Shinto shrines are plentiful in Japan, almost every village, town or city has one. There are usually amenities available at popular and / or large shrines, including toilets, baby feeding rooms, vending machines and eateries. However, even the smaller shrines usually come with at least one piece of playground equipment. A lot of them have free parking, but in tourist areas it is not uncommon to have to pay. Typically, weekdays it is easy to find a free parking spot, unless it is during a shinto festival time such as the 7-5-3.
I really love bringing the children to play on the grounds of a shrine. The surroundings are always pleasant and the grounds are well maintained. The atmosphere is serene and majestic as you enter by a torii onto a stone pavement. The area is usually surrounded by trees, some of which are yorishiro (place inhabited by a kami‘s spirit). There are purification fonts to cleanse your hands, the komainu (lion-dogs) guard the inner shrine, wooden plaques hang with visitor’s prayers and wishes, there is usually at least one minature shrine often with a fox, the diety of rice supposedly. The playground is usually to the side or back of the shrines.
Miyoshino Shrine in Kawagoe is one of my favourite shrines to bring toddlers. The playground there is relatively new and the equipment is really suited to children under four. Young kids love the equipment in the shape of a train with climbing and slides. For older children they have a climbing frame, a flying fox, a spring see saw and there is the hill beside the playground that kids love to climb. There are also swings and a sand pit for children of all ages. The sand pit is enclosed which keeps out the cats and keeps the kids in!
During sakura season this park is ideal for hanami with small children. There are only a few sakura trees, but they are mature and really beautiful in full bloom. It is a popular spot to enjoy a picnic under the cherry blossoms for locals, so do arrive early to secure a spot under a tree. There is plenty of other space on the grounds if you don’t manage to get one of the prime locations. 🙂
Miyoshino shrine has free parking (very busy on weekends), toilets, vending machines, a small shop, a pay phone and a yaki-soba counter. There is also a rent-a-bike station nearby. It is right next to the popular tourist attraction Kawagoe Honmaru Goten, the only surviving building of Kawagoe castle.
Address: 2 Chome−25, Kuruwamachi, Kawagoe City, 350-0053