Gongen Shrine

The exact dates of this shrine’s origin are unknown, but it is thought that it was constructed during the Edo period. The deity enshrined here is Shiroi Niwatori, or the White Chicken—who is god of the nearby Yumugi hot spring.

It is said that ages and ages ago, two deer hunters out on an expedition got caught in a drizzling rain. Amidst the mist and fog, a number of white chickens materialised out of the air. They didn’t seem bothered by the hunters’ presence—rather, they continued to peck at the ground in peace and calm. As the hunters approached the chickens, they noticed the air around their legs and ankles growing warmer and warmer. In a second, the birds vanished—and in the clearing rain, the hunters saw before them a thermal spring bubbling with white water. In secret, they constructed a hot spring here, enjoyed only by a few individuals. But eventually, word got out of the tremendously healing and powerful spring, and it became property of the entire island community. From then on, the spirit of the White Chicken was venerated with this shrine, and then celebrated each year with a long and raucous night of drinking, singing, and festivities.

Aside from this version of the tale, however, there too exist several others: that the individuals from the story weren’t out hunting, but rather went to their field to farm; that the deer hunting was done with either bows and arrows or a matchlock firearm; that it wasn’t chickens but rather young women… In any case, legends about the hot spring’s name, too, exist in abundance. The most likely is that since people began to use this hot spring for their own use, they “faced” the “hot water”, hence the name Yumugi, which directly translates to “direction of the hot water”.

Gongen Shrine



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