Another wisteria spot in Saitama for you today – this time in Kazo City. This time, one that is quite famous. Not Ashikaga famous, but locally famous. Tamashiki shrine in Kazo has a small, but beautiful flower park. The wisteria of Tamashiki Shrine may not be nationally famous, but its kagura is. The Kagura of Tamashiki Shrine is a designated important cultural property of Japan.
The wisteria don’t enjoy the same level of fame, but one of the wisteria is a designated natural monument of Saitama. Likewise with the hydrangea in June. Most people who live in Saitama are familiar with both the wisteria and hydrangea at Tamashiki Shrine and Park. The wisteria in particular attracts enough visitors that there is a one way walking order you need to follow if you visit on a busy day. When I visited April 22nd 2021 you could move freely. Although in my eyes it was “busy”, it evidently gets a lot busier.
In this post:
- Tamashiki Shrine
- Tamashiki Park
- 3.1 Wisteria
- 3.2 Hydrangea
- Golden Week
- 4.1 Ouma Kuguri
- Other annual events
- 6.1 Access
1. Tamashiki Shrine
Despite being famous for its kagura and locally famous for its wisteria, there is little information online in English. The shrine’s website is quite scarce with its information too. However, there is plenty of information available at the shrine. They use posters to disseminate information about events and they have plaques with information for the wisteria and points of interest at the park.
Kagura quite literally means “God Entertainment” or entertaining the Gods. It is a type of storytelling Shinto ritual dance performance, set to traditional music, that is dedicated to the Gods. The performers wear distinctive masks and elaborate costumes. There is a wonderful piece in the Kojiki, Japan’s oldest book, about the first ever (recorded) mythical kagura performance. The performance was conducted to lure Amaterasu, the Sun Goddess, out of cave. The first references to actual performances came after the Kojiki was published. Most initial references are to performances at the Imperial Court.
Kagura has been performed at Tamashiki Shrine for more than 400 years. Moreover, the Kagura at Tamashiki shrine is a designated important cultural property (since 2008). Kagura is performed four times a year at the shrine’s major festivals: December 1st, February 1st, May 5th and July 15th. There stage for the Kagura performances is right beside the shrine. It is an outdoor stage.
3. Tamashiki Park
The park is quite small, but larger than the off the beaten path wisteria spot featured in the last post. It has some other blooms including azalea. There is a weeping cherry in the park too, but it has already turned green. The park also has a small playground making it an ideal spot for wisteria viewing with children. And during Golden week they have festival stalls in the park.
There are three main wisteria displays. Two in the main park, one in what is called the “kyuu” old park. Of the two in the main park, is a designated natural monument of Saitama Prefecture. It is approximately 400 years old. It is a “murasaki noda” wisteria. There are also upright wisteria trees and some dangling white wisteria blooms too. The wisteria bloom from around mid April until early May. During the period, normally coinciding with Golden Week, the shrine hosts a spring festival. Simultaneously the Kazo City Kisai Wisteria Festival is on, also on the shrine grounds.
There are approximately 10,000 hydrangea bushes in Tamashiki park. The shrine takes part in the annual Kisai Hydrangea festival during the month of June. Normally, for that festival the main area is by Kisai Castle. But in 2022 Tamashiki park will take center stage. The period of the festival is the whole month of June, but there will only be special events on June 12th. They include a rickshaw ride alongside the hydrangea in Tamashiki park.
4. Golden Week Events
One of the shrine’s largest annual celebrations is their spring festival held annually in Golden Week. It culminates with a a kagura performance at the “shunki taisai” – spring festival. However, due to the pandemic, the kagura has been cancelled since 2020. There is usually some festival stalls and special events, as the Kisai Wisteria Festival overlaps on some of the dates. The festival stalls sell dango and sweets. Between May 1st and May 5th (2021) there are mini taiko performances. Special events include the Ouma Kuguri…
4.1 Ouma Kuguri
Sort of like a Chinowa Kuguri, an Ouma Kuguri is a ritual for children to grow up strong. But instead of passing through a ring of reeds, children crawl under horses. Statue horses, not real horses! This year the Ouma Kuguri will be on May 2nd and 3rd 2021. Moreover, this year they are also inviting adults to participate in the Ouma Kuguri for good health.
Other annual events
The shrine attracts thousands of worshippers over New Years for Hatsumode. In February first they have a Daruma Market on the 1st and then on Saturday the 4th (2023) they will have a bean throwing ceremony for Setsubun. They have a chinowa kuguri in June. In Autumn the 500 year old gingko tree attracts visitors too. Moreover, they light up the gingko tree on select dates during the period of the gingko tree’s yellow leaves. In 2022, that is Friday and Saturday nights in the middle of November, possibly later. Unfortunately, they don’t advertise it on their website, but they do post to their Twitter account usually.
In December 2022 they will host their annual Aryaryaashi event for the first time in three years. It is a type of market stemming from the tradition of carrying a lion’s head, borrowed from Tamashiki Shrine, from house to house and shouting, “Arya-ryai, Arya-ryai!”
**All events during the pandemic are subject to last minute changes or even cancellations on account of the Coronavirus**
6. Tamashiki Shrine Information
|Address:||Kisai, Kazo, Saitama 347-0105|
|Hours:||Part of the park is accessible 24 hours, but the shrine’s hours are 9 am to 5 pm. The “old” park can close in accordance with the shrine. Also, part of the car park closes shortly after closing time.|
|Online:||The shrine’s official website|
By car: the nearest Interchange is the Kazo Interchange of the Tohoku Expressway. It is about a 15 minute drive away. Shiraoka Shobu interchange on the Ken-o expressway is also only about a 20 minute drive away. There is parking for about 20 cars on the east side of the park, near the main torii. However, it is often full. There is an overflow car park on the West side of the park that has plenty of parking. You can walk in to the shrine grounds from a little laneway off that car park – walk away from the road (south) along the forest path and it will bring you to the side entrance.
By public transport: the nearest train station is Kazo Station on the Tobu Isesaki Line. The shrine is about a 45 minute walk from the station. There is also a bus that you can get – bound for Konosu Station / License Center. Alight at Kisai I-chome bus stop. The shrine is about an eight minute walk from that bus stop. You can also get a bus from Konosu station which is on the JR Takasaki line. Get an Asahi bus bound for Kazo Shako and alight at the Kisai 1-chome bus stop. Kisai Ichome = 騎西一丁目