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Goin’ Japanesque!

Nagasaki’s Suwa Shrine: Must-Visit Highlights within the Shrine Loved by Locals

In the first part of this two-part series article about Suwa Shrine, we introduced to you about the long stairway leading up to the main shrine hall and many shrine gates you will find on the way. Here we are focusing on yet other things of interest found at the shrine.

Suwa Shrine in Nagasaki: Multiple Shrine Gates and 193 Step Stone Stairway


What is “Mayoigo Shirase Ishi (Missing Child Finder Stone)”?

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This stone column can be found on the side of the stairway as you go up along it past five shrine gates. What is it meant for? Because too many parents were losing sight of their children in the crowd here at the times of Nagasaki Kunchi Festival and New Year’s visit to the shrine, the column was erected in 1879 by the group of senior police officers from Nagasaki Police Office as a meeting point for such parents and missing children.

Japan is now experiencing a decline in the birth rate and an average household has only one or two children. Parents only have to hold the children’s hands in order not to lose sight of them. But an average household back then had 5 to 6 children and it was not surprising to have one or two of them go missing in a crowd. The column is a good example of how caring the police were of the citizens and how clever they were.


Statue of A Sacred Horse in front of the Main Shrine Hall and Its Creator

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This impressive statue of a sacred horse was created by Seibo Kitamura, who is widely known for the Peace Statue at Nagasaki Peace Park. Surprisingly, it is said the sculptor was 102 years old at the time he completed this work. It is truly amazing for such an old man to create this large and powerful statue. The statue of the sacred horse was dedicated to the shrine in 1985 in celebration of the 60th year of Emperor Hirohito’s reign and has since been sitting here in front of the main shrine hall.


Japan’s First English Omikuji Oracle Slip!

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Suwa Shrine offers many kinds of oracle slips (omikuji). Especially notable among them is the English oracle (far left in the photo), which was offered for the first time in Japan at this shrine. It was created in 1914 by Kohachiro Kugimoto, who was an English teacher at a local junior high school in Nagasaki. Each oracle slip shows one of 10 kinds (or degrees) of luck including “Best Luck (daikichi)” to “Good Luck (kichi),” “Bad Luck (kyo)” and “Worst (daikyo).”

The shrine also offers “Wabun Mikuji,” in which the fortune is written in an old-fashioned and atmospheric writing style from around 1906, “Love Mikuji,” which comes with a heart shaped strap, and various other types of omikuji oracle slips.

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After checking your fortune on the omikuji oracle slip, don’t forget to tie it to the pillar, which is exclusively designed for visitors to tie their oracle slips.


Appropriate Ages to Visit the Shrine?

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At some shrines, you can find a table with a list of shrine events and the corresponding ages at which you are supposed to visit the shrine. In Japan, it is customary to visit the shrine for celebration or purification purposes at certain ages.

Following are some examples of the most popular events for which people visit the shrine;
“Miyamairi” to celebrate the first full month after the birth of a baby
“Shichigosan” to celebrate children aged three, five and seven
“Yakuyoke” to expel bad luck which is said to become stronger at certain ages (age 42 for men and 33 for women for example)

As for the celebration of longevity, there are many ages for which Japanese people celebrate someone’s longevity; “Kanreki (age of 61),” “Koki (70),” “Beiju (88),” “Hakuju (99).” This well exemplifies how people admire longevity in Japan, which is actually considered to be the country of longevity.


Traditional Japanese Style Wedding Ceremony

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Suwa Shrine also hosts wedding ceremonies. Young couples are seen having their pictures taken before a wedding ceremony. If you are lucky, you may be able to see a groom in a traditional formal hakama wear and a bride in a traditional white kimono dress here.

Take a tram from JR Nagasaki Station bound for “Hotarujaya” and get off at “Suwa Jinja Mae” (6 minute ride). The shrine is within a 5 minute walk from the tram station.

Shrine’s Year of Foundation: 1614
Official Website:

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About the author

I am a housewife who has lived in Nagasaki, Kyushu for over 30 years. Nagasaki has a distinct culture even in Japan, having received a lot of influences from China and Europe. I hope to report based on my experiences so more of you can learn about the appeals of Nagasaki.

View all articles by Masumi