About 1900 years ago, during the throne of the 12th emperor Keiko and the conquest of the eastern lands, Prince Yamato-takeru-no-Mikoto and his army decided to climb Hodosan mountain to offer prayers to the Shinto deities (kami). The following is the story related to this event.
As the Prince and his army made their way to the foot of the mountain, they discovered a pure spring surrounded by rocks in the forest. They all performed misogi (ritual purification) with the spring water.
They then commenced their climb to the mountaintop. After a short while, they noticed that there was something strange about the atmosphere. Soon clouds of black smoke appeared and swirled closer to them. It was a mountain forest fire. Within seconds the black smoke turned into a wave of flames. As the Prince encouraged his army on, he drew his sword and fought the fire by slashing at the grass and branches. However, the force of the fire grew in intensity and the army was trapped by the raging fire and couldn’t escape. The Prince’s life was in danger as well.
Suddenly, a number of white and black shadows appeared. They jumped into the roaring flames one after another. What appeared to look like shadows were in fact large white and black dogs. They tried to extinguish the raging fire and with their fierce power the fire gradually weakened and came under control.
Finally, the fire was put out. While the Prince was impressed with this amazing feat, the dogs gathered around him and quietly started to walk, as if they were showing him that they would guide him to the mountaintop.
When they reached the summit, the dogs were no longer with him. They appeared and disappeared just like a shadow.
“Oh, the dogs must be ‘messengers of god’. Thank you so much,” the Prince said to the kami from the bottom of his heart with much gratitude and sincerity.
From the mountaintop they saw a vast sky and plain spread out before them, eternal and magnificent.
The Prince named the mountain ‘Hodoyama’ (fire stop mountain). He regarded the mountain as ‘magnificent and suitable to enshrine kami’ and built himorogi (an altar to welcome the Shinto deity) and enshrined Kamyamatoiwarehiko-no-Mikoto (Emperor Jimmu), Ooyamazumi-no-Kami (the deity of the mountain) and Homusubi-no-Kami (the deity of fire).
These are the auspicious beginnings of Hodosan Shrine. Later in the history, ‘Hodoyama’ flourished and became prosperous as a sacred place. During the Kounin period (810-824), a miraculous phenomenon occurred and a glittering houju no tama (sacred gem) flew and rose to the mountaintop. Following this fortuitous event the Chinese characters for the mountain and shrine were changed to ‘fortune climbing mountain’ with the name Hodosan being retained.