While there are quite a few temples and shrines that frequently appear on the big screen, Aburahi Shrine (油日神社) in the ninja and ceramic city of Kōka isn’t just a film shooting location. Its splendid tower gate and gorgeous hallway blend perfectly with the surrounding scenery and beautiful nature!
According to the shrine’s historical documentation, Aburahi Shrine was established in the Heian period (794 – 1185). Initially located at Mt. Aburahidake (油日岳), the shrine was later relocated to its current location.
If you enjoy hiking, it is possible to travel from the trailhead at the left of the worship halls to the summit at the rear shrine of Aburahi Shrine. The god enshrined there is called Dake Daimyōjin (岳大明神).
After Aburashi Shrine was relocated to flat ground, the main god enshrined became Aburahi no Ōkami (油日大神), who looks after oil-related matters. As he didn’t appear in Japanese mythology, he was determined to be a local deity.
The Main Worship Hall and the Tower Gate of Aburahi Shrine
According to one theory, Aburahi Shrine is said to be erected by Prince Shōtoku (聖徳太子). Since he is seen as a military god, Aburahi Shrine was treated as the base of the samurais in the Kōka region.
From the donations from the samurais, the main worship hall was reconstructed in 1493. The cypress bark roof building has windows decorated by a rhombus lattice. Now, it is currently an Important National Cultural Property.
The tower gate was completed a bit later, in 1566. The main worship hall, gate, and corridor also have their roof covered with cypress bark and are designated Important National Cultural Properties.
Remember to check out the dove carvings beneath the ceiling when you walk through the tower gate. The shrine’s sad legend is that the wooden dove was supposed to be just a decoration but became alive and flew out during the shrine’s opening ceremony. It was then caught and put back to where it was.
After many attempts to escape the ceiling, one of the naughty dove’s wings was torn off. Since then, it had become just another dove decoration that couldn’t fly down to peck the beans on the ground.
Apart from the dove, there are carvings of dragons, clouds, and flowers. It can be fun to identify what is there when you arrive.
Behind the tower gate, there is a small mountain made of large oil tins. These were the tributes to the Aburahi no Ōkami, hoping to get his blessing for their oil businesses.
Heiden Hall (拝殿)
The Heiden Hall, between the tower gate and the main worship hall, is another Important National Cultural Property in Aburahi Shrine’s precinct.
Underneath the ceiling, paintings of the Thirty-Six Immortals of Poetry (三十六歌仙) can be seen. They were the 36 poets of the Heian periods selected by Fujiwara no Kintō (藤原 公任) as exemplars of Japanese Waka poems. As a court bureaucrat, Fujiwara no Kintō was also a famous poet during the Heian period.
Aburahi Shrine – A Popular Film Shooting Destination
As mentioned earlier, several films and TV series were shot at Aburahi Shrine. One of the latest ones was Rurouni Kenshin: The Final (るろうに剣心 最終章).
If you have seen the movie, the scene where Kenshin was chosen to be the “Hitokiri” was filmed at Aburahi Shrine.
Although the movie set won’t be there anymore when you arrive at the shrine, it wouldn’t be hard to picture Kenshin drawing out his sword and demonstrating his unreal skills!
Kōka History and Folklore Museum (甲賀歴史民俗資料館)
If you are interested in ancient documents, living utensils, and ninja tools in the Kōka region, you might want to check out the Kōka History and Folklore Museum on one side of the precinct. But just note a reservation is required, and there is no English explanation for the exhibits.
For more information, please refer to our article on Kōka City’s Ninja Attractions.
Cherry Blossom and Autumn Foliage Season at Aburahi Shrine
- The 20 Yoshino cherry trees usually bloom from early to mid-April.
- The fall color peaks from mid to late November.
How to Get to Aburahi Shrine
- From JR Aburahi Station (油日駅), it is a 30-minute walk.
- You can also take Kaga Area Community Bus (甲賀地区コミュニティバス) from either JR Aburahi Station or JR Kōka Station (甲賀駅) and get off at Aburahi Kaikan (油日会館).
- As the number of services is limited, please refer to HERE and click (油日線) underneath the 3rd map.
Discover Other Fascinating Attractions in Kōka City
Kōka City in Shiga Prefecture is known for its ninja-themed attractions and is the hometown of one of the Six Ancient Kilns in Japan.
Furthermore, there are a couple of hidden gems for cherry blossom and fall foliage hunting. So check out our article on Kōka City and start planning your next trip (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.