Hakozaki Hachimangu Shrine: The Shrine of Victory

Located in the east area of Fukuoka City, a 15-minute drive from Hakata station, Hakozaki Hachimangu shrine boasts its spacious grounds with beautiful greenery and a long history of bringing good luck that spans many centuries. The venerable shrine is a kind of retreat from the hustle and bustle of Fukuoka City, one of the busiest cities in Japan. Hakozaki Shrine is also known as one of three great Hachimangu Shrines, along with Usa Hachiman in Oita and Iwashimizu Hachiman in Kyoto. Hachimangu originally referred to shrines dedicated to Japan’s 15th emperor Oujin in the 4th century A.D. He is said to be the first emperor ever confirmed on the record of Japanese history. There are more than 2000 Hachiman shrines across Japan. We can say, Hakozaki Hachiman is a headquarter of small Hachiman Shrines in the country.

Hakozaki Shrine is dedicated to three deities. One is Emperor Oujin, another is his mother, Empress Jingo as god of safe birth and the other is Tamayorihime as god of the sea. Generally speaking, shrines in Japan can be categorized into two functions: one as an imperial shrine like Hakozaki Shrine, and the other as a local shrine which is rooted in the area to protect its neighbors.

Torii gate presented by Nagamasa Kuroda, a founder of Fukuoka Castle

Along a long approach from a waterfront of Hakata Bay to the shrine, a total of four Torii gates stand magnificently.The very first Torii gate in front of the shrine is worth a look. Looking up close to the gate, you can see letters engraved on a pillar of the gate. It says, the gate was donated by Nagamasa Kuroda, a feudal lord of the Fukuoka clan around the 16th century. The unique feature of the gate is that each of the pillars is composed of three blocks of rocks. And the top cross bar is curved upward at each end. Every gate of shrines varies in shapes, materials and colors. You can enjoy better if you have a closer look at the Torii gate every time. This Torii is designated as an important cultural asset.

Once entering the ground of the shrine and proceeding to the right, there are some historic materials you may want to watch. There are stones from the anchors of wrecked Mongol ships found in a seabed of Hakata bay. It is deeply associated with the reason why Hakozaki shrine is well known for victory. In the 13th century, Mongol ships attacked along the shore of Hakata bay to invade Japan. Hakozaki was one of the battle places which were heavily destroyed. There was no possibility for Japan to beat the strong opponent in battle, then a miracle happened. Emperor Kameyama at the time offered his prayer for victory to the god at Hakozaki Shrine, and a violent typhoon took place out of the blue, and destroyed all the Mongolian fleets overnight. And this is when the term “kamikaze” or god winds was used for the first time.

Oshioi Sand Purification

Sand on the shore under the Torii gate at the edge of the approach is believed to be sacred sand which brings good luck. There is a long tradition for local people to bring the sand back home, and place them at a corner of the front of the house. When going out, they sprinkle some of them to ward off evil spirits and pray for safety.

Tower gate and worship hall

Look at this striking and gallant tower gate! This is a two-storied gate built in the 16th century by the feudal lord Takashige Kobayakawa in Chikuzen, what is today Fukuoka. A big placard hung under the roof draws visitors attention. The letters curved on it say “May enemy nations prostrate in defeat themselves” which was hand-written by Emperor Kameyama after the Mongolian invasion. The placard is an enlarged version though, 37 pieces of original ones with gold letters on an indigo-blue paper written by successive emperors has been stored in the main hall. For good luck, numerous military commanders had paid a visit here for victory in battle throughout history.

If you need a refreshing stroll in the tranquil grounds, why don’t you make a visit to Hakozaki Shrine? It has good access from Hakata station and the Tenjin area.

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