Chinju no Mori: The Guardian of the Forest Shrine

The shrine that is often seen shrouded in the forest is actually a guardian shrine
24 Feb 2022
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Chinju no Mori is a shrine located along with the forest that surrounds the shrine. In Japanese myth, this forest is where the god Kannabi is enshrined.

The Guardian Shrine, Chinju no Mori, an ancient traditional Japanese shrine
The Guardian Shrine, Chinju no Mori, an ancient traditional Japanese shrine

This Forest Guardian Shrine used to be found in almost every village in Japan, where the village guardian deity manifested itself, but these days we rarely see it. The shrine is characterized by a small shrine gate and is surrounded by the native forest of the area.

The Guardian of the Forest Shrine surrounded by rice fields in Tamba-Sasayama City, Hyogo Prefecture.
The Guardian of the Forest Shrine surrounded by rice fields in Tamba-Sasayama City, Hyogo Prefecture.

The forest ranger's temple belongs to the village, and when charcoal or wood products are harvested, it is only used for religious festivals or to maintain temple buildings. The Forest Guard Shrine is also an important area for pollinators, insects, and bees, and a nesting site for birds of prey such as rats and grasshoppers, to increase crop yields in the village.

My Neighbor Totoro Anime

Another famous example of the Guardian of the Forest Shrine (Chinju no Mori) can be found in the anime film My Neighbor Totoro. It is said that in this anime Totoro is a god who has a residence in the old Forest Guardian Shrine.

My Neighbor Totoro by Hayao Miyazaki
My Neighbor Totoro by Hayao Miyazaki

Meiji Guardian of the Forest Shrine

Perhaps the most famous Forest Guard Shrine in Japan is the Meiji Ranger Shrine, which is 101 years old. This year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the forest of the Great Meiji Forest Guardian Temple: planted in the 1920s on farmlands and fields that are now almost 70 hectares of green forest in the heart of Tokyo.

Meiji Forest Guard Shrine in the heart of Tokyo, Japan
Meiji Forest Guard Shrine in the heart of Tokyo, Japan
The gate of the Meiji Forest Guard shrine in Tokyo
The gate of the Meiji Forest Guard shrine in Tokyo

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