How Mt Fuji got its snow – a legend of Asama jinja

This account is excerpted from Mt Fuji and its religious traditions:

Asama Jinja in Studies in Shinto and Shrines (6 July 2013)

by R.A.B. Ponsonby-Fane
Less well-known than Chamberlin, Sansom, et al., Ponsonby-Fane wrote extensively on the history of Shinto shrines and their deities in the 1920’s and 30’s. In his entry for Asama Jinja (Fuji Hongu Sengen Taisha) he begins with the story of the deity of the shrine as it was known at that time, Konohanasakuya-hime, as related in the Kojiki and Nihon shoki. He provides some detail about her father, Oyamatsumi, a deity which makes a number of unrelated appearances in the kiki but which seems to be simply a mountain deity. He then goes into the problem of how Konohanasakuya became the deity of the mountain, considering only that she was supposed to have been a deity of great beauty and the Fuji was regarded as the same. He then goes into the foundations of the shrine which according to tradition, was founded in Yamamiya and moved to its present site in Omiya (now Fujimiya) in 806, displacing a Fuji Jinja mentioned in the engishiki which is now a sessha of Fuji Sengen. In terms of the shrine building itself, he says that the first mention is in Azuma Kagami under the date 1223. The shrine burned during the Onin Wars and was rebuilt around 1578 but burned down again and the present incarnation was rebuilt by Tokugawa Ieyasu in the early 1600’s. He then goes into great detail about the shrine buildings. In the next section on sessha and massha, he revisits the Fuji Jinja which is thought to be from the reign of Emperor Korei (legendary emperor whose reign is traditionally dated as 290-215 B.C.). He says that the deity of this shrine is Fuji Tayu  also identified as Oyamatsumi. He also relates an interesting story of how Mt. Fuji got its snow from the Hitachi fudoki. (Paraphrased) “In the old days, Miyoya no kami made the rounds of the abodes of deities and it was night when he came to Suruga where he wished to stay the night. The Fukuji no kami refused him saying that it was a festival day and the house was fasting. At this the Miyoya no kami became angry and said, You! why do you refuse your father? The mountain on which you dwell shall be covered  in snow winter and summer and there will be nothing to eat or drink.” He mentions that Asama Jinja owns the top of the mountain above the 8th station but does not go into detail (for more on this, please see my book Shinto Shrines). The entry ends with some details of the priestly family of the shrine and some mention of its Buddhist history (which he refers to as a “contamination”) before ending with some notes on the shrine’s festivals. Ponsonby-Fane was a royalist and staunch supporter of the Emperor and as such, his research is somewhat tainted. Still, he relates interesting details that speak of the depth of his research.”

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