Kawagoe Hachimangū Shrine (川越八幡宮), the most prominent Hachimangū shrine in Kawagoe City, was erected over 1,000 years ago. Among more than 200 shrines in the city, it is the only one with Kawagoe in its name. Despite its location, Kawagoe Hachimangū is quiet and serene compared to other shrines in the historical township. So if you ever want to escape the massive crowds, Kawagoe Hachimangū Shrine can be a good place to visit! Plus, it is where you can exchange bad luck for happiness!
Just around a 5 to 10-minute walk from Kawagoe Station or Honkawagoe Station, the shrine’s beautiful approach is lined with vermilion lanterns and fences. Because the messenger of the god, Hachiman, are doves, the silhouette of doves can be seen around the shrine.
Apparently, doves stay with the same partner for life and breed the eggs together after laying them. So the locals come to Kawagoe Hachimangū Shrine to pray for a happy relationship. In addition, because Hachiman is a god of victory, the pilgrims believe the god would help them win their loved ones’ hearts.
Kawagoe Hachimangū’s Yakuyoke Peach (厄除桃)
After greeting the god at the worship hall, head to the Yakuyoke Peach placed on the right of the worship hall. In Japanese mythology, peaches keep the evils away. In addition to the Yakuyoke Peach statue, a sacred peach tree is planted on the back left of the Yakuyoke Peach, making the worshipping experience much merrier in spring when the flowers blossom!
Next to the Yakuyoke Peach is a tombstone-like stone with the word Yaku “厄” engraved. It is the place to break your connection with the bad fortune attached to you, and below is how the simple ritual is performed.
- Bow to the tombstone-like stone after putting the specified amount of money into the donation box.
- Then take one white ceramic ball with the word Yaku “厄” written from the wooden box.
- Hold the ball with both hands in front of your chest while praying for misfortune to leave you alone before throwing the ball against the tombstone-like stone.
- Lastly, bow again before leaving.
And that’s it!
You can also write your wishes on the ema plaque with Yakuyoke Peach’s image printed on one side or get a wooden bad luck repellent amulet.
After purchasing the amulet, don’t put it into your bag straight away. Break it into half and leave the half that doesn’t have a strap attached at the shrine. This way, the bad luck that is already attached to you is left behind, and the other half you carry with you can keep the evil spirits away (=ﾟωﾟ)ﾉ.
At the back of the Yakuyoke Peach, there is a lusterleaf holly tree (タラヨウの木). If you sift through the tree’s leaves, some might have words on them. While it would be really fascinating if the words appeared naturally, that isn’t the case (´▽｀*).
If you scratch the leaves, the scratched part will turn black. So before paper and pen were invented, the leaves were used to deliver messages to those living miles away. This is why the postcard is called “Hagaki (葉書)”, where “Ha” means leaf and “Gaki/Kaki” means write.
Kawagoe Hachimangū’s Complaint-Listening God
If something has been bothering you, head to the far back of the shrine to meet the god called Guchi Kiki-Sama (ぐち聞きさま).
Prince Shōtoku (聖德太子) is enshrined at Kawagoe Hachimangū as a god who specializes in solving people’s issues. It is said that he can listen to up to 10 people’s complaints at any given time. So even if there are firstcomers, you don’t need to wait before you start whining.
The bag he holds in his right hand is filled with wisdom. So after you finish complaining, ask him for wisdom to help you resolve your issue.
Kawagoe Hachimangū’s Marrige Tie Ginkgo (縁結びイチョウ)
Lastly, after warding off the bad luck that has been following you and releasing your stress to the Guchi Kiki-same, you are now ready to pray for a good relationship!
In late autumn, the gigantic ginkgo tree in front of the worship hall isn’t just extra stunning. It is a popular spot for the locals to pray for a great relationship. You wouldn’t know if you weren’t told, but the ginkgo tree was originally two trees. When Emperor Akihito was born in 1933, two ginkgoes were planted next to each other, one for male (男銀杏) and the other one for female (女銀杏). Over time, the two trees somehow merged into one, just like a boy and a girl grew into a gentleman and a fine lady and tied the marriage knot!
Even if you have found your life partner already, the tree can still help you to maintain a healthy relationship. The amulet suitable for you and your partner is also sold at the shrine office. The word “Connection (Kizuna, 絆) is written on the amulet, which comes in as a set. Putting two of them together will give you a complete ginkgo tree.
In addition, if you check out the ginkgo tree closely, you will notice it has an aerial root marked by white paper. The locals treat this aerial root as an object of worship for safe delivery and child blessing because it looks like the product of the male and the female ginkgo tree.
Minbu Inari Shrine (民部稲荷神社)
Minbu Inari Shrine is Kawagoe Hachimangū’s auxiliary shrine. The inari shrine is also known as “Sumo Inari (相撲稲荷)”, where people pray for leg health, sports, bruises and sprains recovery.
Once upon a time, there was a fox who disguised as a samurai living close to Hachiōji (八王子) in the western part of the Greater Tokyo metropolitan area. The fox probably felt lonely, so he frequently invited a boy from a nearby temple to his house. The boy’s unusual behavior soon caught the temple monk’s attention, and he asked the boy for a reason for regularly staying out late at night.
So the boy told the monk that he was called to a samurai’s house close to the temple. However, the monk knew no such house was nearby and concluded that the samurai must be a mythical creature. So he said to the boy, “I would like to thank the samurai who is taking care of you, so please ask him to come to the temple”.
The following night, the fox visited the temple and received great hospitality, and per the fox’s request, he had sumo matches with the boy and other monks to entertain the crowd.
The next morning, when the boy went to clean the garden, a lot of fox fur was found where the sumo matches were held. This gave the monk confirmation that the samurai was a fox. But because the fox didn’t cause trouble in the village, the monk decided to visit the fox and express his gratitude for the previous night.
However, when the monk met the fox, the fox seemed sad. He told the monk that although they had just become friends, he had to relocate to Kawagoe’s Mt. Bonshin (梵心山). But since they became friends, he would teach the monk how he treated bruises.
Later, a Minbu Inari Shrine was erected at Mt. Bonshin, and the shrine was moved to Kawagoe Hachimangū’s precinct after the shrine was desecrated.
This is why Minbu Inari Shrine is also called Sumo Inari, and people come to this shrine and pray for a pair of healthy legs. Combined with Hachiman’s blessing of achieving victory, many athletes visit Kawagoe Hachimangū and Minbu Inari Shrine every year!
So if you want a pair of strong and healthy legs, how about getting the amulet with a pair of feet drown? And don’t forget to check out the pair of footmarks underneath Kawagoe Hachimangū’s torii gate! The pigeon-toed mark also resonates with Hachimangū’s “Hachi (八)!
In addition, people also come to pray for good health and academic excellence. Throughout the year, various events are also held in the shrine’s precinct, such as children’s sumo competitions.
The God of Eyes (目の神様) at Kawagoe Hachimangū
Kawagoe Hachimangū also has Ōkuninushi no Mikoto (大国主命) and his brother, Sukunahikona no Mikoto (少彦名命), enshrined as the Gods of Eyes. While Ōkuninushi no Mikoto is commonly known as the god of Izumo Taisha Shrine (出雲大社) in Shimane Prefecture, where people pray for good relationships, he also built the provinces in Japan with his brother and taught people medical knowledge.
Just behind the Meibu Inari Shrine is a simple shrine with a large eye monument with the eye (Me, め) written. Next to the monument, the sacred tree is the type of tree used to make eye drops to cure eye diseases.
In the past, the tree’s bark was boiled, and the water was used to wash affected eyes. It is said to be useful for eye problems such as conjunctivitis, blurred vision, presbyopia, and myopia.
The Best Time to Visit Kawagoe Hachimangū
The best time to visit Kawagoe Hachimangū is probably June and July for the hydrangea season. In Kawagoe Hachimangū’s precinct, there are more than 300 hydrangeas planted. When the season peaks, a Hydrangea Festival is also held!
Kawagoe Hachimangū’s Opening Hours and Access Information
- The shrine office is open from 9 am to 5 pm.
- Kawagoe Hachimangū Shrine is around a 5-minute walk from Kawagoe Station’s east exit and a 7-minute walk from Honkawagoe Station.
Explore Kawagoe With a Guided Tour
If you prefer a guide to introduce you to the charms of Kawagoe, how about joining one of the below tours? You can also hire a professional photographer to capture your visit!
- Uncovering the Hidden Treasures of Kawagoe
- Half-Day Kawagoe Walking Tour
- Koedo Kawagoe Customized Private One-Day Tour from Tokyo
- Oishi Park, Oshinohakkai, and Koedo Kawagoe Day tour from Shinjuku
- 1-Hour Kawagoe Photography Session
Tip: Exploring Kawagoe in the traditional Kimono can be a great way to explore the traditional township. Refer to HERE to book a dress-up session!
Exploring Taishō Roman Yume-dōri Street
Walking from Kawagoe Hachimangū to the traditional township, you might walk past Taishō Roman Yume-dōri Street. The street is a great spot in Kawagoe to visit first for a vibe of the different periods in Japan, from the present to the Taishō period, then to the Edo period. So how about visiting a few shops and cafés on the street that are filled with the Taishō era vibe?
If that sounds like a good idea, refer to our Guide to the Taishō Roman Yume-dōri Street!
The Must-Visit Spots on Kura no Machi Ichibangai Street
After visiting the shrine, how about enjoying some delicious desserts on the old township’s main street Kura no Machi Ichibangai?
While sweet potato might sound boring for some, the locals have their way of turning the ordinary ingredient into something extremely yummy!
For more information, refer to our Kura no Machi Ichibangai Street article!
Other Attractions in Kawagoe
Besides the religious spots, Kawagoe also has historical attractions, shops and restaurants, workshops, and museums that might interest you.
So refer to our Guide to the Little Edo, Kawagoe, for more travel ideas!