The main hall of Omiya Sumiyoshi Shrine, a shrine famed for its kagura which is a national intangible folk cultural property of Japan

Omiya Sumiyoshi Shrine is located in Sakado City. It is most famous for its kagura which is a designated intangible folk cultural property of both Saitama Prefecture and Japan. I personally have not seen the kagura there yet, but I visit the shrine at least once annually when I am in the area for early blooming cherry blossoms. The shrine also has some magnificent Japanese cedar (Sugi) trees. They are under the protection of Sakado City. In the center of the shrine grounds there is a 27 meter high cedar decorated with the rope (shimenawa) and white paper streamer (shide) to mark its sacredness. Hereafter, information for the Kagura first, then the kawazu cherry blossoms and hanachozu.

The Kagura of Omiya Sumiyoshi Shrine

The Kagura stage at Omiya Sumiyoshi Shrine in Sakado City
The Kagura stage at Omiya Sumiyoshi Shrine ©insaitama.com

Kagura is a type of ritual Shinto dance dedicated to the Gods. Historically, Shinto priests performed it, but since the Meiji Period local volunteers perform the kagura at Sumiyoshi shrine. They perform Kagura three times a year at Omiya Sumiyoshi Shrine. The first one of the New Year is on February 23rd annually. February 23rd is a public holiday in Japan in celebration of the Emperor’s birthday. They carry out the other two performances on the first Sunday of April and November 23rd.

There are about 20 performers that perform 12 different stories using about two dozen kagura masks at the Sumiyoshi shrine! The performers are a troupe of volunteer actors and musicians, who play the traditional music comprising the flute and drums. One of the stories is about Uganomitama (Ukanomitama) no mikoto, who is the mythological God/ess of rice as featured in both the “Kojiki” Record of Anicent Matters and the “Nihonshoki” Chronicles of Japan.


Niinamesai

Niinamesai is one of the festivals at Omiya Sumiyoshi Shrine to give thanks for the new harvest. It is on November 23rd annually. Ten foxes, Modoki, and Inari-sama will appear and perform scenes of rice cultivation. Omiya Sumiyoshi Kagura retains the characteristics of Edori Kagura, and is composed of highly theatrical performances. In addition to the gods, a clown called Modoki plays an active role in playful performances to entertain the audience.


Kawazuzakura and hanachozu at Omiya Sumiyoshi Shrine

Kawazuzakura (early blooming cherry blossoms): If you are a regular reader or follow the In Saitama Facebook page, you might recognize the name Sumiyoshi. It is the area of Sakado where kawazuzakura only bloom once every four years. As they bloom in sync with the Olympics, 2024 should be their year. But of course I can’t guarantee it. But Omiya Sumiyoshi also has a handful of early blooming, kawazu, cherry blossoms. And in my experience, they do bloom each year, usually around mid to late June.

In May 2024 I happened to notice on the shrine’s Instagram page that they now put flowers in one of the old water fonts. In other words, they have a ‘hanachozu’ at the moment! I went to see it on June 17th 2024;

Omiya Sumiyoshi shrine hanachozu June 2024.

Kagura Information

Event: Omiya Sumiyoshi Shrine Kagura 坂戸の大宮住吉神楽

Date: February 23rd, first Sunday of April, and November 23rd annually

Time: 9.30 am to 12.30 pm

Cost: free

Venue: Omiya Sumiyoshi Shrine, 254 Tsukagoshi, Sakado, Saitama 350-0209. View on Google Maps.

Access

The Sakado City “Kacchi wagon” Miyoshi route loop bus stops at the shrine. The stop is called Sumiyoshi Shrine (i.e. without the Omiya). From Wakaba Station on the Tobu Tojo Line get a bus bound for Hachiman Danchi and alight at Sumiyoshi Shrine bus stop. The shrine is about a 7 minute walk from the bus stop.

>>Check out what else is in the area here<<

There is a parking lot beside the shrine, during the pandemic the parking lot was sealed off! But its been back open since at least February 2023. There isn’t a lot of space so its best advised to come by public transport when the Kagura is on. The parking lot at the nearby Sumiyoshi Sakura no Sato has also been inaccessible for years (since 2017) so you can’t park there either.

Official page on the Sakado City website.

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