Gyoda’s “Hanachozu week” starts again tomorrow. And you cannot visit Gyoda’s hanachozu (floral font / floating flowers) without visiting Gyoda Hachiman Shrine. Not only is the shrine one of Saitama’s most prominent, it is home to the piece de resistance of the monthly hanachozu week in Gyoda. Moreover, it is also one of only three locations in the Hanachozu week, that have night light up once a month. That will be this coming Saturday, October 2nd (all things being equal). Even without the picturesque flower displays, the shrine has a regular stream of visitors as it is a “fujinomiya” – a shrine with super powers! Furthermore, it is a “power spot”; the term used in Japan to describe a place, often a spiritual location, with an almost tangible aura where the life force or “ki” is strong…
Gyoda Hachiman Shrine
“Ki” is believed to have the power to cure illness. I don’t know if Gyoda Hachiman shrine is a “fuji no miya” 封じの宮 because of its ki or the other way around… which came first the chicken or egg scenario! The term fuji no miya is granted to a shrine that performs a clandestine type of praying that has the ability to put an end to something. For example, ending night crying in children or even silencing insects at night so you can get a good night sleep. Another example; putting an end to bad habits. Moreover, the benevolence of Gyoda Hachiman shrine is protection from and curing of cancer and terminal illnesses. It is also said to grant beautiful skin, prevent nervousness and curb dementia in senior citizens. People come from all over Saitama and Kanto to pray for protection and cure at Gyoda Hachiman Shrine.
The “nade momo” plays a large part in the benevolence of the shrine. Nade means petting or stroking and momo means peach. Yes, that is a gold peach for stroking in the photo above. It is said that if you rub the peach, it will prevent illness. Unfortunately, but understandably, (and very ironically!) due to the pandemic you can’t currently touch it. My kids don’t really like visiting Gyoda Hachiman Shrine. There are many shrines they do like, but the precincts of Hachiman are really small and there is little for children (my kids have limited interest in floating flowers). However, they do like this gold peach statue! The statue is enclosed by a frame for hanging prayer plaques. The prayer plaques, called ema in Japanese, have a peach motif.
I normally visit this shrine alone now after learning early on that it isn’t high on the kids list of fun places in Gyoda. The last time I did bring them, we were actually at the shrine on a mission, to pray for a friend, so it didn’t matter too much that there was little for the kids to do. But we didn’t stay long for that reason – as well as others. For example, it was a weekend and it was very busy despite the pandemic. When I visit without the kids I can go on a weekday, when it is much quieter. However, this shrine, in my experience, is rarely empty – there is always at least one other person there, but expect at least a dozen! Especially during the two week period of Hanachozu Week.
The flower water fonts are truly beautiful. Particularly the one in an old style cement water font, pictured above. They change the display every month. The cement one is always decorated, but there are other flower fonts on display at the shrine for the first two weeks of each month for “Hanachozu week”. During that period, the floral fonts at Hachiman shrine are lit up one night. All the details of the event here.
Gyoda Hachiman Shrine information
Address: 16-23 Gyoda, Saitama 361-0073
Hours: the precincts are open 24 hours, but the offices are only open 10 am to noon and from 1 pm to 4 pm during the State of Emergency.
Cost: a contribution in any of the prayer boxes at the shrine. Amulets and prayer votives have varying costs starting from around 600 yen.
Access: about a seven to ten minute walk from Gyodashi station. If you are coming by car, free parking is available. The parking lot in front of the shrine’s offices is always busy, but there are several overflow car parks in the vicinity. You can use the overflow car parks of the shrine to park for hanachozu week too.