Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Getting inside a straw hat

Japan is a country with innumerable shrines and temples- some small and some large. While the shrines and temples in major tourist destination cities like Kyoto, Kamakura, Nara or Nikko are popular in Japan and abroad, very few foreigners or tourists usually get to visit these little shrines or temples. Many a times, these smaller shrines or temples have a lot of history or art, at the same time offering more calm and peace to one’s mind. One such experience was an unplanned visit to Kasama. We had visited the Naritasan Shinshoji temple and were on our way home to Iwaki from Narita. It was still early in the afternoon and we felt we could make a stop at some calm and peaceful place before we returned home. That was when we decided to stop at Kasama.

Kasama is a town near Mito city in Ibaraki prefecture. The name of this town means "Inside a Straw hat". The reason behind this is that the city's centre , the hat in this case, is connected by many small towns which form the brim of this straw hat. Interesting or "Omoshiroi" as the Japanese say.

Kasama town is home to one of Japan’s important Shinto shrines- Kasama Inari shrine. Also known as Kasama Taisha or Jinja shrine, the Inari shrine was built in the late Edo period and has been designated a national treasure. It is similar to other Inari shrines in Japan and is counted among the three largest Inari shrines in Japan. A big Torii stands at the entrance, followed by a small path leading to a Wooden gate. 

A few metres ahead stands the main hall.  

However the shrine is much smaller and less crowded than the Inari shrine in Fushimi.

 Like all Inari shrines, statues of the Inari messenger “kitsune” (fox) can be found in abundance here too. 

Address:  1, Kasama , Kasama shi, Ibaraki ken, 309-1611
Phone: 0296-73-0001

Close by is another important shrine – Kasama Izumo Shrine. This shrine is also known as Hitachi Izumo shrine and is one of the most visited shrines on New Year’s Day. I heard about this shrine from my Japanese friend, who visits the shrine each year in January. She has a lot of faith in the Omikuji or “Fortune chit” of this shrine and each year makes a trip to know what lies in store for her in the year ahead. The shrine is located on a hilltop

The shrine’s speciality is the enormous rope made of Rice straw which is hung on the shrine’s fa├žade.

 It is said to weigh about 6 tons ! Worshippers throw coins upwards so that they remain stuck in the straw.

 It is believed that if they succeed, the thrower will be bestowed with good fortune in the year ahead.

This shrine is reputed to be built on the lines of the oldest Shinto shrine in Japan, the Izumo Taisha shrine in Shimane prefecture.

This shrine will celebrate its 20 year in 2012.

Check the site for more details:  ( Japanese only)

Shrine timings: 8:00 to 17:00 hrs everyday.

Address: 2001 Fukuhara, Kasama, Ibaraki ken

Phone: 0296-74-3000

Kasama town has much more to offer for travelers. The town is also famous for its pottery and sake breweries.

For more details check out this link:

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