Located at the foot of one of those sacred mountains, Mt. Togakushi, Togakushi Shrine consists of five shrines: Okusha, Chusha, Hokosha, Kuzuryusha, and Hinomikosha. They enshrine Shinto deities related to a religious myth of the rock cave called Ama-no-Iwato located in Takamano-hara (the deities’ heavenly abode). According to the legend, Amaterasu-Omikami, the deity of the sun and love, was so upset with the violent behavior of her younger brother Susano-o that she hid in the cave behind a rock door, which brought the world into darkness and confusion. Greatly troubled, all the deities discussed how to get her to come out and decided to have a festivity outside with songs and dancing to bring her out.
Wondering what was happening outside, Amaterasu slightly opened the door, and then another deity named Ame-no-Tachikarao-no-Mikoto pushed the door open welcoming her back. It is said that the door fell to Earth and became Mt. Togakushi.
Each shrine in Togakushi Shrine enshrines deities from the myth. They include: Ame-no-Tachikarao-no-Mikoto (the deity of power) at the Okusha shrine; Ame-no-Yagokoro-Omoikane-no-Mikoto (the deity of wisdom) at the Chusha shrine; Ame-no-Uzume-no-Mikoto (the deity of entertainment) at the Hinomikosha shrine; Ame-no-Uwaharu-no-Mikoto (the son of the deity Omoikane) at the Hokosha shrine, as well as others.
With its long history, the Togakushi Shrine has also enshrined Kuzuryu-Omikami (the deity of water and harvests who has nine dragon heads) as a local deity to protect the area, along with the deities mentioned above. It is said that the origin of worshipping Mt. Togakushi included water, which is essential to life in this world. During this time mountains were considered places where deities resided. Later, when Tendai Esoteric Buddhism was introduced to Japan, Kenkoji Temple (known today as Togakushi Shrine) was established at Mt. Togakushi, where the local people could adopt Buddhism along with Shinto which is indigenous to Japan. In fact, worshipping Mt. Togakushi was also integrated with mountain asceticism called Shugendo, leading to the popularity of this sacred mountain across Japan. Walking around the mountain, monks rigorously disciplined themselves to seek enlightenment at the temple, which also became a popular place among the general public for worshipping and enlightenment for centuries.
At the beginning of the Meiji era in1868, an edict was issued ordering the separation of Shinto and Buddhism, forcing Kenkoji Temple, which synchronized Shinto and Buddhism, to decide which religion it should take. As a result, Shinto (notably Shrine Shinto) was chosen giving up all its Buddhist traits, and thus becoming Togakushi Shrine, even though the ancient belief originating in Mt. Togakushi was mountain worship.