Information for The Baseball Shrine, Yakyū Inari Shrine, in Higashimatsuyma, which has been designated as a National Important Cultural Property since November 2023. This post includes details for the popular peony festival and other seasonal events, such as setsubun.
The baseball shrine is located in Higashimatsuyama city in Saitama. It is just 1 hour and 10 minutes from Ikebukuro on the Tobu Tojo line. It is one of many shrines to the God Inari. However, what makes it special is that its Chinese characters (“Yakyu” 箭弓) are pronounced the same as the Japanese for baseball (野球). It has thus come to be known as the baseball shrine. The shrine is home to, and holds the Guinness record for, the world’s largest wooden seal / stamp! Moreover, the shrine has “married” trees; a Japanese pine and bead tree that forged together.
Yakyū Inari, the baseball shrine
The original shrine is said to have been completed in 712 A.D. The main hall was reconstructed in 1804 and the worship hall was reconstructed in 1835. The ‘yakyu’ was once written as 野久 meaning “long field”. However, after Minamoto No Yorinobu saw an arrow shaped cloud above the shrine, he commanded the name be written as 箭弓 to mean “bow and arrow”. More on the history in English from the official Higashimatsuyama tourism website.
The benevolence of the enshrined God, the Goddess of possessing food are:
- A ripe harvest
- Prosperous business
- Family’s safety and prosperity
- Traffic safety
- Accomplishment of Arts
- Better fortune
- Wish fulfillment
The shrine itself is quite picturesque with beautiful wooden carvings. On the grounds there are several hoardings with explanations in both Japanese and English about the details of the shrine.
In November 2023, the main hall, heiden hall and worship hall have been designated as National Important Cultural Properties.
Omamori and Ema
The photos above show the “ema” prayer plaques” and “omamori” amulets of the shrine. Lots of baseball fans visit the shrine to pick up a baseball or bat shaped amulet or write on a baseball prayer plaque (Ema 絵馬) to bring good favor to their own skills or to a baseball team they support.
Within the grounds there is a small shrine “Danjuro Shrine” with a row of beautiful torii. It was donated by Ichikawa Danjuro of Kabuki fame. Danjuro supposedly often prayed at Yakyu Inari for success in his performances. For this reason, to this day performers still come to the shrine to pray for the same.
During the New Year, baseball enthusiasts come from near and far to make their first prayers of the year “hatsumode” at the shrine. Supposedly even famous baseball players visit the shrine to pray for a good season. We have been to the shrine a few times during the New Year period and it is always really busy. They have some festival stalls during the period. If you are planning to do Hatsumode here, make sure to wrap up warm as the wait is outdoors. For a more detailed explanation of hatsumode and other places to practice it in Saitama, see this post.
When: January 1st to 3rd, between 9 am and 4 pm.
The shrine is also really popular for the setsubun bean throwing ceremony, held annually in early February. I wonder do famous baseball players participate in the bean throwing!? By and large the date is February 3rd, with rare exceptions. They have a special ceremony just for kids too. You can also buy beans here.
Hours: there are various ceremonies between 9.30 and around 4.30 pm with bean throwing afterward. They have a children’s mamemaki ceremony at 4 pm. In 2022, due to the pandemic, only Higashimatsuyama residents can participate and it required advance registration, but there is currently no such stipulation for 2023.
Peony Garden and Festival
Higashimatsuyama city is famous for peony flowers. Japan’s largest peony garden is in Higashimatsuyama, at Botanen. There are also some peony in the garden at Yakyu Inari. The founder of Tobu railway donated the 1300 peony that are planted in the peony garden in commemoration of the opening of the railway in 1923. Azalea and wisteria grow at the same time as the peony. In addition, the garden has some beautiful pine trees and a water feature. Some of the pine trees and the wisteria were also donated by the founder of the Tobu Railway.
Peony Festival at Yakyu Inari Shrine
The 2023 festival is scheduled to start Thursday April 13th to Sunday May 7th. During the period of the festival there are usually some food vans in the courtyard and there are additional events organized. As of March 27th 2023, only the dates have been released so far and the 2023 pamphlet is not yet ready. But full information is already up for the sister festival at Botanen. The Yakyu Inari Peony festival did go ahead in both 2021 and 2022, but it was more a festival “lite”. However, in 2022 they had the popular shishimai performance for the first time in three years. Presumably, it will be on in 2023 too.
Chinowa Kuguri 2023
The annual Chinowa Kuguri summer passing ritual will be held on Friday June 30th. Official event page.
There is also a small playground on the grounds of the shrine. However, during both hatsumode and the peony festival the space is used as the overflow car park.
Yakyu Inari Baseball shrine Information
Open all year round.
The shrine is a five minute walk from the west exit of Higashimatsuyama station on the Tobu Tojo line.
Normally there is parking for 50 cars. However, during big events such as New Years and Setsubun they convert the playground into an overflow car park with a further 150 car parking spots.
On Google maps: