Legendary 500 year old gingko trees at Kou Shrine in Konosu City, Saitama Prefecture, lit up at night

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!

Highlights

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.


Cherry Blossoms

Another time of the year that it is particularly picturesque is spring, with the cherry blossoms. There are three main types of cherry blossoms that bloom at Kou Shrine. Kawazuzakura in February and Weeping Cherries and Somei Yoshino in March / early April. They also light up the cherry blossoms at night in spring. Update February 21st 2024: reportedly the kawazu have started to bloom.

The Kawazu usually overlap at least in part with the Konosu dolls festival. The shrine is only a five minute walk from Elumi Shopping Center, which is the principal site of the Konosu ‘surprising’ dolls festival and where Japan’s largest doll pyramid is displayed.


Information

Event: Kou Shrine Night (Gingko trees in Autumn / Sakura in Spring) Light Up 鴻神社銀杏・桜ライトアップ。 In addition, the precincts are lit up annually on December 4th for the “Tori no Ichi” market.

Venue: Ko (or Kou) Shrine, 1-9 Honmiyacho, Konosu, Saitama 365-0076. View On Google Maps.

Dates: November for Gingko trees, usually early March to early April for cherry blossoms.

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.

Access

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.

Official website.

2 Comments

    1. Author

      What beautiful trees to have in your garden. I love when they are yellow, but adore when the leaves create a golden carpet.

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