Fukuoka · Japan Travel

Miyajidake Shrine

Move over Nanzoin temple, I have a new local favourite place:  Miyajidake shrine in Fukutsu.

I had been meaning to visit Miyajidake for months, since it’s just a short train ride out of town, but never quite seemed to make it. The shrine itself is dedicated to Empress Jingu, an intriguing quasi-historical figure dating from about 200 BCE. The shrine is known for a few things, most notably being the spectacular view from the shrine to the sea, a straight shot lit up by the setting sun perfectly in winter (February) and fall (October). There are also three very large (and I don’t mean just slightly over-sized, but HUGE) items in residence:  a bell, drum and holy rope (shimenawa). The shimenawa itself weighs 5 tons, apparently (it’s immense!), and all three are said to be the largest in Japan. There is also, though I somehow completely missed it, a giant megalithic tumulus (tomb) at one of the inner shrines.

Each year in late May-early June, the shrine holds an iris festival, so I was determined to get out there to see the flowers this year, especially since I had recently been to see wisteria and lilacs. The train ride from Hakata to Fukutsu is only about 23 minutes, but the shrine itself is another 2~ km from the station. I didn’t feel like waiting for a bus, so I walked, under a brilliant, cloudless sky (I did indeed burn, despite sunblock!). Most of the walk is flat, thankfully, but the very last bit goes right up hill, of course. The path I took brought me to the back of the main shrine, so I actually ended up wandering to the eight smaller shrines and the tiny festival (complete with live music) happening further up the mountain from the shrine itself.

And I’m glad I did; the smaller shrines were lovely, and each very unique. Particularly the fifth shrine, with its heart-shaped display of heart-shaped wishes (I toyed with leaving a wish; perhaps next time). Supposedly visiting all eight shrines will bring you good luck. I think I made it to all of them. Not sure about the sixth and eighth ones, though. I also noticed, too late, that there was a stamp rally going on. Next time I know to pick up the paper at the main shrine, then head upwards and inwards.

I didn’t feel like climbing to the top of the mountain, so after visiting the little shrines, headed back to the main shrine, and the irises. There was quite the profusion of potted irises in the main courtyard, and a number were in bloom, but it will definitely be a few days before peak bloom. They were beautiful, but I can only imagine the riot of purple, white and yellow that this coming weekend will be. The shimenawa is impressive close up, and I’m now filled with the urge to come back next spring, when they replace it in a ceremony open to the public.

I spent quite a bit of time wandering around the shrine inside and outside the gate (where there were many small statues). Bribed … er, left some coins for a pair of cow statues, and rubbed their noses for luck. Took a short break for matcha soft-serve ice cream, took pictures of the lovely view to the sea and then wandered back to the festival grounds, and past, to where a huge pond, more irises and a collection of older style houses were situated. The pond had a small beach, where a few folks were feeding the biggest collection of carp I’ve ever seen in one place. It was impressive, that many fish all but crawling onto land to get fed.

There was another patch of irises, these planted directly in the ground, with wooden walkways leading between them. And beyond that was a collection of older, thatched style houses, apparently moved there from elsewhere. Some were empty, but some seemed to have craft stores. Further along was a petting zoo, but I didn’t make it that far, since I was wearing out and needed to head back to the station.

I will assuredly be back, because the shrine area was so peaceful, relaxing and beautiful. Probably in fall, because there were maple trees all over. You can read a little more about Miyajidake shrine in this English language pamphlet.



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