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Goin’ Japanesque!

Kashima Jingu in Ibaraki: Prestigious Shrine with a History of 1,300 Years

Kashima Jingu Shrine is a very traditional and prestigious shrine located in Kashima City, the south-eastern part of Ibaraki Prefecture. Its prestige and history are in a class of their own. While there are many “jingu” shrines around Japan today, only a few shrines had the jingu status as a mark of exceptional prestige and Kashima Shrine had long been one of the only three jingu shrines in Japan until modern times, along with Ise Jingu Shrine and Katori Jingu Shrine. Title: photo by flickr

In the Kanto area, Kashima Jingu Shrine and Ikisu Shrine in Ibaraki, and Katori Jingu Shrine in Chiba are collectively referred to as “Three Great Shrines of the East.” The locations of the three shrines make a triangle, the area within which is believed to be filled with special spiritual energy.


History of Kashima Shrine


The history of the shrine goes far back into ancient times and its name was already mentioned in a book of ancient reports titled “Hitachinokuni Fudoki,” the geographical record of the present Ibaraki area written about 1,300 years ago.

The shrine is dedicated to the god named “Takemikazuchi,” who is one of the gods featured in Japanese myths and was once worshipped by the Imperial Court in ancient times and later by the successive feudal governments as the god of war. Takemikazuchi is said to be the strongest war god in Japanese mythology and the god of victory. The god is still widely worshipped today in the world of martial arts.

Regarding the origin of the shrine, a legend says that the Emperor Jinmu, the first ancestor of the imperial line, founded the shrine on the present site to express his gratitude toward Takemikazuchi as his sword named “Futsuno Mitamano Tsurugi” had saved the emperor when he was caught in a predicament during his eastern expedition.


The shrine site boasts an enormous size of 15 times the area of Tokyo Dome and many great features including the main shrine hall, the inner shrine hall, Mitarashi Pond and Deer Garden. Now let’s take a closer look as you would normally pay a visit and proceed to the main shrine hall.

Romon Gate


Photo by flickr

As you enter the shrine through a large shrine gate called “O-torii”, you will be met again by another gate called “Romon.” It is a large gate of 13 meters in height, constructed in 1634 by Yorifusa Tokugawa, the first lord of the Mito Clan. It is counted as one of Japan’s three major romon gates (two-storied wooden gate especially designed for temples and shrines) and designated as a nationally important cultural property.


Main Shrine Hall

Photo by flickr

As you go through Romon gate, you will first see the main shrine hall on your right. It was donated to the shrine by Hidetada Tokugawa in 1619 and is also designated as a nationally important cultural property.

If you have an official visit to the shrine or hold a wedding ceremony here, you can go in the hall in the front of the photo.


Deer Garden

Photo by flickr

Here at the shrine, deer are considered to be divine messengers and treated with care and respect. You can get close to them at the area along the approach leading from the main hall to the inner shrine hall.


Inner Shrine Hall

Photo by flickr

As you go from the main shrine hall along about 300 meters long approach, you will see the inner shrine hall on your right. It was constructed in 1605 by Ieyasu Tokugawa, 14 years earlier than the main shrine hall, to thank the god of war enshrined here for his victory in the battle of Sekigahara.


Mitarashi Pond


Photo by flickr

If you go further past the inner shrine hall down the path toward the left, you will get to Mitarashi Pond, which is known in the area as a spot with special spiritual energy. As much as 40 litters of water gush out here every day and the water is so clear that you can see the bottom of the pond. In the past, visitors to the shrine would come here for the purpose of purification before visiting the main shrine hall, but it is currently used only at the time of the mass purification ritual (Taikan Misogi) held in new years. What is mysterious about this pond is that it never runs dry even at the time of a drought and never overflows either.

Photo by flickr

At the teahouse by the pond, you can enjoy sweet red bean soup called “oshiruko.”




Photo by flickr

Going back to the inner shrine hall, as you proceed along the road toward right, you will find a cornerstone surrounded by stone bars, which is believed to be yet another spot with great spiritual energy. According to a legend, the cornerstone is pinning down the head of a humongous catfish, which is believed to be the cause of earthquakes in Japan. It has been widely believed that the area around the shrine is free from large earthquakes thanks to the cornerstone.

A historical record says that Mitsukuni Tokugawa (Also known as Mito Komon) once ordered a survey to see how deep in the ground the stone is buried. They kept digging the ground for a whole week but never got to find the bottom. Many of the workers got injured and became ill from high fever during the survey before they finally gave up.


Good Luck Charm and Oracle

Photo by flickr

Photo by flickr

At the end of the tour around the shrine, you can visit the office near the main shrine hall to purchase good-luck charms and oracles. Try your fortune here and make yet another memory of your journey in Japan.


Japan’s Largest Floating Shrine Gate – Larger Than That of Itsukushima Shrine

Photo by wikipedia

One thing you should not miss out among some tourist attractions in the area is “Nishi no Ichino Torii (First Shrine Gate of the West).” It is the remote shrine gate of Kashima Shrine and its size is actually larger than that of the famous floating shrine gate of Itsukushima Shrine, which is designated as a world heritage site. Of all shrine gates that are built to appear over water in Japan, this one is the largest in size.

About 2 Hours on the Expressway Bus “Kashima-go” from “Yaesu Minamiguchi” Exit of Tokyo Station (Service Available about Every 20 Minutes)
Kashima Jingu Shrine: Map, Nishi no Ichino Torii: Map


With a direct bus service from Tokyo Station, Kashima Jingu Shrine is easily accessible. Make sure to visit the shrine and feel the overwhelming energy and grand historical presence.

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