Suwa-Taisha is one of the oldest shrines in Japan and is located around lake Suwa in Nagano Prefecture. There are 25,000 shrines that are called 'Suwa shrine', and Suwa-Taisha is a headquarters of the shrine chain. This shrine is also known for a festival it held every six years. The festival is called 'Onbashira-sai' and in the festival, people carry 16 huge logs, going through some challenging spots, and they finally plant those logs around the shrine as sacred pillars.
Suwa-Taisha has seven mysterious legends as I describe below.
1. God's Road
In one day in winter, Ice covering lake Suwa is split and it makes a road on the lake. Although this amazing phenomenon is actually due to scientific causes, ancient people would find it to be some kind of godly phenomenon.
2. Flog in Ice
Suwa-Taisha annually conduct a ritual on New Year's Day in which flogs are made as a sacrifice to god, being penetrated with skewers. This ritual of course has been accused by animal protection organization. And what is mystery is that a few frogs are caught in the ice that can be got in the river running through its cite.
3. Fortune-telling with five grains gruel
On January 14 and 15 of every year, a ritual of fortune-telling that uses five grains gruel is carried out. Some people say that it has foretold the occurrence of the Great East Japan Earthquake. In fact, the purist who actually did the fortune-telling ritual in 2011 said after its implementation that this year would be scary as the worst result in the past 20 years had been gotten, adding the spring would come early but there would happen something like unforeseeable affair during the spring.
4. Deer with Split Ears
Every April 15, Suwa-Taisha implement its most important ritual called Ontousai, a sacred festival in which various crops, fruits, and animals are dedicated to their gods. The name 'Ontousai' comes from one of those offerings. Actually, they dedicate three deers' head that has been stuffed in advance of the festival. This format, however, is a result of modernization. In the old days, they had been offering 75 deers' head, and there surely is several split-ears deer, according to legend. That's the 'Deer with Split Ears'.
5. A Mysterious Pond
Every last day of the year, priests of Suwa-Taisha sink sacred offerings and tools that are used in the year into a pond called 'Kuzui-no- Kiyoike'. According to legend, those items emerged in other pond that is located so far from the pond where they sink those items first. That 'other pound' is, by the way, located in Sizuoka prefecture, and is called 'Sanagi-Ike'. The distance between Nagano prefecture in which Suwa-Taisha is located and Sizuoka prefecture is not that short, and it takes about 4 to 5 hours for one way when you use a car.
6. Early-ripening rice
Every August 1, rice plants are offered in the shrine. According to a legend, rice-plants planted in late June was reaped in the late July. As of now, this legend is re-enacted in the ritual. Generally, rice seeds are sowed and brought up out of paddy in advance. Then, they are planted in paddy after growing up to some extent. Usually, seeds are sowed in around April and the grown rice-plants are planted to paddy in around May. Finally, they are harvested in around late September.
7. Three Water Drops
At a structure in its site, there are three water drops from its roof no matter how long drought lasts. In the case of drought, a ritual was held in which those three water drops were dripped into a cup made of green bamboo in order to playing for rain. While Japan has many water sources due to its variegated geographical features, people depend on rice farming that so much water requires. So drought can be fatal for them, and in fact, there were some terrible droughts in Japanese history during which so many people died.
Recently, Suwa-Taisha has come to be known as one of the 'power-spots' in Japan. The word 'power-spot' is a coined word that is recently created by some popular writer and spread by mass media such as television, magazine, and the internet. The places designated as power-spots have come to be visited by many people who want to receive divine favor there. While relevant municipal governments favor this trend, many of religious institutions has been embarrassed at it because such visitors typically don't understand religious background of those institutions.