that the above information is provided for reference. There may be cases where it differs from current information.