If you are after some quietness during your time at Kusatsu Onsen, Shirane Shrine (白根神社), which is north of Yubatake, could be the spot you would want to visit. The shrine that enshrines Yamato Takeru (日本武尊), a semi-legendary prince of the Yamato dynasty, also has a few promenades for an easy stroll in its precinct and the park next to it. While it isn’t certain when the shrine was erected, it already existed in 863 for mountain worshipers.
Initially, the shrine was at the top of Mt. Kusatsu-Shirane. It was then subsequently relocated to Roadside Station Kusatsu Undōjayakōen. In 1873, Shirane Shrine was moved again to where it is now, and the worship hall was completed in 1882. The current worship hall was reconstructed in 1957.
One thing you will need to remember when visiting Shirane Shrine is to bow towards the worship hall as you approach the second torii gate in front of the worship hall. This is the proper way to greet the god there.
☛ If you are a Goshuin collecter, you can obtain one from the soba and bento restaurant Matsumi (御食事処 松美) if the shrine office is closed. You will encounter the restaurant as you climb up the staircases to Shirane Shrine. The restaurant’s business hours are from 11 am to 3 pm and 6 pm to 9 pm. But note that the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays.
☛ You can also obtain the Goshuin of Anamori-Inari Shrine (穴守稲荷神社) in Sainokawara Park at Shirane Shrine.
☛ If you don’t want to climb the staircases, there is an easier route to Shirane Shrine from Sainokawara Park’s car park. But this route isn’t recommended during summer as many bugs are lingering around the approach.
In Shirane Shrine’s Precinct
Passing the stone torii gate, you might notice Rhododendrons planted on both sides of the approach. Apparently, the Rhododendrons are treated as an object of worship at Shirane Shrine. This is why the plant can be found across the shrine and Kakoiyama Park (囲山公園) next to it.
So the usually quiet shrine will become more lively from late April to early May when the Rhododendrons flowers are blooming!
Similar to most shrines in Japan, Shirane Shrine has a couple of auxiliary shrines in its precinct. In addition, you will find a couple of stone monuments at the side of the approach. Most are tokens of appreciation towards the Kusatsu Onsen due to the medical benefits the hot springs utilizers have received. But there is one to the right of the worship hall to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Heisei era. A pine tree was also planted at the same time, which you will encounter as you proceed further from the monument.
On the 17th and 18th of July, Shirane Shrine Sairei (白根神社祭礼) is held. The ritual is also known as Ujigami Festival (氏神祭り), a festival for Shirane Shrine’s guardian deity. Many stalls are set up around Yubatake during the festival, with the Shirane Shrine’s portable shrine also being paraded around town. The vibe you will get from the festival is just amazing, especially at night!
How to Get to Shirane Shrine
- It is around a 10 to 15-minute walk from Kusatsu Onsen Bus Terminal.
- If you plan to visit the shrine from Sainokawara Park, it is around a 5 to 10-minute walk.