Kijin shrine: one of a few shrines nationwide dedicated to demon.
Hot on the heels of the New Year celebrations, is Setsubun. Setsubun is a festival marking the end of winter and coming of spring. It is celebrated annually on the 3rd of February. However, for the first time in 124 years, Setsubun falls on February 2nd in 2021. Shrines and temples around the country have a ‘mamemaki‘ bean throwing festival for the occasion. Unfortunately, due to the State of Emergency many places have cancelled their setsubun festivals in 2021, including Kijin Shrine. Normally, Kijin Shrine, an otherwise unassuming shrine, steps into the limelight every year for the occasion. And here’s why:
The 800 year old Kijin Shrine is not that well known nowadays. However, once it was very famous in Japan. Samurai prayed at the shrine for success in battle. Furthermore, it is said that during the Kamakura period, the samurai Hatakeyama Shigetada located his castle (since gone) close to the shrine for protection.
On the surface, there is nothing particularly special about it. You could easily walk by it assuming it was just ‘another’ small local shrine. Set on the side of a rural road, its relatively small and plain. The grounds aren’t overly impressive either. But the appeal of this shrine is not its aesthetics, but its uniqueness. The shrine is one of only a few in the whole of Japan that is dedicated to “oni” aka demon.
God of Victory
Demon are normally considered scary or bad, but at Kijin they are neither. In fact, the “God” enshrined here is actually a demon. Or to put it another way, the demon enshrined here is a God! The God of Triumph / God of Victory. Once upon a time in Japan, demon were just another divinity. Somewhere along the line they became the scary image of today.
The benevolence of the shrine is prayers for victory and success or triumph in life as well as realization of a heartfelt wish. The unique ‘omamori’ protective amulet at Kijin shrine is a demon’s club, like a spiked medieval mace club or bludgeon. They shrine sell votive prayer amulets with oni painted on.
Setsubun at Kijin Shrine
Demon are the key figure in the setsubun festivities, hence Kijin Shrine is a very popular place for Setsubun. As part of Setsubun, we throw beans while chanting “oni ha soto, fuku ha uchi” which means “demons out, luck in”. But at Kijin as this CNN reporter put it, its in “reverse”. At Kijin Shrine they shout “fuku ha uchi, oni ha uchi, akuma soto” and throw beans and red and green demons. Which means loosely “luck in, demons in, devils out”. (Ha is pronounced wa). Interestingly, the unmistakable “green” demon at Kijin is considered “blue” in Japan, but that’s a whole other blog post!
Information for the event updated annually:
Please note, that due to the State of Emergency the mamemaki ceremony and Setsubun event has been cancelled.
|Address:||1898 Kawashima, Ranzan, Hiki District, Saitama 355-0213|
|Hours:||Essentially its ‘open’ 24 hours a day, but the office that sells the votive plaques and amulets only opens a few hours a week.|
|Cost:||Entry and festival – free. Amulets etc individual charges.|
|Other:||There is a toilet on the grounds. There is also some playground equipment.|
A 15 minute walk from Musashi Ranzan Station on the Tobu Tojo line.
A 15 minute drive from the Ranzan Ogawa Interchange of the Kanetsu expressway. There is no official parking, but I parked beside the community building on the same grounds. There were other cars parked too.