As I gloomily walked through the streets of Omiya after having a bad day one day, I discovered a surprising lane in Omiya. Paved and cobbled, right-smack in the middle of busy small roads, the sudden serenity of arcing trees and the mystery of the invisible ends of the street drew me in. On one end, it was a pathway for joggers, strollers and other pedestrians—the Higawa Ryokuchi Park according to Google Maps. On the other end, after a long walk between tall trees, I found two lines of small street-food stalls in front of a shrine.
Start of pathway to shrine. Photo: shrompy
Tree-lined path. Photo: shrompyI visited this shrine in November 2014. It was around the period of the 7-5-3 (shichi- go-san) festival. Maybe it was because of the festival time that there were stalls outside the shrine. The tempting smells of takoyaki, the sparkling sight of cool drinks and other goodies caught my eye many times as I walked past.
Tempting Street Stalls. Photo: shrompyWhile I was not admiring the very tall and magnificent trees or staring at the food, I tried not to get hit by the sudden bicycle, a wayward kid or a rushing pedestrian. I was glad to walk past strikingly identifiable foreigners and other people who spoke in languages that were not English or Japanese—I was not the only foreigner who was drinking in the autumn sun and being sucked down the path towards the mysterious shrine.
As I looked around, I noticed that many cute children were dressed up in full Japanese traditional costume or formal Western wear accompanied by their entire family. Some adults were also in kimonos and hakamas, while others were in formal suits and dresses. It was quite a pretty sight. Definitely a camera-worthy ‘awwwwww’ moment.
When I finally reached the shrine, the soft gravelly stone ground scrunched and sank under many feet and light rain. The main hall of the shrine had too many people for me. And the scrunching soon got on my nerves. I tried to scrunch as softly and quickly as I could, and escaped out of the madness of the festival blessings. It was a good idea, because this was what I found:
Serene side pond. Photo: shrompyThe silent pond on the left of the shrine juxtaposed the chattering festival goers and helped me find the peacefulness one can find in a spiritual place. Unfortunately, at that time, some construction was going on in the car park on the other side of this pond, and the random tools and blue tarp slightly ruined the view. There is also another pond right by the gravelly quick-sand entrance path. The ponds gave a feel of the shrine floating on water as autumns leaves mirrored themselves on their surface.
Pond besides the main path. Photo: shrompyThe surreality only continued with the discovery of a shrine which had its entrance flanked by two scarf-wearing stone foxes. (I didn’t take a picture as I don’t like the stares of statues/spiritual things in photographs). But I did walk up the steps to inspect the small shrine and looked at more statues of foxes. It is called Inari Jinja and also housed the God of Food according to Hikawa Shrine’s website.
As I browse the Shrine’s website, I realise now that Hikawa Shrine is actually really big and houses so many different gods. There’s one for Health, one for Water/Alcohol- making, one for Farming, one for Sun, one for Sailing Voyages and so on. It would have been great if I had researched about the shrine before walking in on a whim! Although I didn’t get to see the parts of the shrine in the right-half of the oval-shaped shrine area nor did I get to see the inside of the main hall as there were too many cars, people and closed gates, do try to take a look, take some pictures and tell me about it! Have fun! (:
(For a slight English overview of the shrine, Wikipedia has a brief one).
How to get there: It’s a 15-20 minute walk from Omiya station.