Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

The Jilong Shrine: Origins

Japanese deities arrived in Jilong in January 1902, with institutional support, when one of the earliest settlers established a small shrine to Inari in an area that was quickly becoming the core of Japanese settlement. When Jilong became the gateway to Japan's colony as the Government General's priorities rapidly transformed its harbor through dredging and construction, other settlers felt that it needed a larger, more significant Shinto institution that would also allow them to assert their Japaneseness in this new location. In 1903, a small group of settler elites, led by a large-scale mine owner named Kimura Kutarō and a businessman named Akabi Sanehira, collected funds and submitted an application to the Government General. Their application was approved by an official, who lamented, “It is a great pity that Jilong has no protective deity associated with it at this time (Kiirun jinja, Kirun jinja shi, 2-3).” Evidently the official either ignored, or was unaware of, the protective powers of Chenghuang Ye. The Jilong Shrine opened in 1911 as an unranked shrine, outside of the official shrine hierarchy, and it was dedicated to the deity Kotohira, or Konpira, a spirit with powers to promote prosperity and safe voyage, much like Mazu. In addition to the spiritual overlap, there was also a strong historical resonance with Kotohira's enshrinement on a hillside a few blocks east of and above the harbor: priests and parishioners at the parent Kotohira shrine in Kagawa Precture, Shikoku (see the map on the Sacred Geography and the Everyday page), had promoted their deity through patriotic acts during the Sino-Japanese War, through which Japan gained sovereignty over Taiwan. In addition to the Jilong Shrine and the original Inari shrine, settlers established a number of others, and several of the so-called new sects set up outposts in the city.

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