A Journey Through Water: 3 Recommended Shrines on Rainy Days
On rainy days, we tend to have strong negative impressions, such as "the laundry won't dry" or "we can't go out to play" — and that's putting it mildly!
However, when visiting a shrine, somehow even the gloominess of the rain can feel like a "blessing." It's quite marvelous.
The other day, I took a "journey through water" from Lake Inawashiro in Fukushima Prefecture to Koriyama City, the central city of Fukushima Prefecture.
During that trip, I had the opportunity to visit three shrines well-known only to those in the know, which I would like to recommend as the "Top 3 Shrines to Visit on a Rainy Day"!
Please forgive the darkness and blurriness in the photos as they were taken in the rain.
Lake Inawashiro and the Water History of Koriyama City
Lake Inawashiro, located in the middle of Fukushima Prefecture, is the fourth largest lake in Japan.
It is said to have been formed by the eruption of nearby Mount Bandai, and during the summer, it attracts many people who enjoy activities such as swimming, canoeing, and fishing in the lake.
Furthermore, Koriyama City, just over the mountain from Lake Inawashiro, was originally a barren field. However, the city flourished and became the leading commercial city in the prefecture after the "Asaka Sosui (Canal)" project was implemented during the Meiji era, which channeled water from Lake Inawashiro to irrigate the land.
The Asaka Sosui spans a total length of approximately 130 kilometers. It's listed as one of Japan's three major canals, alongside the Nasu Sosui in Tochigi Prefecture and the Biwako Sosui in Shiga Prefecture.
3 Shrines Want to Visit on Rainy Days - Part 1: Kobiragata Tenmangu
Shrine Name: Kobiragata Tenmangu
Address: Inawashiro-machi, Yama-gun, Fukushima Prefecture
Main Deity: Sugawara no Michizane
The first shrine I visited was Kobiragata Tenmangu, situated close to the starting point of the Asaka Sosui and near Lake Inawashiro. The shrine faces the lake, and I can imagine it being filled with visitors enjoying a dip in the lake during summer. However, my visit was on a rainy day.
Since there were no other worshippers, I was able to pay my respects quietly. I thought that choosing a rainy day when you can express your wishes without disturbance from anyone seems a good idea if you have something important to communicate to the deity.
Incidentally, Kobiragata Tenmangu is said to be one of the three great Tenjin Shrines in Japan.
The shrine's signboard explained that among the three major Tenjin shrines, Dazaifu Tenmangu is in Fukuoka, Kitano Tenmangu is in Kyoto. As for the third Tenjin shrine, opinions vary, with contenders including Kameido Tenjin and Hofu Tenmangu. However, this shrine, peacefully overlooking the lake, suggests that receiving blessings here could help one's studies proceed smoothly, free from unnecessary distractions.
Besides, right next to it, raindrops were forming ripples on the surface of Lake Inawashiro, allowing me to monopolize the beautiful natural scenery.
These raindrops will eventually follow the Asaka Sosui and arrive at Koriyama City. It's on a tremendous scale, isn't it? Since it's in Tohoku, it turns into snow instead of rain in winter. However, near the shrine, there seems to be a spot where "shibuki-gori" (a phenomenon of lake waves freezing) forms. This means that, regardless of the season, you can enjoy the view of the lake while paying respects at the shrine.
3 Shrines Want to Visit on Rainy Days - Part 2: Unakorowake Shrine
Shrine Name: Unakorowake Shrine
Address: Mihota-machi, Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture
Main Deity: Seoritsuhime
In recent years, due to the influence of video games, Seoritsuhime has become a trend. She is a mysterious goddess of water and purification who doesn't feature in either the Kojiki or Nihon Shoki. Some spiritually inclined people speculate that "Seoritsuhime was erased from history due to the desire of the Nara period's imperial court to center their faith on Amaterasu Omikami." You might have encountered such theories, haven't you?
Though it sounds like an urban legend, seeing the scattered shrines dedicated to Seoritsuhime in the Kanto, Hokuriku, and Tohoku regions, as opposed to the Kansai region where the imperial court resided, suggests that this story may not be entirely baseless.
The Unakorowake Shrine, which we visited this time, is an unusual shrine dedicated mainly to Seoritsuhime. The shrine, appearing suddenly in a tranquil rural landscape, carries a quiet and solemn atmosphere. Despite the nearby prefectural road, the sound of cars was entirely drowned out, perhaps due to the falling rain.
When you hear about a shrine dedicated to the water goddess Seoritsuhime, you might associate it with the presence of a beautiful pond or river nearby. However, the Okugu (inner shrine) of this shrine is originally located at the peak of a somewhat distant mountain.
It's said that the shrine was established around the Nara period following the manifestation of Seoritsuhime at the mountain peak.
Climbing to the mountaintop to pay respects on a rainy day can indeed be risky, so it's truly appreciable to be able to park the car and immediately visit the shrine!
Additionally, there is a canal bridge of the "Asaka Sosui," which links Lake Inawashiro and Koriyama City, situated right next to the shrine.
Seoritsuhime, who appeared in this area around the Nara period, may have foreseen the construction of the waterway from Lake Inawashiro to Koriyama City, a development that would occur a thousand years later during the Meiji era.
During my visit to the shrine, I was particularly struck by the sight of white flowers blooming on the sacred sakaki trees within the shrine grounds, and the lively carps frolicking in the shrine's waterway. It felt as though Seoritsuhime herself was extending a warm welcome to me.
3 Shrines Want to Visit on Rainy Days - Part 3: Kaiseizan Daijingu Shrine
Shrine Name: Kaiseizan Daijingu Shrine
Address: Kaisei, Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture
Main Deities: Amaterasu Omikami, Toyouke Taijin, Emperor Jimmu
Finally, I would like to introduce you to Kaiseizan Daijingu Shrine, located in the heart of Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture. This shrine is relatively new, having been established during the Meiji era.
As previously mentioned, the land was once a barren field, but it became fertile through the "Asaka Sosui project," a water diversion project from Lake Inawashiro conducted during the Meiji era. The Kaiseizan Daijingu Shrine was established as a base for this development project, and it received a divine spirit (shintai) from Ise Jingu.
After the Meiji Restoration, there was a common aspiration among settlers from various regions to unite their efforts and develop the land.
There is a promenade near the Asaka Sosui where people can walk, and when I visited, I saw someone taking a walk in a raincoat.
Within the shrine's grounds, there is the main hall enshrining the primary deity, Amaterasu Omikami, and a shrine dedicated to Inari, befitting of a commercial city. When I visited, it was drizzling, and I saw shrine's shinshoku or Danka (parishioners) cleaning the premises.
Kaiseizan Daijingu Shrine is often referred to as the " Ise Jingu of the Tohoku region," attracting visitors from outside the prefecture who come to pray for thriving businesses. Whether you're in business or not, taking the saying "After rain comes fair weather" to heart and visiting on a rainy day could be a good idea!
Additionally, there's a quaint hydrangea path and many mature cherry trees on the grounds. The raindrops on the leaves added to their beauty. It seems to be a popular spot for cherry blossom viewing, likely bustling with visitors during the season.
In this edition, we introduced three shrines well-known only to those in the know that are perfect to visit on rainy days, with a theme centered around water travel and the history of the local area. It made me wonder if the divine intervention of the gods played a role in the ambitious endeavor of creating canals by human hands.
Moreover, at each shrine, the rain's purifying effect made the visit feel refreshing and invigorating!
I can't recall the exact shrine, but I once learned from a Kannushi (Shinto priest) that when it rains during a visit, it's a sign of being welcomed by the gods. Though rainy days might usually bring melancholy, it's worth trying a "welcoming visit to the gods" at shrines connected to water or local deities like the ones we introduced this time.
Perhaps you'll receive even greater blessings than usual!