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 may not be nationally famous for its wisteria, but it is for its kagura. 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. Most people who live in Saitama are also familiar with the wisteria at Tamashiki Shrine and Park. The wisteria 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.
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.
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 between April 24th and May 5th there will be sweets and dango sold from festival stalls at 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. The wisteria bloom from around mid April until early May. During the period, normally coinciding with Golden Week, the shrine hosts a spring festival. (More on the spring festival below kagura). There are also upright wisteria trees and some dangling white wisteria blooms too.
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.
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 in 2021. However, the rest of the festival is currently set to go ahead between April 24th and May 5th. It will be smaller than an “average” year, but there will be some festival stalls and special events. For example, there will be stalls selling dango and sweets. Between May 1st and May 5th there will be mini taiko performances. Special events including the 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. 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 they 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.
**All events in 2021 are subject to last minute changes or even cancellations on account of the Coronavirus**
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