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Aruka Shrine: One of Sagami’s Most Ancient with Five Millennia of History

Long ago, the prefecture we now called Kanagawa was the nation of Sagami. Within those ancient borders is one of the oldest shines in Japan, and though its humble precincts are not as flashy as the most famous (and most well-trodden) shrines of Japan, Aruka Shrine has come down the millennial currents of history, remaining with us to this day. In this article, we’d like to talk a little about the details of this shrine as well as its history.


What is the Aruka Shrine?


The Main Shrine (本宮),

Built in the area along the Hato River of present-day Kanagawa Prefecture, Aruka Shrine has existed for over 5,000 years. It is actually the collective name for its three component shrines: the main shrine, the middle shrine, and the inner shrine. There are serveral deities worshipped here, but the main deity worshipped here is the goddess of water named Arikahime-no-mikoto.

1. The Main Shrine (本宮)


Situated in Kanagawa’s Ebina City, the main shrine is not a place of grand and gaudy beauty but is instead ideal for feeling the atmosphere that comes with a profound depth of history.

2. The Central Shrine (中宮)

Located a few hundred meters away from the main shrine, the middle shrine is called “Arukanoike,” which means “Aruka Pond,” though it isn’t a pond in the usual sense. It’s built together with a torii gate.

3. The Inner Shrine (奥宮)


Though still in the same prefecture as the other two, the inner shrine is a few kilometers away in Sagamihara. Walking a few minutes through the forest, you’ll come to a torii gate covered in moss. This marks the inner shrine, a place held to be rich in spiritual energy. Follow the creek a little further into the forest, and…

Sacred Vessel of the God (御神体),

…you’ll find bubbling up from the ground the spring that is the source and essence of Aruka Shrine. Can you see the tiny little torii there? This is the goshintai (lit. “sacred body of the god”) where the goddess Arikahime-no-mikoto resides. In time, the spring water flows into the Hato River, travels downstream to Ebina where the main shrine lies, and at last joins with the Sagami River. Here in this forest shrine, you’ll come in contact with an aura of sacred mystery rarely encountered in everyday life.


How Aruka Shrine Relates to the Katsusaka Ruins Site


Nearby the sacred spring are the Katsusaka Ruins, famous as a Jōmon period (14,000–300 BCE) archaeological site. In antiquity, the most important condition for the establishment of a settlement was fresh water, a must for life. Based on this, it’s believed that people of the Jōmon period built their village here to use the inner shrine’s spring as a source of water. However, there were neither torii nor shrines during that period in Japanese history, so it’s easy to imagine that the gratitude and reverence the villages felt for the spring would slowly develop into treating the spring itself as a water deity, which is the tradition we’ve inherited in the present day. Whatever may be the case, there’s one thing that’s certain: a spring that’s been flowing for over five millennia is a locale well worth the visit.


What we’ve presented you with today takes a perspective that’s a little different from what you’ll find in the usual travel article. Classic destinations may be classic for a reason, but there’s no denying that places like these have a charm all of their own. Information: Map

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