Kawagoe 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 from other sects, such as Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine, in Kawagoe). Kawagoe Hachimangu was founded in 1030 A.D. by Minamoto Yorinobu. The shrine is known for its stunning hydrangea and traditional practices throughout the year. In recent years, the shrine is also popular for its floating flowers.
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. Furthermore, 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. Fyi, the tree looks stunning in late Autumn with its golden leaves. 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:
- Hatsumode and New Year events
- Children’s sumo tournament
- Chinowa Kuguri
- Hydrangea in bloom, floral chōzuya
- Chinju-no-mori concert
- Monthly: Last Sunday Market
We went to the shrine for Hatsumode on New Year’s Day 2019. I was surprised by how busy it was. Little did I know at the time that it is the fourth most popular place for Hatsumode in Saitama Prefecture! 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.
Moreover, there are several events on during the New Year as well as food stalls in the precinct. (Although, this may change with the pandemic). One of the special events over New Years is a Shishimai performance. You can see Shishimai (Lion Dance) on both January 1st and 2nd between 10 am and 2 pm on the shrine grounds. On January 8th at 8 am you can see Hashigo-nori in the precincts.
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. What makes the Hachimangu giant ema special is that it is painted by local school children.
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. Moreover, boys and girls from Kawagoe can apply to participate in the sumo event through the official website here. In 2023, it will be on for the first time in four years, on Sunday June 25th.
Information for this unique Japanese summer spiritual rite with Hachimangu’s dates for 2023;
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.
In addition, they have 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. It has become very popular throughout Japan for shrines and temples to add “floating flowers” to their chozuya. In addition, the water font head at Hachimangu is a dragon. It looks so beautiful with the fountain filled with colorful hydrangea.
Chinju no Mori Concert
Chinju no Mori is the term for a small wood around a shinto shrine. It literally means Forest of the local Shinto deity. Every year at Kawagoe Hachimangu there is a concert on the shrine grounds in September. The Kawagoe Brass Band and taiko musicians perform. In 2023, the concert is scheduled for Sunday September 17th from 3 to 5 pm.
Last Sunday Market
On the last Sunday of the month there is a market in the precincts of the shrine. Its generally on in the morning from 9 am to noon. There is usually handmade goods and food stalls as well as fresh vegetables. You can also usually get coffee from a bicycle vendor “Coffee Post” (pictured above) at the market! There is a sister site at Chabudai too, where they sell vegetables and bread. Last Sunday Market Facebook page.
|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. However, there are plenty of coin parking lots nearby.