On the Oarai coast stands a beautiful shrine steeped in history. According to the Montoku Jitsuroku (one of the six classical Japanese history texts), Onamuchi no Mikoto and Sukunabikona no Mikoto, the deities enshrined in Isosaki, descended to the area in 856. One of the local people became the voice of the gods, and said ‘We are Onamuchi and Sukunabikona. When we finished making this country, we went to Tokai. Now we have returned to help the people of this land.’ As a result, Oarai Isosaki Shrine was built there. In August the following year, it became a kansha, a shrine that receives offerings from the Imperial Court.
The main building was once completely destroyed in a war during the Eiroku Period, but Tokugawa Mitsukuni, the second feudal lord of the Mito Domain (better known as Mito Komon) was saddened by the destruction of such a historically rich shrine, and he ordered the reconstruction of the building in 1690. Oarai Isosaki Shrine’s main building is an example of the architectural style of the early Edo period and has been designated as a cultural asset by Ibaraki Prefecture.
Heading down the steep steps of the shrine toward the beach, you will see a torii on the rocks among the crashing waves. This torii marks the spot where the Onamuchi no Mikoto and Sukunabikona no Mikoto descended, which is known as Kamiiso (the beach of the gods). Tokugawa Mitsukuni, struck by its beauty, composed a poem about it. On New Year’s Day, the priests and priestesses of Oarai Isosaki Shrine go down to the torii to watch the first sunrise of the year. There are also two other larger torii marking entrances to the shrine.
Next to the main building, there are some stands set up for people to hang ema (small wooden plaques with wishes written on them) from. This is fairly standard for a Shinto shrine, but on closer inspection you will discover something rather unique about these particular ema. The majority of them are covered in drawings of the characters of Girls und Panzer, a popular anime series set in Oarai. You can also collect a special stamp featuring one of the characters upon visiting the shrine. It is definitely worth checking out if you are a Girls und Panzer fan.
People visit Oarai Isosaki Shrine to pray for a number of things, including good health, happiness, marriage, wisdom, and virtue. You can also pray for safety at sea and for a big catch when fishing. Omamori (good luck charms) are on sale within the grounds, and there are a number of festivals and events held at the shrine throughout the year. Whatever your interest, this picturesque location is definitely worth travelling for.