The owl shrine at the merry gate - Torinokosansho Shrine
Hello. I'm Niu, a writer who loves visiting shrines, temples and historical sites. I'm on my second round of visiting all 47 prefectures in Japan. This time, I visited a very rare shrine that stands right in the middle of the prefectural border. It was not only rare, but also a fun shrine that made me smile unconsciously. I hope you will join me for a while.
A rare shrine in Japan.
I visited the Torinokosansho Shrine. It is a very rare shrine in Japan that is located right in the middle of the border between Tochigi and Ibaraki prefectures.
I searched for other shrines that were built on the border, but I could only find the Kumano Kotai Shrine sitting on the border of Nagano and Gunma prefectures besides this Torinokosansho Shrine.
By the way, the reading of Torinokosansho Shrine is not "Washikoyama", but it differs depending on the prefecture: "Torinoko-san Shojinja" in Tochigi and "Torinoko-san Jojinja" in Ibaraki. Source: Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, edited by the author
The enshrined deities are Ame-no-hiwashi-no-mikoto, Oonamuchi-no-mikoto and Sukunahikona-no-mikoto.
I decided to visit this shrine for a silly reason that it would be fun to cross the border from Tochigi to Ibaraki within the shrine grounds, but this shrine is famous as the "owl (no suffering) shrine" and has a special benefit for money luck...!
※Because the kanji is hard to read and the pronunciation is different in Tochigi and Ibaraki prefectures, I will write " Torinokosansho Shrine" as "Fukurou no Jinja" and introduce it below!
A mysterious sign "This is the exit"
To get to Fukurou no Jinja, I headed south from Tochigi prefecture towards Saitama.
It was my first time visiting this place, so I set the destination on the car navigation system and left.
After passing through the idyllic rural scenery of the national highway with the three-digit number, the road gradually became uphill...!
Since the prefectural border is often on top of a mountain, I was expecting that I was getting closer to the shrine soon!
"Turn left soon"
The car navigation instructed me to turn onto a narrow road that branched off from the national highway at the top of the hill.
But, even though the car navigation said "turn left", the sign erected at the corner said
"This is the exit / The entrance is ahead from Ibaraki prefecture"
I tilted my head, but I didn't want to end up in a dead end, so I decided to ignore the car navigation system and head from Tochigi Prefecture to Ibaraki Prefecture.
I was planning to cross the border from Tochigi Prefecture to Ibaraki Prefecture at the shrine, but my ambition was already extinguished and I felt regretful.
However, the mountain path leading to the owl shrine from the Ibaraki Prefecture side was narrow and I had no time to feel regretful. "What should I do if a car comes from the opposite direction..." I gripped the steering wheel firmly at 10:10 and drove at 10 km/h.
By the way, when I finished visiting the shrine and headed back, I didn't go back the way I came, but instead went through the path of Tochigi Prefecture side that the car navigation system originally indicated, and the road was really really really narrow!
There were some places to wait for other cars to pass, but they were still barely wide enough for two cars to pass from two opposite sides.
It was narrower than the road on the Ibaraki Prefecture side that I came from, and I wondered if this was a sidewalk rather than a road.
If I had followed the car navigation system and entered the road and a car had come from the opposite direction, I would not have been able to deal with it due to my poor driving skill.
It was the right decision to follow the sign that said "This is the exit".
The owl statue that is too huge
I parked my car in the parking lot and walked along the promenade leading to the shrine grounds, and there were stone statues of owls along the way.
And during the visit, I saw stone statues of owls everywhere.
The enshrined deity is said to be Ame-no-hiwashi-no-mikoto, a god of bird, and owls are revered as divine birds that serve this god and bring happiness. That's why there are many owl statues enshrined here. When I looked at the titles attached to the stone statues, I saw
"Owl for health"
"Owl for safety in the household"
And even "Owl for harmonious workplace" and "Owl for environmental conservation".
The wishes of the visitors are different, and maybe the owls are sent by the god according to the needs of the times.
And when I walked through promenade,
"What is that, so huge!"
From the bottom of the stairs leading to the main shrine (the former main hall), I saw a super huge owl statue. And it was golden!
This photo is not edited to enlarge the owl only, the scale and everything else is just as they are (lol)
The statue displayed in front of the main shrine is "The largest owl (Fukuro) statue in Japan".
It is said to be the most popular power spot among the owl shrines.
It certainly has a great impact, and it would be a hot topic if you posted a photo on SNS or something.
The main shrine grounds are not very large, so if you want to take a selfie with the "large owl statue", I think it would be good to take it from the bottom of the stairs leading to the main shrine, as in the photo I posted this time.
Also, if you make some effort in the way you take photos, you might be able to take a photo of a golden owl sitting on your head.
Please try it when you go there!
The "prefectural border appeal" that appears occasionally
After finishing the visit to the grand shrine, I finally headed to the main hall.
As I passed the shrine office and headed for the large torii gate, right in front of the shrine approach was a sign written 'Prefectural Border'.
'So this is the prefectural border...!'
I was conscious of it even though I couldn't see the border with my eyes, and even though I usually tried to walk on the side of the approach because the middle is the path of the gods, I walked in the middle this time (lol)
It felt like my left foot belonged to Tochigi Prefecture and my right foot belonged to Ibaraki Prefecture.
It might have been rude to the gods, but it was a lot of fun.
After that, when I looked down, I saw the "prefectural border" signs appearing occasionally.
Every time I found a sign, I was happy and said "Oh! There it is!"
No matter of the owl statues or the prefectural border signs, it seems that the chief priest of the shrine and all the other shrine staff, must have a high spirit of hospitality.
Shrine visits are usually done in a solemn manner, so young children tend to get bored, but counting the number of owls or finding the "prefectural border" signs might make it more fun for them.
(By the way, there was also a barrier-free restroom♪)
Fun all the way to the main hall
The 96 stone steps leading to the main hall are said to have the benefit of not suffering if you go back and forth, because 96×2=fukuro (which sounds like "fukuro" or "no suffering" in Japanese).
The depth of the stone steps is narrow, so it might be a bit difficult to walk for small children or elderly people.
In that case, there is another route that you can climb up a gentle slope instead of the stone steps.
However, the gentle route is not a bad road, but it seemed difficult to operate a stroller or something like that.
I have a fear of heights, so I ran up the stairs without looking back, thinking "I'll lose if I turn around", and reached the main hall.
The main hall had a historical structure, and the delicate carvings were very impressive.
There are enough things to see just with that, but there are also owl statues and "prefectural border" signs here, and the best part is the owl statues from both Tochigi and Ibaraki prefectures, placed on either side of the main hall (Haiden).
(How playful!)I smiled while making a tsukomi.
The prayer at the main hall is accepted at the shrine office, and it seems good to stop by the office before visiting the main hall if you wish.
If you visit the main hall first and then apply for the prayer, you will have to go back and forth 96 stone steps twice.
When I looked through the visitor's book at the main hall, I found that visitors came from all over the country, from Hokkaido in the north to Fukuoka in the south.
There must be a lot of benefits, and some of them seem to have won a high prize in the lottery.
I also wanted to get the benefit...! But I didn't have any specific wishes in mind,
so I wished that "everyone's wishes would come true".
So, if you are reading this article and say "I visited the owl shrine and won the lottery!", I would be happy if you could treat me a bottle of juice (lol, just kidding)
Two shrine office in Tochigi and in Ibaraki
There were also two shrine offices, facing each other across the prefectural border.
The Tochigi shrine office handled the prayer reception and the amulet distribution, while there was no one in the Ibaraki shrine office and it only had a display of the May festival.
I heard that this owl shrine was counted as two shrines, one in Tochigi and one in Ibaraki, so I thought there would be an amulet distribution place on each side.
But I couldn't find any staff on the Ibaraki side.
When I received the seal, I asked the person at the Tochigi office.
"Why is there no one on the Ibaraki side while there are two offices? Are there no staff members permanently stationed on the Ibaraki side?"
"Do they come only during events?"
"No, they are always unmanned like this"
It seems that the Tochigi office is used for prayer reception and other purposes, while the Ibaraki office is used as a space for festivals and other occasions.
I had assumed that there would be different versions of amulets and talismans for Tochigi and Ibaraki, since there were two offices, but they seemed to be unified in one type.
There were two types of seals, one handwritten and one sticker type, which you could stick on yourself later if you forgot your seal book. This time I asked for a handwritten one.
The stamps of Tochigi and Ibaraki are pressed, and you can remember at a glance that it is a "shrine on the border".
By the way, while I was waiting for the seal, I walked around the area and walked along a lane with 100 owl statues called "Fuku Fukuro Road", and drew a water fortune at a well called "Kameido" where clear water sprout out, and I was able to wait without getting bored.
Ahead of the money luck dumplings...
The rest area I stopped by on my way back was divided into two spaces, and one of them was pet-friendly.
I was happy as a dog lover that I could rest without feeling uncomfortable with my pet.
Since they are so considerate, I also want to visit the shrine with my pet with moderation as an owner.
And, this rest area seems to be famous for its wild vegetable rice balls, but I was curious about the money luck dumplings that said "Featured on TV!" and decided to order them.
I had the round yellow dumplings with a sweet and salty sauce.
They were quite filling, perfect for a snack after visiting the shrine! They had a soft and gentle taste!
Before I ate the dumplings, I tried to take a picture with my camera at the seat outside the rest area, and...
On the ground reflected ahead of the money luck dumplings, there was a sign that said "Prefectural border".
The unexpected coincidence made me burst into laughter.
Maybe the wish of the shrine staff to "make the visitors enjoy!" reached the gods through the owl, and as a result, there are many blessings.
The Torinokosansho Shrine (Owl Shrine) I visited this time was a slightly playful shrine where, in addition to receiving blessings from the many owl statues and prefectural border signs, you can have fun before and after the visit. This is the first time I've had such a fun experience visiting a shrine.
Perhaps, by having fun and laughing, difficulties no longer seem so difficult, and I felt that this concept was embodied in the form of this 'playful shrine'.
If you find yourself thinking, 'I haven't laughed recently,' why not get out of your house and visit this shrine?
Also, during the Golden Week period in Reiwa 5 (2023), it seems that the Daikokuten (established in the Muromachi period) at this shrine will be opened to the public for the first time in 15 years.
If the schedule works fine for you, please join!
Thank you for staying with me until the end.