The Hirosaki Toshogu Shinto Shrine in Hirosaki City, Aomori, is being put up sale as the shrine owners undergo bankruptcy proceedings.
The administrators announced that they are in negotiations with a Tokyo-based real estate company to sell the main shrine for just 1 million Yen (12,700 USD).
From the early 1990s, the shrine invested large sums of money to turn the grounds into a place suitable for weddings. They ceased operations in 2007, and in 2008 the compound (excluding the main shrine building) came very close to being foreclosed on. In fact, the land and front shrine were transferred to a real estate company that year (the same company who has made the recent offer on the main shrine).
By 2012, the grounds and building had fallen into disrepair. The owners failed to remove the snow from the rooftops which was so heavy it crushed the shrine office building which was at risk of collapsing onto the footpath in front.
This is the second Shinto shrine to file for bankruptcy. The first was the Iseyama Kotai-jingu Shrine in Yokohama which filed for bankruptcy in 2003 after amassing debts of over 8.5 billion Yen.
The Toshogu Shrine was established in 1617. It was officially recognized as an important cultural property in 1953. It is one of the leading examples of shrine construction within Aomori Prefecture.
The receivers are hoping for a quick sale. If the sale does not go through, the shrine will be gifted to the city (the city said that under the separation of religion and government they would not be able to purchase the shrine). The debts accrued by the shrine total 200 million Yen (2.53 million USD).
On July 27, the real estate company in talks to buy the shrine cancelled their offer. The potential buyers were concerned that necessary repairs to the property could cost them up to 50 million Yen.
The receivers are now considering donating the shrine to the city.
The Sankei Shimbun, July 9, 2012.
The Mainichi Shimbun, July 9, 2012.
The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 29, 2012.