Upcoming Events

53rd Annual Mito Komon Festival

Dates : Aug 2-4, 2013

Location : North and South of Mito Station

This famous festival has been held the first weekend of August every year since 1961, celebrating the last lord of the Mito Domain. The festival itself is one of the biggest held in Ibaraki all year, and features a show of 4500 fireworks, a parade with dancing, portable shrines, and floats, and community carnivals.

Schedule:

August 2nd       Lake Senba         7:30-8:30pm         Firework exhibition (postponed to Aug 9th in case of rough weather)

 

August 3rd         From Mito Central Post Office to Daiku-machi (North)

10am – 9pm    Floats

2pm – 4pm    Mito Komon Parade

2pm – 3pm     Children’s portable shrine parade

4:30 – 9pm     Mito Community Carnival

Between Hon-cho 1 and Hon-cho 3

10:30am – 12pm  Mito Komon Parade

2 – 9pm         Hon-cho Town Festival

Mito Art Gallery Plaza

1 – 8:30pm      Summer Dream Music

Minami-machi Free Plaza

10am – 9pm    Summer Dream Festa

Mito Station North Exit Pedestrian Deck

11am – 5pm     Town Festival

August 4th         From Mito Central Post Office to Daiku-machi (North)

10am – 9pm    Floats

2 – 6pm        Portable shrine parade

6 – 9pm        Town Festival

Between Hon-cho 1 and Hon-cho 3

10am – 12:30pm  Portable shrine parade

Mito Art Gallery Plaza

12:30 – 8:30pm    Summer Dream Music

Minami-machi Free Plaza

10am – 9pm    Summer Dream Festa

Mito Station North Exit Pedestrian Deck

11am – 5pm     Town Festival

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Upcoming Events

2013 Oarai Ocean Fireworks Festival

Date: July 27th (July 28th in case of cancellation), 7:30 – 8:45pm

Location: Oarai Sun Beach (Accessible via bus from Oarai Station)

The focus of this fireworks festival is ‘the bigger the better’, with 10-hit runs of extremely large individual fireworks, big displays, wide-area displays, a display set to music, and a firework with a diameter of 500m in the air! Nomura Fireworks, the winners of the Prime Minister Award, will be running the show.

This year’s program has undergone a slight change, as the usual finale with the ultra large fireworks will be followed by a fireworks display set to music like the one that was so popular last year. Come enjoy this beautiful symphony of fireworks and music by the sea. There will also be a firework cruise on the Nippon Maru luxury liner, for a new and unique way to enjoy the show.

It is expected that traffic on the day will be fairly intense, so please be aware of this in advance.ooarai2013

CIR Diary

Spirit Skills

You may be surprised to know that the original Aikido dojo was founded in Iwama, Ibaraki, in 1945. This is where Ueshiba Morihei settled in the later years of his life, building the Aiki Shrine first and then the dojo which soon became the world headquarters. Though the original dojo was severely damaged and reconstructed after the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, the newly renovated dojo still accepts students and is located not far from current Iwama Station.DSCN5055

Aikido, known as a martial art that endeavors to protect both the attacker and the practitioner from harm, not only focuses on the physical aspects of training but also on the spiritual. This is clear from the close connection between the dojo and the Aiki Shrine across the street, where the carefully raked gravel (in familiar zen-like patterns) speaks to the dedication of the students. In fact, during the time when the dojo was uninhabitable the students used the main house of the shrine for practices. The shrine is surrounded by a small wooded area, and also features a commemorative bronze statue of Ueshiba Morihei. DSCN5054

These days the dojo operates on a daily basis, accommodating both regular and live-in students. Live-in students pay a fee for their accommodations and practice three times a day, once at 6am, once at 2pm, and once at 7pm, and in between they are in charge of maintaining the grounds and other small tasks. Regular students are free to come a few times a week in the evenings for practice at a lesser fee, but are not required to take part in maintenance.DSCN5058

The dojo itself looks rather new, but still follows the same design principles as the original. In keeping with the Iwama style of Aikido, which promotes weapons training, there are even wooden swords on the walls for practice. There are several foreign live-in students among the practitioners so there is a good chance you will be able to attend without being a complete master of Japanese. However, even if you are just interested in visiting the birthplace of modern Aikido it is only a few minutes walk from the train station and can be an interesting side trip.DSCN5061

Upcoming Events

32nd Annual Ushiku Kappa Festival

Date: July 27th and 28th, 3pm – 9:30pm

Location: Ushiku

Ushiku’s familiar blend of traditional dance and modern entertainment is back again this year, and promises to be quite a sight to see. In addition to the parade and dance performances, there is also a main stage with special guests and a live music stage packed with local bands.

Live Stage Schedule:

27th

3pm – QUESTION!, 3:30pm – 840, 4pm – HATTIN, 4:30pm – sugarDaddy, 5pm – MINT, 5:30 – Higher Ground, 6pm – Go-Yah!, 6:30pm – Inaba, 7pm – BASTOS

28th

3pm – Nitta Band, 3:30pm – MMS Band, 4pm – Limit Crush!!, 4:30pm – Solid29, 5pm – Mile stone, 5:30pm – The Hoochie Coochies, 6pm – MASH, 6:30pm – JAPINA ROCKING, 7pm – Folky na Sekai

 

Music Parade:

On both days starting at 3pm local elementary school students will be performing in the parade, 8 schools total over the course of the festival.

The rest of the parade comprises Ibaraki’s traditional Yosakoi and other festival dances, with thousands of participants stretching all the way down Hanamizuki Street.

 

Main Stage Schedule:

27th 3pm – Time and Space Warrior Ibaliger

A hero who moves through time and space to rescue the desolated future and protect Ibaraki from the evil Jaaku military group which thrives on the hatred, anger, and greed of human hearts. Ibaliger is equipped with an ‘expo dynamo’ that changes proper emotions such as love, kindness, happiness, hope, and thoughtfulness into power, so the more you support him the better he fights!

7:30pm – Celebrity Impersonations

Nakajima Mari and Danzy will be showing off their vast repertoire of celebrity impressions to awe and amuse the audience. They even have costumes for each one!

28th 7pm – Japanese Song Performance

Nishikawa Hitomi will sing her hits and most recent songs, covering a range of traditional Japanese ballads.

7:30pm – Ono Masatoshi

Active in the Japanese music industry for over 20 years and boasting of a voice that spans 4 octaves, Ono Masatoshi’s songs have been chosen as the theme song for television dramas and anime shows alike.

 

Free shuttle buses will be running from both Ushiku Station and Hitachino-Ushiku Station through the major areas. The area around the festival will be closed to cars for the duration of the festival, so please make use of the buses.

kappa2013

Upcoming Events

2013 Shimodate Gion Festival

Dates and locations :

July 25th, 6pm – 10pm, Shimodate Station North Exit, and South Area (6:30-7:30pm)

July 26th, 6pm – 10pm, Shimodate Station North Exit

July 27th, 6pm – 10pm, Shimodate Station North Exit

July 28th, 6am – 9am, Kanai-cho Gogyo River bank

Chikusei’s biggest summer festival, with portable shrines carried by both men and women and the portable shrine river-crossing as the grand finale!

This festival features the Meiji Portable Shrine, built in 1895 to celebrate the end of the war with the Qing Dynasty, the Princess Portable Shrine, built for local deity Princess Tamai, and Japan’s largest portable shrine, the Heisei Portable Shrine. There will also be over 30 children’s portable shrines also wandering around the city, making for quite a visual feast.

In the early morning of the last day the shrines will be purified of all the pollution collected during the festival via the ‘river-crossing tradition’ held in the Gogyo River that runs through the city.gion2013

IbarakEATS!

A Little Prayer

A short walk from Fukuhara station lies the Izumo Shrine complex, which houses the well-named restaurant Priere (prayer). This laid-back eatery offers high quality soba, udon, and tempura meal sets with quite a lot of volume; the broth for the noodles is a flavorful combination of chicken, pork, and onion shoots, and the tempura is perfectly cooked to give flavor without grease.DSCN5028

The menu also offers desserts and a wide selection of cold and hot beverages, including fresh, pure apple juice directly from Akita Prefecture (the owner’s parental home). Of special note is the large collection of herbal teas on offer, which are not bagged teas but free leaves that are served in a special decanter for ease of brewing. In addition to the normal mint and chamomile they also have blends targeted for different effects, such as a mix of rose, lemon grass, and marrow for aiding digestion and some lemon grass and lavender for tired eyes.DSCN5011

The restaurant itself has a small patio for those who would prefer to dine outdoors when the weather permits, and the interior is lit mainly by natural light to give a relaxing effect. The windows look out onto the lush greenery of a Japanese mountain forest all year round and the seating arrangements are plain but spacious. Music box versions of various popular songs (Unchained Melody, My Heart Will Go On, etc) play over the speakers to add to the soothing ambience, and the staff is extremely courteous and friendly.DSCN5012

Because it is connected directly to the gift shop (where the entrance lies) there is also a selection of beautifully crafted glass pieces on display for purchase. Some of these pieces were imported directly from the famous glass houses in Venice, with their long-protected secret filigree technique being used to full effect. Others were handmade by the shrine’s head priest in the adjoining glass-blowing workshop, and still others were donated by a friend of said head priest. All in all it gives the sense of being inside a small art gallery just to peruse the works on display. Whether you are just in the area or stopping by to visit the shrine, Priere offers a nice place to fuel up before moving on.DSCN5027

Upcoming Events

Old and New Events

43rd Annual Takahagi Festival

Dates : July 27th and 28th

Location: Main street in front of Takahagi Station

This festival involves Mikoshi parades with lion-dancers and floats, music and dancing and food, and on July 27th at 7:30pm there will be a fireworks display. Come make some warm summer memories in Takahagi!taka2013

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Hitachi Eco Festival 2013

Date : July 27th, 10am – 4pm

Location : Hitachi Civic Center, Shin-Toshi Area, Marble Hall

This annual environmental summer event involves lots of homemade fun and new experiences.

 Events:

Exhibitions of environmental products, technologies, and activities

Eco Car round-up: low impact cars from each maker will be on display and available for test drives

Overview of various environmental organizations

Display and sale of local agricultural and horticultural products

Helping others via donating plastic bottle caps

Eco stamp rally

Stage area: character shows, dance and musical performances

Gourmet corner: curry, yakisoba, okonomiyaki, shaved ice, and much much moreecofes

One Day in Ibaraki

Burning Beauty

If your artistic inclinations lean towards the more esoteric or exciting creative processes, you may want to try your hand at glass-blowing. There is nothing quite like knowing that the tiny shape forming at the end of your tube is radiating a 1200 degree heat while responding to your very breath. And for those who are a little nervous, it is definitely comforting to have a helping hand in the process, which is why a guided glass-blowing session at Izumo Shrine is a must. (*Izumo Shrine is a 10min walk from Fukuhara Station on the Mito Line)025(1)The Camosu Glass Workshop located in the Izumo Annex of Ibaraki’s Izumo Shrine is a tiny one-man operation that began roughly 11 years ago at the behest of the head priest. Initially a highly-paid professional glass artisan was invited in from Shiga Prefecture’s famous glass town and plied his trade here, but it soon became obvious that the shrine would go under if they didn’t find a way to reduce costs. To that end, the head priest spent a full 6 months watching the glass blowing process carefully on a daily basis until he felt confident he could try his hand, and then spent the next six months working with the artisan to perfect his technique. Now he runs the workshop single-handedly, producing whimsical pieces of artistic glass as well as offering glass-blowing experiences to visitors.DSCN5014

A reservation is required in advance and the fee is 4200 yen per person for a half hour of tutelage, but the experience itself is well worth it. Mr. Takahashi, the head priest, is there with you every step of the way, and you not only get to choose the color of the glass but also the ultimate shape of it. Beginners are usually encouraged to try their hand at a cup or bowl, the simplest forms, but with a variety of colors and styles (from transparent to opaque, patterned or solid) you can easily make something fairly unique.057

It all begins with a small glob of molten glass on the end of your tube, which you gently inflate while constantly rotating (to ensure gravity doesn’t take hold); from there you repeat the process a few times while cooling the outside with air or water, flattening the base with a wooden paddle, and opening the mouth of the cup/bowl with metal pincers.DSCN5017

It can be very exciting watching your creation take shape in front of you, but be prepared to sweat! The twin kilns are well-shielded, but when standing in front of them to re-heat the glass you may get the sensation that your skin is being baked by a tiny sun. Long-sleeved shirts and pants are highly recommended, and sandals are probably not a good idea.

Once your piece is finished it is placed inside a third baking kiln to be tempered overnight; you then have the option of returning to pick it up or having it sent directly to your home (cash on delivery). If you’re lucky you may even get to see the head priest making a creation of his own, which is especially impressive once you have experienced how difficult the whole process already is with two people involved. Within ten minutes he can single-handedly create a beautiful piece right in front of your eyes, and he has the added benefit of specially crafted Venetian glass forms that can add intricate details to the surface of the glass.DSCN5029

Whether you want to try making your own creation or simply watch the process from afar, this is a unique artistic experience that is quite hard to come by and gives you a whole new appreciation of the level of skill and labor involved in making some of your everyday household items.

Upcoming Events

A Guide to Ibaraki’s Beaches 2013

Within Ibaraki Prefecture there are 18 beaches for swimming, among which are 5 of the 7 beaches in the Kanto area chosen by the Ministry of the Environment as ‘Japan’s 100 Best Beaches’. Ibaraki’s swimming beaches are famous for their clear, clean water. Come and enjoy the summer at one of Ibaraki’s beaches!

 Beach Details:

Isohara Futatsushima Beach (Kita-Ibaraki)

kitaibaraki-beachEnjoy the sight of Isohara’s local symbol, the ‘Twin Islands’ (Futatsushima) from the white sands of Isohara Beach. This beach is known for its white sands and aquamarine water.

Period: July 27th to August 11th

Access: Car – 10min from the Kita-Ibaraki IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 5min taxi ride or 15min walk from Isohara Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Free (50 spots)

Inquiries: Kita-Ibaraki Commerce and Tourism Division   0293-43-1111

 

Takahagi Beach (Takahagi)takahagibeach

Only a 10 minute walk from Takahagi Station, this beach is perfectly located. The contrast between the clear, wide ocean and the white sandy beach is breathtaking.

Period: July 20th to August 18th

Access: Car – 10min from the Takahagi IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 10min walk from Takahagi Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Paid (1000yen for regular, 2000 yen for mid-size, 3000 yen for larger vehicles)

Inquiries: Takahagi Tourism Association  0293-23-7316

 

Ishihama Beach (Hitachi)ishihamabeach

This is a beautiful beach dotted with pine trees, selected as both one of the 100 best beaches in Japan and one of the 100 most beautiful white sand and pine tree beaches in Japan.

Period: July 20th to August 18th

Access: Car – 15min from the Hitachi Kita IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 10min by bus from Juo Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Paid (370 spaces at 1000 yen each, 2000 yen for large buses)

Inquiries: Hitachi Tourism Association  0294-22-3111

 

Kawajiri Beach (Hitachi)kawajiribeach

This beach is right next to Kawajiri Port and its best features are the calm waves and wide, shallow sands. This is a place where even families with small children can enjoy swimming and playing on the shore.

Period: July 20th to August 18th

Access: Car – 5min from the Hitachi Kita IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 5min by taxi from Juo Station on the JR Joban Line

 Parking: Paid (40 places at 1000 yen each)

Inquiries: Hitachi Tourism Association  0294-22-3111

 

Ouse Beach (Hitachi)ousebeach

The closest beach to Hitachi Station. The tides form natural pools in the rocky shores that are extremely popular with children.

Period: July 20th to August 18th

Access: Car – 15min from the Hitachi Chuo IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 10min walk from the Beach Exit of Hitachi Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Paid (180 spaces at 1000 yen each)

Inquiries: Hitachi Tourism Association  0294-22-3111

 

Kawarago Beach (Hitachi)kawaragobeach

This popular beach has been chosen as one of the 100 best beaches in Japan. This beach’s attractions include the wide, shallow shore, the clear, clean water, and large stretches of sand.

Period: July 20th to August 18th

Access: Car – 20min from the Hitachi Minami Ota IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 15min by taxi from Hitachi-Taga Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Paid (460 spaces at 1000 yen each, large buses 2000 yen)

Inquiries: Hitachi Tourism Association  0294-22-3111

 

Mizuki Beach (Hitachi)mizukibeach

This tiny beach is a hidden gem sandwiched between Kawarago Beach and Kujihama Beach. Chosen as one of the 100 best beaches in Japan, it features very calm waves.

Period: July 20th to August 18th

Access: Car – 20min from the Hitachi Minami Ota IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 5min by taxi from Omika Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Paid (50 spaces at 1000 yen each, 50 free spaces)

Inquiries: Hitachi Tourism Association  0294-22-3111

 

Kujihama Beach (Hitachi)kujihamabeach

Close to both Kuji Fishing Port and Hitachi Port, this beach features a white lighthouse and a deep azure sea as well as exquisitely beautiful white beaches and green pine trees.

Period: July 20th to August 18th

Access: Car – 20min from the Hitachi Minami Ota IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 10min by taxi from Omika Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Paid (350 spaces at 1000 yen each, 2000 yen for large buses)

Inquiries: Hitachi Tourism Association  0294-22-3111

 

Ajigaura Beach (Hitachinaka)ajigaurabeach

A beautiful beach spanning 1.4km curving in a pine-tree dotted arc. Popular with couples and families with young children.

Period: July 13th to August 18th

Access: Car – 5min from the Hitachi Kaihin Park IC on the Kita-Kanto Expressway after the Tomobe JCT on the Joban Expressway

Train – 5min walk from Ajigaura Station on the Hitachinaka Kaihin Railway Line, after riding from Katsuta Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Tourism Association Parking (200 spaces at 1000 yen each)

Inquiries: Hitachinaka Tourism Association  029-273-0116

 

Hiraiso Beach (Hitachinaka)hiraisobeach

This is a beach with calm waves, surrounded by dykes and breakers, making it perfect for families with children. The ‘Daichan the Whale’ floating slide is extremely popular with children.

Period: July 13th to August 18th

Access: Car – 15min from the Hitachi Kaihin Park IC on the Kita-Kanto Expressway after the Tomobe JCT on the Joban Expressway

Train – 10min walk from Hiraiso Station on the Hitachinaka Kaihin Railway Line, after riding from Katsuta Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Paid (100 spaces at 800 yen each, summer only)

Inquiries: Hitachinaka Tourism Association  029-273-0116

 

Uba-no-futokoro Marine Pool (Hitachinaka)obabeach

A pool in the ocean making use of the high tide. A very popular leisure spot for families with children.

Period: July 13th to August 21st

Access: Car – 10min from the Hitachinaka IC on the Kita-Kanto Expressway after the Tomobe IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 10min walk from Tonoyama Station on the Hitachinaka Kaihin Railway Line, after riding from Katsuta Station on the JR Joban Line

Parking: Paid (100 spaces at 800yen each)

Inquiries: Hitachinaka Tourism Association  029-273-0116

 

Oarai Beach (Oarai)oaraibeach

A beach featuring beautiful natural scenery backgrounded by forests. The beach itself is composed of natural pools formed between the rocks, and is popular with children because of the crabs and starfish that can be found there.

Period: July 13th to August 18th

Access: Car – 15min from the Mito-Oarai IC on the Kita-Kanto Expressway after the Tomobe IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 15min by bus from Oarai Station on the Kashima Coastal Railway Oarai Kashima Line

Parking: Paid (1000 spaces; large vehicles 2390 yen, midsize 990 yen, regular 780 yen, motorcycles 320 yen)

Inquiries: Oarai Commerce and Tourism Division  029-267-5111

 

Oarai Sun Beach (Oarai)sunbeach

This beach is proud to be the biggest in size in the Joban area. This beach is also known for being barrier-free, offering free rentals of wheelchairs that can enter the water and taking other considerations to make it possible for those with disabilities to enjoy the beach.

Period: July 13th to August 18th

Access: Car – 10min from the Mito-Oarai IC on the Kita-Kanto Expressway after the Tomobe IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 10min by bus from Oarai Station on the Kashima Coastal Railway Oarai Kashima Line

Parking: Paid (7500 spaces; large vehicles 3000 yen, midsize 1300 yen, regular 1000 yen, motorcycles 400 yen)

Inquiries: Oarai Commerce and Tourism Division  029-267-5111

 

Otake Coast Hokota Beach (Hokota)otakebeach

The Otake Coast is also known as Ibaraki’s Gold Coast, featuring long, white sandy beaches and clear blue waters.

Period: July 13th to August 15th

Access: Car – 40min from the Iwama IC on the Joban Expressway

Train – 10min by taxi from Shin Hokota Station on the Kashima Coastal Railway Oarai Kashima Line

Parking: Paid (1500 spaces, regular 1000 yen)

Inquiries: Hokota City Hall, Manufacturing and Economy Division  0291-33-2111

 

Oritsu Beach (Kashima)oritsubeach

This beach features beautifully clear waters and a pretty sandy shore, making it easy for swimming.

Period: July 13th to August 18th

Access: Car – 20min from the Itako IC on the Higashi Kanto Expressway

Train – 10min by taxi from Kashima Jingu Station on the Kashima Coastal Railway Oarai Kashima Line

Parking: Paid (400 spaces; regular 800 yen, midsize 1000 yen, large 2000 yen)

Inquiries: Kashima Tourism Association  0299-82-7730

 

Hirai Beach (Kashima)hiraibeach

A hidden gem located to the south of Oritsu Beach. Its attractions include a wide beach and calm waves that make it perfect for swimming.

Period: July 13th to August 18th

Access: Car – 20min from the Itako IC on the Higashi Kanto Expressway

Train – 10min by taxi from Kashima Jingu Station on the Kashima Coastal Railway Oarai Kashima Line

Parking: Paid (1000 spaces; regular 800 yen, midsize 1000 yen, large 2000 yen)

Inquiries: Kashima Tourism Association  0299-82-7730

 

Hikawahama Beach (Kamisu)nikkawabeach

A beach popular for its wide, white sandy beaches and beautiful views. Very attractive to families with children due to the low parking fees.

Period: July 13th to August 18th

Access: Car – 35min from the Itako IC on the Higashi Kanto Expressway

Train – 40min by bus from Kashima Jingu Station on the Kashima Coastal Railway Oarai Kashima Line

Parking: Paid (400 spaces; regular 200 yen, midsize 1030 yen, large 1540 yen)

Inquiries: Kamisu Commerce and Tourism Division  0299-90-1217

 

Hasaki Beach (Kamisu)hasakibeach

A shallow beach with clear water that has been chosen as one of the 100 best beaches in Japan. There are many spots for surfing and body-boarding, making it great for marine sports.

Period: July 13th to August 18th

Access: Car – 60min from the Itako IC on the Higashi Kanto Expressway

Train – 10min by bus from Choshi Station on the JR Sobu Main Line

Parking: Paid (600 spaces; regular 500 yen, midsize 1000 yen, large 1500 yen)

Inquiries: Kamisu Commerce and Tourism Division  0299-90-1217

One Day in Ibaraki

Holy Connections

Those of you acquainted with the main religious destinations in Japan will probably be aware of Shimane Prefecture’s Izumo Shrine, one of the most venerated Shinto sites in the country. You may not, however, be aware that there is a branch of Izumo Shrine right in Ibaraki, complete with its own new traditions and innovations. The Hitachi branch of the Izumo Shrine came about because the main god or kami of Izumo Shrine is Daikoku, the country builder, worked alongside Ibaraki’s own kami, Sukunahiko-na-okami, to begin building up the nation of Japan back in 871 CE. Thanks to this historical connection, it became a logical extension to create a place of worship for Daikoku in Ibaraki as well.021

Ibaraki’s Izumo Shrine was first established in 1992, so the buildings and grounds are relatively new, but it offers the same feeling of sanctity and purity as you can enjoy at other shrines. In fact, in terms of comparisons, the large gate (torii) at the entrance to the shrine is actually the largest stone gate in all of Japan, thanks to the proximity of Ibaraki’s stone quarries, and the large sacred rope (shimenawa) displayed at the front of the public shrine is also one of the biggest ever made, coming in at a stunning 6 tons! If you look carefully at the base of the rope’s large tassels you will even catch sight of 10 yen coins stuck amongst the tightly-woven straw; the worshipper felt that being able to achieve such a difficult feat would surely bode well for their future luck.022(1)

The construction of the shrine is of the Taisha variety, with the arch of the roof facing the front; this is the oldest style of shrine construction, as the type with the arch of the roof facing to the sides was only devised once rain gutters had been invented much later. In front you will find the usual protective lion statues, Ah and Un; the one on the right with an open mouth is Ah, and the one with closed mouth is Un, representing the beginning and the end, the entirety of all things. It is interesting to contrast this with the concept of Alpha and Omega…023(1)

To the left of the entry inside the public shrine is a detailed carving of Daikoku, holding in his hand the much smaller Sukunahiko-na-okami god of medicine. Daikoku is known not only for country building but also for creating connections between people; to build a country one must first build villages, to build villages one must build households, to build households one must build families. So it is common for visitors to come seeking the ever popular connection charms (en musubi) sold at this shrine in order to find a mate, but these charms also help to connect friends as well as to create connections between effort and results.DSCN5040

Daikoku also watches over the spirits of those who have passed on, which is why the shrine has a graveyard on its grounds. However, in addition to the usual stone-based graves traditionally used in Japan, Izumo Shrine has implemented a new, more ecological approach to the afterlife. Popular in Scandinavia, eco burial involves the concept of ‘returning to the earth’ via being buried directly in the earth with a tree planted above. This way the ashes of your body are nourishing a new life and returning to the source of all life. Already growing in popularity, Izumo Shrine is having a tough time keeping up with the demand for this new style of burial. They also offer special tombs for the beloved pets of believers, or the option of an eco burial, so that owners can rest assured that their furry family members will be safe in the afterlife as well.DSCN5044

The grounds also encompass a small shrine for Sukunahiko-na-okami and a shrine for the Dragon-Snake gods who are purported to guide all the other gods to the shrine for their annual congress in October. The former is believed to bring good health and cures for illness, while the latter proffers protection from disasters and removes impurities from the blood. There are plans to expand the facilities to include further shrines and art galleries, but for now the peaceful woods surrounding the shrine, which are known as the heart-protection forest common to all such shrines, are thick and silent.DSCN5026

Those visiting the shrine might also want to drop by the Izumo Annex, which houses a restaurant, a glass-blowing workshop, and a gift shop full of beautiful glass and metal souvenirs, to make a full day trip out of the experience.DSCN5035*Izumo Shrine is a 10 minute walk from Fukuhara Station on the Mito Line