I’ve been posting quite a bit about Gyoda city lately, but the city has quite a lot to share! Moreover, I have photos now, whereas for many years I didn’t. The last couple of times I visited Sakitama Shrine I had my four children with me. As I wrote in the post about Gyoda Hachiman Shrine, there are several shrines that don’t really appeal to children. But thankfully Sakitama Shrine is not one of them. It is a shrine to suited to children, particularly if they like cats…
Sakitama Shrine is located close to Sakitama Kofun Park. Moreover, the shrine itself is actually on a kofun, which is a type of tumulus or old burial mound. The Sengenzuka Kofun is about 8.7 meters high and 92 meters wide. A stairs carved into the kofun’s side leads to the top where the shrine sits. The 1000+ year old shrine itself is not particularly picturesque and, when we visited last, the lanterns were black with mold. However, the attraction of this shrine is not in its aesthetics. Its in its history and benevolence. However, the four resident cats might actually be the biggest draw of this shrine! That and the cat face shaped prayer plaques and cat motif “goshuin” shrine stamps. The grounds of the shrine too also make up for the lackluster worship hall.
The shrine grounds are large and tranquil. There is a beautiful wood, with bamboo trees, that leads to an open plain. Further afield is the Sakitama museum. We actually walked from the museum to the shrine on one of the visits. There are carp in a pond at the base of the shrine, which is actually perched on a burial mound. And in 2021 (and in 2020 too) the grounds have two different floral water font displays for Hanachozu Week.
One of the floral font displays is at the main purification font. The other floral font is an old style font by a smaller shrine on the grounds, pictured above. There was a very ethereal feel to this area. I particularly like how the water fonts at Sakitama Shrine have flowers that are blooming upwards. Something you don’t see very often.
Another thing you don’t see very often is decorations such as the miniature replicas of the “haniwa” terracotta clay figures in the featured photo at the top of the post. This area in Gyoda is famous for “haniwa”. The haniwa are in the main purification font of the shrine. It also has gorgeous jar displays, pictured above, which are like mini floral fonts. I haven’t seen ones like this before so I was quite impressed. It is quite hard for these places to come up with novel ideas when floral fonts are so popular all over Japan.
During the period of the ‘hanachozu week’, Sakitama Shrine is one of three locations that light up their hanachozu. The light up is for one night only. Sakitama Shrine’s light up is the smallest of the three light up events. The dates, along with other information is available on the event post here.
Hours: the precincts are open 24 hours so you can pray at anytime. However, the prayer plaques, amulets and “goshuin” seal stamps are only sold at the shrine’s office between 9.30 am and 4 pm.
Cost: a donation in the prayer box in front of the shrine. Plaques and amulets cost around 800 yen.
The shrine is about a five to seven minute walk from the main bus stop for Sakitama Kofun Park called Sakitama Kofun Koen Mae “さきたま古墳公園前”. You can get the bus, a city loop bus, from JR Takasaki Line’s Gyoda Station or Chichibu Railway’s Gyoda station.
About a 5 minute drive from the interchange of route 306 and the Kumagaya By Pass (the upper route 17). Free parking for about 12 cars.