On the Kitamoto stretch of the former Kamakura Kaido, there are several shrines and temples. Each of them has something very interesting about them. And most of them are quite photogenic. Perhaps the best known of them is the Takao Hikawa Shrine. It is famous for having Japan’s largest “omikuji”. However, while once upon a time it was always on display, you can only see it now on special occasions. But, they have sakura shaped paper wishes too. And they are available all year round. Furthermore, it is one of many shrines (and temples) around the country that is using floral water fonts to attract more visitors.
Takao Hikawa Shrine
Like much of the surrounding area, Takao Hikawa Shrine has been around since ancient times. Many important relics have been excavated in the area. The shrine was founded in 869 AC, which was during the Heian period (794 to 1185). Takao Hikawa Shrine is dedicated to Susanoo no Mikoto. A God or “kami” in Japanese mythology. Susanoo no Mikoto is the younger brother of Amaterasu, my personal favorite! Amaterasu is the Sun Goddess, the Goddess of creation and, moreover, the mythical ancestress of the Imperial family.
Japan’s largest Omikuji
Nowadays, the shrine is most famous for its “omikuji”. An omikuji is a type of fortune telling paper. They come in different forms. Nowadays the fortune is mostly written on paper. However, Takao Hikawa Shrine has one of the old style wooden box ones, that you tip a bamboo strip out of. Moreover it is both the biggest and longest omikuji in all of Japan. It is 2.15 meters long. It used to be on display permanently on the grounds of the shrine. However, the glass fronted building they used to store it in was tore down in 2021. I don’t know where it is stored now, but they only take it out on special occasions now.
Sakura petal wishes
But the “sakura mikuji”, paper fortunes in the design of a cherry blossom, are available all year round.
I remember receiving a flyer about Kitamoto years ago that was actually shaped in the exact pattern of the sakura petal wishes at Hikawa Shrine. The flower of Kitamoto city is the chrysanthemum, so its not based on that. But I assume it is because of Kitamoto’s very special cherry blossom, the only one of its kind in the whole world. Thus, the cherry blossom is used as a symbol for the city. At Takao Hikawa shrine you can hook sakura shaped fortunes to a “tree” for good luck. They look very picturesque, positioned in front of the shrine.
Dragon’s Head Floral Water font
The water font by the torii has a dragon’s head fountain. The water cleansing font has some flowers in it, which adds to the beauty. Right now, during the pandemic, they have added bamboo shoots to the font. This way it can still be used to wash your hands. Many shrines and temples have opted to turn off the water fountains during the pandemic. However, several shrines and temples have added the bamboo so that the water flows into the gutter rather than back into the font. In non pandemic times, you also rinse your mouth. However, with the Coronavirus that is discouraged.
Takao Hikawa is one of only a few shrines that have social distancing markings on the pavement to remind people to keep a safe distance. In this area of Saitama anyway. It stood out to me, because I think this is the only shrine that I have seen markings like this at in 2021!
Seven Lucky Gods
Another point of interest on the grounds is the “Seven Lucky Gods” statues. They are also called the Gods of Fortune. Most shrines that have enshrined the Gods of Fortune normally only have one of them. At Takao Hikawa Shrine there are two of the seven lucky Gods. The shrine is a stop on one of the Seven Lucky Gods tours. You can do these type of walking tours in many cities around Japan.
At Hikawa Shrine the Gods are Daikokuten and Ebisu. Daikokuten is the God of commerce and prosperity. He is depicted with a gavel and a big bag. You can also see a Daikokuten statue at Hodosan Shrine (among hundreds of other places!). The other of the 7 Lucky Gods is Ebisu. Ebisu (Ebisuten) is the God of prosperity. In addition, he is the only one of the seven that is native Japanese. There is also an Ebisuten at Kawagoe’s Naritasan temple (among other places).
Moreover, there is a third lucky God actually enshrined in the precinct. Benzaiten, the only female of the seven lucky Gods. Benzaiten is based on Saraswati in Hinduism. She is a patron of the arts. Itsukushima Shrine enshrines Benzaiten. The Itsukushima shrine is literally across the road from a side entrance to the grounds of Takao Hikawa Shrine.
Itsukumshima Shrine is also enshrined in the precinct. It is literally right across the road from a side entrance to Takao Hikawa shrine’s grounds. The legend goes that at the site of the shrine there used to stand a sacred cedar tree from which a dragon ascended. When the tree got blown down by strong winds the priests dug down to the roots, effectually building an island of sorts. They built a shrine on the ‘island’ in commemoration of the cedar. To this day it is an island shrine, now with a moat around it. Beautiful steps lead down to the eerie shrine.
There is a couple of blossoms beside the car park that is to the east of the shrine’s torii. To be honest, when I was looking at them I thought they were kawazu zakura, but looking at the photos now I’m not so sure. However, there are bona fide kawazu zakura behind the shrine! You use a little trail that goes up the east side of the shrine to see kawazu against bamboo. But there are also more kawazu zakura further east on the Kamakura Kaido:
More on the kawazu zakura and flowers on the Kamakura kaido:
Takao Sakura Park is also in this area. There are kawazu zakura in that park too. However, later on in spring you can see many different varieties of sakura.
Takao Hikawa Shrine Information
Kitamoto Takao Hikawa Shrine is a mess online. On Google Maps it is written as Kitamotohikawa shrine. I’ve put in an edit request so hopefully that will be fixed soon! Various tourist websites call it Ishito Hikawa Shrine. But according to the website, the Hikawa shrine, that owns Japan’s largest “omikuji”, is officially called Takao Hikawa Shrine. (Not to be confused with Hikawa Shrine in Omiya park or Kawagoe Hikawa shrine!)
|Takao Hikawa Jinja|
|Address:||7 Chome-31 Takao, Kitamoto, Saitama 364-0034|
|Cost:||Donations to worship|
The shrine is close to the Saitama-Konosu road. There is parking for about 30 cars. By public transport: the shrine is about a 30 minute walk from Kitamoto Station. Kitamoto station is on the Takasaki, Shonan Shinjuku and Ueno-Tokyo lines.
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