Umezono shrine Ogose

With plum blossom season on the horizon, tonight’s choice of long overdue draft posts for publication is the beautiful Umezono shrine in Ogose. Not only is the shrine in the vicinity of the famed plum blossoms, it is the origin of them. The beauty of Umezono Shrine is in its simplicity, its subtle charms and untainted presence. And an undeniable aura many feel, myself included, when they visit the shrine. Moreover, early in the plum blossom season, often before the famous Ogose plum blossom festival starts, there is a stunning view of early blooming plum blossoms flowering through the shrine’s quaint torii. If you are visiting the Ogose Bairin (plum blossom grove) its well worth stopping by. Its just across the road!

Umezono Shrine

Umezono Shrine Ogose

Apart from being the birth place of the Ogose plum blossoms, this shrine is special for several other reasons. For one, there is an undeniable aura, what they call a power spot in Japanese. The last time I visited, in early February 2023, was during the pandemic and I was laughing at myself for noting that I could still sense it with my mask on! Another thing it is famed for is its shishimai, one of four in Ogose that are folk cultural properties.

In addition the trees surrounding the shrine are chinquapin (scientific name: Castanopsis sieboldii, Japanese: sudajii スダジイ ) and are a natural monument of Saitama Prefecture. Chinquapin belongs to the beech family of evergreen trees reportedly and is commonly found in Japanese temperate rainforests, so not so usual in the Kanto Plain. However, there are also chinquapin within the forest of the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

The Plum blossom connection

Plum blossoms Umezono Shrine
Plum blossoms on the grounds of Umezono Shrine, February 2023

There are a lot of conflicting reports online about the connection of the shrine to the plum blossoms in the region. All agree though that the plum blossom/s were first brought to Ogose in the 14th Century, around 1350 to be more precise. What I was taught was that the seeds were brought from a famous ume tree in Kyushu, that had been planted by notorious scholar Suguwara. When Umezono was enshrined at its current location, from Dazaifu in Kyushu, the tree blossom was planted in honor of Suguwara. But you will also find differing versions of the story online.

cedar tree umezono shrine

There are a couple of plum blossoms on the ground of the shrine too. But they are still quite young from what I can tell. There is also two beautiful large cedar trees either side of the stairs that lead to the main hall, pictured above.

Shishimai

Ogose Shishimai, a cultural property, at  Umezono Shrine

The shishimai lion dance performance of Umezono Shrine was passed down from Hanno’s Takayama Shishimai, which is also a cultural property. It is on the fourth weekend (Saturday and Sunday) of October annually. It is one of four shishimai performed in autumn in Ogose. Another two are also in October and in November the fourth and final one is on at Higashiyama Shrine.

Information

Umezono Shrine
Address: 1 Kosugi, Ogose, Iruma District, Saitama 350-0422. View on Google Maps.
Hours:No fixed hours
Cost:There is no admission fee. It is customary to put some money in the prayer box; as little or as much as you like.
Season:Plum blossom season – February / March.
Shishimai event – fourth weekend of October.

Access

There is officially one parking spot, but I do not recommend it. The shrine is located on a bend and it is a dangerous parking spot to get in or out off. Moreover, it is sometimes blocked off. But you can park nearby at the official parking lot for Ogose Bairin. However, please note, that during the prime plum blossom season that car park is very busy. Moreover, you have to pay to use it during the period of the plum blossom festival. Dates and information for the 2024 Ogose Plum Blossom Festival. For the rest of the year, the parking lot is empty and free!

By public transport the station for the plum forest is just over an hour from Ikebukuro on the Tobu lines. You can take the Tobu Tojo line to Sakado station and change to the Tobu Ogose line. The Hachiko Line from Hachioji also goes to Ogose. From Tobu / Hachiko Line Ogose station it is recommended you take a bus. You can walk, but it takes about 45 minutes. If you are walking and you like quirky locations, make sure you check out this colorful junkyard along the way! The bus is a Kawagoe Kanko bus that goes from the station to either “Kuroyama” or “Bairin Iriguchi”.

Official web page on the Ogose Town website.

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