The NSG Group operates a number of companies, including a vocational school, sports businesses such as Albirex Niigata, and medical and social welfare organisations. The group companies are surely familiar to anyone living or doing business in Niigata.
Only a few people seem to know that the founder of the NSG Group, Hiromu Ikeda (池田弘), is the chief priest of a shrine.
The other day, while I was walking around Kamikomachi in Purapura, I found the Furumachi Atago Shrine and visited it.
The shrine stands quietly along the Kamikomachi shopping street. The entrance gate bears the words 'Religious Incorporated Association Atago Shrine'.
The shrine can be seen at the back of the row of houses.
The history of Atago Shrine is written in the passageway. It's a long story. Atago Shrine was founded in 1609 (Keicho 14), when a spirit from the main shrine of Atago Shrine in Kyoto was invited and enshrined here.
This is the main shrine and worship hall.
The age-old building has had few additions or alterations since the early 1700s, when it was built. It has been designated a Tangible Cultural Property (building) by Niigata City. A wooden guardian dog is said to be located on the front edge of the main building, but we could not find it. The wooden guardians are said to be historical, having been dedicated in 1663.
The deities of Atago Shrine are the deity Honokagutsuchi, Izanami no Mikoto and Ame no Kumahito. The deity Hinokagutsuchi is a deity of agricultural protection, fire prevention, kitchens and prosperous business. Izanami no Mikoto is the deity of marriage, marriage, marital bliss and the gift of children. Amakumadaijin is said to be the guardian deity of a good harvest.
It is a small site, but there is a precinct shrine, Kuchino Shrine (Kuchino).
The shrine enshrines the spirit of Kiuchi Sogoro (also known as Kiuchi Sogo or Sakura Sogoro from the name of the place), the deity of Kuchinomiya Shrine in Chiba Prefecture, and the righteous Wakui Fujishiro, Iwafuneya Sajibei and others who masterminded the 'Meiwa no Uprising' in Niigata-cho in 1768.
Because of its origin, it is worshipped as the 'god of settling disputes', 'god of family happiness', 'god of passing bar exams' and 'shrine of prayers for winning cases' by the legal profession, and 'shrine of prayers for winning elections' during elections, and is also believed to be the deity of the hanayanagi community.
This is the Inari shrine. A place to pray for prosperous business.
The 501 is a cross-industrial association for fostering entrepreneurs in Niigata, organised by Hiroshi Ikeda. The cenotaph was erected to 'commemorate the achievements of members and employees of member companies who died in the midst of their ambitions, and to comfort their souls'.
And the headquarters of the NSG Group is on the same site.
The NSG Group has now grown into one of Niigata's largest group companies. I was deeply moved to realise that this small but historic shrine was the starting point of a company that is involved with so many people living in Niigata, from vocational schools, Albi and hospital projects to business in general.
Furumachi Atago Shrine: http://www.niigata-atago.jp/
NSG Group: http://www.nsg.gr.jp/
501 Heterospecies Exchange: http: //www.igyosyu501.jp/