Usa Shrine (宇佐神宮, Usa Jingū), built in the 8th century, is located at the base of the Kunisaki Peninsula. It is the head shrine of thousands of shrines across Japan that are dedicated to Hachiman, the god of archery and war, who has also been identified with the legendary 15th emperor of Japan, Emperor Ojin. Usa Shrine had a big influence on the Kunisaki Peninsula's culture and shaped the local mountain worship religion.
The shrine's main hall is a designated national treasure and the prototype of the Hachiman-zukuri style of shrine architecture. In this architecture style, the shrine buildings consist of two halls whose roofs are connected with each other, essentially forming a single building. They are, furthermore, surrounded by a covered corridor that makes it difficult for visitors to have an unobstructed view onto them.
Usa Shrine occupies a large compound which includes an upper shrine complex, a lower shrine complex, a treasure hall, a couple of ponds and several auxiliary shrine buildings. Visitors usually arrive via its north or west entrance. Leading to the north entrance is a wide avenue of about a hundred meters, lined by a row of shops selling local products and souvenirs.
The avenue takes you to the Omotesando, the main shrine approach. Strolling along the approach, visitors would soon pass under a big vermilion torii gate, which is followed by the treasure hall on the right. The treasure hall exhibits various cultural artifacts related to Usa Shrine, including a ceremonial percussion instrument marked with peacock emblems, designated as a national treasure.
Over at the west entrance, visitors would first encounter Kurehashi, a beautiful unique bridge with a thatched roof. It is usually not possible to cross the bridge as its doors are opened only once in ten years during a festival. The west shrine approach meets Omotesando at around a large pond with lotus plants and a noh stage located at its center, connected to by small bridges.
Visitors then first visit the most important upper shrine complex at the top of a hill which consists of three main halls dedicated to Hachiman (Emperor Ojin), to his mother (Empress Jingu) and to his wife (Hime Okami). Visitors then proceed to the lower shrine complex at the base of the hill which also features three main halls dedicated to the same three deities.
Hourly buses run from Usa Station to Usa Shrine (7 minutes, 240 yen one way). Alternatively, a taxi ride costs about 1600 yen one way from Usa Station. Furthermore, there are about four bus round trips per day between Oita Airport and Usa Shrine (60 minutes, 1550 yen one way).