Hachimangu is one of several shrines in Kawagoe with a long rich history. It is a “ichinomiya” meaning it was the first shrine of the Hachimangu sect in Kawagoe. (There are older shrines, such as Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine, in Kawagoe). Kawagoe Hachimangu was founded in 1030 A.D. by Minamoto Yorinobu.
There are several folk tales associated with the shrine. One of the longest prevailing is that when Yorinobu prayed for success in the Chogen war his prayers were answered. The shrine is thus believed to be of the God of Battle. The shrine is also known as an “enmusubi” shrine thanks to the scared nupital tie gingko tree planted in 1933 on the birth of Heisei Emperor. The official website has a summary of the history in English (click here).
One of the more recent additions to the shrine is a God who listens to your complaints. Called Guchikiki-sama in Japanese. Apparently after featuring on a couple of TV programs the statue – modeled on Prince Shotoku who supposedly could listen to 10 stories at a time – has increased in popularity. I’ve had a few chats with him over the years – he’s a great listener, never interrupts!
Despite being near Kawagoe station, Kawagoe Hachimangu doesn’t attract the tourist trade as much as other shrines and temples in the area. One of the reasons for that might be that it is away from the tourist district and closer to the shopping district. It does attract thousands of locals annually who use the shrine for important annual celebrations such as 7-5-3 and to attend one of the several annual events.
A summary of some of the larger and / or more popular events at Kawagoe Hachimangu:
- Children’s sumo tournament
- Chinowa Kuguri
- Hydrangea in bloom, floral chōzuya
We went to the shrine for Hatsumode on New Year’s Day 2019. I was surprised by how busy it was. People queued for hours to make their first prayer of the year at the shrine. We chose to just pray at one of the smaller shrines on site and hence avoided the crowds.
Throughout the year the shrine displays a gigantic ema prayer plaque at the side entrance to the shrine. It depicts the Chinese calendar animal of the year. It is revealed at New Year’s during the shrines new year celebrations.
Children’s sumo tournament
Every year in June there is a children’s sumo tournament on the grounds of the shrine. It is a very popular event and has even featured on the national broadcasting channel NHK. Boys and girls from Kawagoe can apply to participate in the sumo event through the official website here.
Chinowa Kuguri is a type of shinto ritual and one of the rites of “Nagoshi no Harae” often translated as “summer passing” in English. It is believed that by passing through the ring of chigaya, grasses entwined around a circle of bamboo, in a figure of 8 that it will increase ones chances of getting through the hot sultry summer in good health.
This year they have a picture of an amabie on the ring. An amabie is the half human, half fish monster. Legend goes that it emerged from the sea phropecising an epidemic. The character has become a symbol, an amulet even, of protection against Covid-19.
Hydrangea and floral chōzuya
June is a busy month at Kawagoe Hachimangu. Between the sumo and chinowa kuguri the shrine attracts hundreds of local worshipers. But even more come to see the seasonal blooms! The shrine is known for its hydrangea. They bloom in June annually.
This year they also have a floral chōzuya. A chozuya or temizuya is the water ablution fountains where you wash your hands and rinse your mouth before praying at a shinto shrine. The water font head at Hachimangu is a dragon. It looks so beautiful with the fountain filled with colorful hydrangea.
|Address:||19-3 Minamitorimachi, Kawagoe, Saitama 350-0045|
|Hours:||Not specified, there is no gate so in theory 24 hours.|
However, parking hours are from 9 am to 5 pm.
|Cost:||Free to ramble|
Blessings, ceremonies, amulets etc have individual prices
Kawagoe Hachimangu Access
The shrine is located relatively close to JR and Tobu Tojo Kawagoe stations. It only takes about 10 minutes on foot.
There is parking at the shrine, but it is quite hard to get a spot during busy periods. There are plenty of coin parking lots nearby.