Adjacent to the main hall of Itsukishima Shrine, the enormous Senjokaku stands out
The shrine, which is also known as Senjokaku, is big enough to fit 857 tatami mats. Officially known as Houkoku Shrine Honden (Main Hall), it has been nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property. Originally, it had been established in 1587 by Hideyoshi Toyotomi as the large sutra hall for Itsukishima Shrine in honor of the war dead, but with the policy of separation between Shintoism and Buddhism in the Meiji Era, it was renamed Houkoku Shrine in dedication to Toyotomi (a subordinate shrine for Itsukishima Shrine). The five-storied pagoda that stands on a small hill next to the main hall of Itsukishima Shrine and the huge tiled-roof Senjokaku stand out when seen from a distance.
A building incomplete for over 400 years yet with magnificent character
Because Toyotomi died during its construction, Senjokaku has been left incomplete for over 400 years. The huge premises that were left without walls or a ceiling have 116 thick pillars which provide a grand sight. Since it is situated on a hill, the wind that blows through the area is comfortable. The wooden plugs that were used for repairs to the floorboards are shaped like gourds and sake bottles, so it can be fun to search for them while walking around. While the mood of the splendid architectural style of the Azuchi-Momoyama Era remains with examples such as the gold-tiled roof, due to the incompleteness of the structure, there are few examples of very elaborate ornamentation so that Senjokaku also possesses a simple atmosphere. Ironically, it is this odd imbalance that is one of its great charms.
A highlight is the great variety of ema
Senjokaku has a great wealth of ema pictures so that it can also be called Ema Hall. The dedicated ema which had been posted in the east corridor of Itsukishima Shrine until the middle of the Meiji Era were moved to Senjokaku. Over 100 of these ema are displayed with the oldest of them being from the middle of the Edo Era. These are different from the ema on which wishes are written that are often found at shrines, and there are ema that are as big as 3 tatami mats placed everywhere on the beams on the ceiling. It’s also fun to see and compare the huge variety of ema.