Hiei multiplex and the sacred monkey of the Hie Shrine (Hie Jinja 日吉神社; also called Hiyoshi Taisha 日吉大社). These three Kami are Omiya (大宮), Ninomiya (二宮), and Shōshinshi (聖真子).
All six are considered to be manifestations of the Sannō deity. Hiei, each associated with a specific Buddhist counterpart.
The manifestations of the Sannō deity are called “Hie Sannō Gongen” (日吉山王権現 Mountain King Avatars of Hie Shrine) -- gongen means “avatar,” and the most common form of this avatar is the monkey.
The diagonal directions are then regarded as special "spirit" gates -- northwest is the Heaven Gate; southwest the Earth Gate; southeast the Man Gate; and northeast the .
The Hie (Hiyoshi) shrine rose to national importance in the 7th century when Emperor Tenji 天智 moved the capital to Outsu and invited the kami (Oumononushi no kami 大物主神) to act as the guardian deity of the new imperial residence. These three Kami are Omiya (大宮), Ninomiya (二宮), and Shōshinshi (聖真子). Tientai (天台山, literally “heavenly terraced mountain”). This name, moreover, is attributed to the mountain’s location below a three-star constellation north of the Big Dipper in Ursa Major.
The shrine and its affiliate shrines (about 3,800 nationwide today) then became intimately linked to the Tendai Buddhist sect at Mt. The ideograms for MOUNTAIN and KING both reflect the syncretism of the Tendai tradition and the importance of the number three in Tendai traditions. The three stars are known as the Three Terraces or Three Platforms (三台, Jp.
This all supports the notion (still contested) that the three-monkey motif originated in Japan in association with Mt. Monkey worship in Japan peaked in the Edo Era, and has declined significantly since then.
Even so, the legacy of monkey faith is easily spotted in modern Japan.