Shinmei Shrine ー the Shrine that Grants Women One Wish

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March 21, 2017

Ise-Shima in Mie Prefecture is home to the largest population of female divers, known as ama, in Japan. Ama freedive from small boats without the aid of oxygen tanks or other equipment to collect mollusks, seaweed, and other resources from the sea, including (more rarely) pearls. This is a dangerous line of work, and, over the centuries, ama have visited Shinmei Shrine to pray for protection.

It is said that one of the deities at this shrine, Tamayori-hime, will grant women one wish. She is enshrined in a small 60 cm stone that is referred to as Ishigami-san, which translates to “stone deity,” and is the popular name for the shrine. To make a wish, women need to use the slips of paper provided for free by the shrine to write down their wish. There are two boxes before the shrine. The box on the left is for the paper, and the box on the right is for a customary offering. Once the paper and offering have been deposited into their respective boxes, the wish-maker needs to bow twice, clap twice, and then bow a final time to complete the ritual.

While female visitors can only get one wish granted per visit, both men and women who visit the shrine can purchase small charms called omamori to protect them after they leave the premises. The larger charms have two symbols which are associated with ama. The first image is a hash mark, and each square is said to represent an eye that looks for and wards off evil and danger. The second mark is a pentagram, and one theory holds that because you start at and return to the top when drawing it, ama believed this symbol would help them return to the surface. Another theory is that because the pentagram has no “entrance” or “exit,” it prevents evil spirits from entering, therefore protecting the ama during their dive.

The shrine is free to enter and can be accessed by bus. Visitors need to take a train to Toba station and get on a Kamome bus. The stop for Shinmei Shrine is Osatsu, and it costs 600 yen one way. The shrine is a five minute walk from the bus stop.

Christopher Gearhardt

Christopher lives and works in Mie Prefecture. He enjoys traveling and photography and is interested in Japanese history and religion.

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