Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Hakata’s Sumiyoshi Shrine – The Oldest Shrine in Japan

If we could only visit one shrine in Hakata, it has to be Sumiyoshi Shrine (住吉神社). Although buried in the urban jungle close to Hakata Station, the shrine has a vast precinct filled with greenery and a long history!

Sumiyoshi Shrine in Hakata has a history of more than 1,800 years. Together with the Sumiyoshi Taisha in Osaka City, and the Sumiyoshi Shrine in Shimonoseki City in Yamaguchi Prefecture, the shrines are known as the Three Great Sumiyoshi Shrines in Japan. Among the 2,100 or so Sumiyoshi shrines in Japan, the one in Hakata is determined to be the oldest.

What Do the Gods of Sumiyoshi Shrine Look After?

The gods enshrined in Hakata’s Sumiyoshi Shrine look after pilgrims’ prosperity, safe sailing, and good fish catch. They are also seen as the gods of Japanese waka poems. Originally built to enshrine the God of Sea, at the shrine’s entrance, packages of Oshioi (お潮井) sand are placed for pilgrims to purify themselves and their living environment.

If you are wondering why the locals would shrine the God of Sea in the middle of the city, it is because a large part of the region used to be underwater. While all in Japanese, there is a map from the Kamakura period (1192 – 1333) in the precinct. It clearly shows the shrine was located at the tip of a cape.

The shrine’s main worship hall was reconstructed in 1623 by Fukuoka Domain’s lord, Kuroda Nagamasa (黑田長政). The architectural style of the hall is called ‘Sumiyoshi-tsukuri’ (住吉造), the oldest style in the shrine’s architectural history. It is also a style that wasn’t influenced by Buddhism. The building is thus currently Japan’s Important Cultural Property.

© 福岡市

Furthermore, there is a Noh Theater at Sumiyoshi Shrine that was built in 1938. It is one of the most renowned theaters in Kyūshū and the Kansai regions.

The Statue of the God of Sumo (古代力士像)

Moreover, Sumiyoshi Shrine also enshrines the god of Sumo. It is said if you join your hands with the god’s hands, you can get parts of his strength!

Because of the god of Sumo, there is also a sumo wrestling arena that you can check out.

Each year, a Sumo Festival is held from the 12th to the 14th of October. If you can’t visit Sumiyoshi Shrine during these three days, you can get one of their fortune slips contained in a small sumo wrestler’s figurine! The best thing is, your fortune is also written in English!

As a shrine where sumo wrestlers come and pray, even their Koma-inu guardian dogs are full of muscles!


Onishibari-ishi (鬼縛り石)

Next to the main worship hall, there is a stone pillar called ‘Onishibari-ishi’. It was placed there to suppress the evil spirits that entered the precinct during the Tsuina Festival (追儺), held on the 7th of January each year. The history of the pillar can be traced back to the mid-Edo period (1603 – 1867).

The Ebisu God (恵比須神)


Crossing the small red arch bridge, you will enter the territory of the Ebisu God. He is the local guardian deity who appears like a kind old grandpa.

When the locals need a place to confide, many choose to talk to him. When you see him, don’t forget to pat him. It is said that touching different parts of his body will bring you different benefits.

  • Face: Improving the well-being of your family
  • Stomach: Curing diseases
  • Snapper: More fortune
  • Arm: Excelling in the skills that you are trying to master

Ichiya-matsu Pine (一夜松)

There is a pine tree at the left of the Sumiyoshi Shrine worship hall. It has been treated as an object of worship because of its legend.

When the shrine was being constructed, the then small pine was due to be removed the next day. Probably knowing its fate, the pine gathered all its energy and grew into a big tree overnight and escaped the fate of being chopped.

Nowadays, pilgrims pray to the pine for family prosperity and longevity.

Furthermore, some also believe that the relationship with your partner and siblings will improve if you help clean the area where the tree stands.

Sumiyoshi Shrine’s Opening Hours and Access Information

  • The shrine’s office is open from 9 am to 5 pm.
  • If you are taking a bus, get off at Sumiyoshi (住吉)
  • From Hakata Station (博多駅), it is around a 10-minute walk.

Tip: Refer to HERE if you want to rent a Kimono when you are in Hakata!

Explore Hakata With a Guided Tour or Hire a Photographer

If you prefer a guide to introduce you to the charms of Hakata, how about joining one of the below tours? You can also hire a photographer for a private photoshoot session!

Discover More Attractions around Hakata Station

Click the photo to find out more about attractions around Hakata Station!

Want to find out more interesting attractions or delicious restaurants to treat yourself to around Hakata Station?

Refer to our article on Hakata, where we have attractions such as a rooftop shrine or a gorgeous Japanese garden for a brief break!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *