Koma Jinja aka Koma Shrine, Hidaka, Saitama Prefecture
Many years ago my husband and I visited a shrine on the way home from Chichibu. I didn’t think too much of it to be honest. The thatched roof former residence – a nationally designated Important Cultural property – out the back of the shrine was the highlight. Fast forward a few years ago and we visited it again. Only this time it clicked that this uninspiring shrine was in fact the famous Koma Jinja. I had always assumed the infinitely more picturesque temple up the road was Koma Jinja. A visit to that stunning hilltop temple revealed that is Shoden-in Temple. And the less aesthetically appealing shrine on the corner of the Kawasemi Kaido is the legendary Koma Shrine.
Incidentally, I refer to the shrine as Jinja rather than the English as this is one of those shrines people tend to call Jinja even in English. Possibly because Koma Jinja pairs better than Koma Shrine? Or more likely it is because the shrine is most famous in non-English speaking countries.
We have visited Koma Jinja several times since then. However, this is the first year I have seen it while the cherry blossoms were in bloom. Had I first visited the shrine when the sakura were in bloom, I would have fallen in love a lot sooner! The spring scene is magical, a fairy-tale setting. However, the main reason the shrine is famous is not for its beauty, but for its history. It is the prominent shrine in the Korean-Japanese community. Furthermore, one of the Gods enshrined God is Jakko “Koma no Kokishi Jakko”.
As one of Saitama’s most famous and “international” shrines, this is one of only a handful of sightseeing attractions in Saitama Prefecture that has an abundance of information about the history in English online. Including on their official English language website. You can even find information in English on the shrine grounds. I took the above photo in October 2016, so I unfortunately I can’t remember exactly it was, but I assume its still on the grounds somewhere!
Annual Events at Koma Jinja
There are dozens of ceremonies, rituals and events held at Koma Jinja annually. Here is a selection of three that I have personally attended myself.
Hatusmode is the first religious celebration of the year. It is the first prayers at a shrine in the New Year. You can do this at any temple or shrine. Most of them have their official hatsumode period for at least three days, generally January 1st to 3rd. Koma shrine is no different. They also have “gantansai” on January 1st. Gantansai is a special New Year’s day prayers.
Cherry Blossom festivals
There are two cherry blossom festivals at Koma Shrine annually. One is a celebration of the 300 year old Higanzakura on the grounds. The other a more typical “sakura matsuri”. The first is normally held on a Saturday and Sunday around the time that the Higanzakura begins to bloom. The second, the cherry blossom festival is normally held on the first Sunday of April. In 2021 both festivals were bunged together for the first time and celebrated on the same day. However, there were no performances or live music due to the Coronavirus. Hopefully in 2022 they will be able to hold each festival separately again.
My most recent visit to the shrine was at the end of June (2021) for a summer blessing known as Chinowa Kuguri. You make the infinity sign as you pass through the large circle wreath, a purification ring, (pictured) for good health during the second half of the year. During the period that the purification ring is erect there is a “Nagoshi no Obarai Shiki” on the last Saturday or Sunday of June. Participants of this ritual receive a chinowa amulet as a souvenir.
|Koma Jinja / Shrine|
|Address:||833 Niihori, Hidaka, Saitama 350-1243|
|Hours:||8:30 am to 5 pm seven days a week|
|Cost:||Free to wander, |
Donation as small or large as you want to pray,
Each ceremony / ritual has different costs
|Online:||Official website | English and Korean website|
The shrine is a 20 minute walk from the JR Komagawa Station on the Hachiko and Kawagoe lines. There is plenty of parking for anyone who comes by car. Although, some of the overflow car parks are quite a walk away. But there is one small and one large car park right by the shrine’s torii.