Ko (Kou / Kō) Shrine, 鴻神社, is the principal shrine of Konosu City. The Kanji is 鴻, “otori”, which is from konotori, which means oriental stork. The shrine is home to the konotori legend from which Konosu city gets its name. Konosu is also written with the same kanji 鴻 (kou / otori) and 巣 (su), which means storks nest. The Kou shrine is also home of the Otori Festival. In the precincts there are also several other shrines. Three of which, Raiden, Kumano and Hikawa, were merged to form Kono Shrine.
No surprises that with the stork as the namesake and symbol of the shrine, the shrine is known for its benevolence in conceiving, child birth and family safety. But it is also famous for several other benefits such as prosperity, traffic safety and, one that’s pertinent to this post, matchmaking. The shrine is very popular all year round, but particularly at times of Shinto festivities such as New Year and 7-5-3 celebrations. Moreover, this is one shrine where you can experience a “tori no ichi” market in Saitama Prefecture.
Couple Gingko at Ko Shrine
Ko Shrine is home to a pair of 500 plus year old gingko trees. There is a male and a female. The male is marked with a shide (the white zigzagged paper) around a burl / tree knot or what we might commonly call a knob! While the female has the shide around the full circumference of the tree. They are known as “fufu” 夫婦 trees, which means husband and wife. As such, the shrine is a popular place to pray for good luck in love as well as for marital harmony.
Each year in Autumn, the ‘husband and wife’ gingko trees of Kou Shrine in Konosu are lit up at night. Unfortunately though, the event is not advertised anywhere, not even on the official site, so its luck of the draw whether you get to to see it or not. Personally, I was reminded to go this year by a post by Aira_photos on Instagram. Instagram used to be great for these kind of reminders that somewhere is ‘in season’, but unfortunately so few people post in real time anymore, I find Instagram is becoming less and less useful!
Ko Shrine is always a pleasure to visit as it is really photogenic. Moreover, it is a power spot. And apart from the gingko trees there are several points of interest at the shrine. Such as the unique stork egg charms at the former Konomiya shrine, which is located in front of the pair gingko. Also, the ’ema’ wooden prayer plaques at this shrine have stork on them and a picturesque red wood frame to hang the ema. In addition, this shrine has more torii than most. And there is lots of fresh, bright red everywhere, not just the torii. Another time of the year that it is particularly picturesque is spring, with the cherry blossoms. They also light up the cherry blossoms at night in spring.
Event: Kou Shrine Gingko Tree Light Up 鴻神社銀杏ライトアップ
Venue: Ko (or Kou) Shrine, 1-9 Honmiyacho, Konosu, Saitama 365-0076. View On Google Maps.
Dates: this event is not advertised anywhere, not even on the official website. So unfortunately I cannot tell you until when they plan to have the light up. From (my limited experience) it is during the period that the gingko tree are in season. Last year, the trees were still lit up in early December. They have their “Tori no Ichi” on December 4th so the precincts are lit up that night. Please share in comments if you know the official dates of this event. Thank you.
Hours: from sunset until ? The hours are also not advertised. Last year, I was there after 8 pm, this year at 5 pm. However, please note the shrine offices are not open at night.
Cost: free, but please do always contribute a donation in one of the prayer boxes. As the shrine offices are closed at night you can’t buy amulets etc, but if you visit during the day, that is always a great way to contribute to a shrine.
The shrine is about an eight minute walk from Konosu Station. There is parking on the North West of the precincts. Its best, if at all possible, to approach it from the North, that is to go south down Konotori Street. If you come from the south it is hard to cross the road into the parking as the entrance is near traffic lights.