Translated by Allie
Kushida Shrine In Hakata - 5 Highlights And Access Information
Written by Norihisa Hasegawa
Hakata's Kushida Shrine is one of the oldest shrines in Fukuoka. Famous for its Hakata Gion Yamakasa Festival, this shrine offers other amazing sights such as the biggest Otafuku mask in Japan and a well where you can pray for eternal youth.
Hakata, in downtown Fukuoka city, is a popular place for visitors as they can taste both delicious local dishes such as Hakata ramen and enjoy shopping. Although it may appear to be a busy business district, Hakata has another side to it, as it is a city full of shrines and temples.
Out of the many temples and shrines in Hakata, today we will introduce Kushida Shrine, where the guardian deity of Hakata is enshrined.
Kushida Shrine - A Brief Introduction
Kushida Shrine is located in the center of Fukuoka. Its history goes back as early as 757 when Hakata was flourishing as a port city that welcomed delegations from mainlland China and Korea.
Fukuoka's famous summer festivals, Hakata Gion Yamakasa and Hakata Okunchi, start at this shrine. It goes without saying that this shrine is deeply loved by the citizens.
The locals refer to Kushida Shrine as "Okushi san", a nickname that really shows the affection they feel for this shrine. As the methods of transportation increased, more and more people could visit this shrine, which made it a popular place for travelers to visit too.
5 Things to Do at Kushida Shrine
1. Drink Well Water
When visiting, follow the recommended course of visiting a shrine. Once you are done, head to the well surrounded by three cranes right by the shrine building. According to legend, the water of this well grants longevity and eternal youth. In Japanese, it is known as a reisen, or miraculous fountain.
The proper method for drinking this water is to take it in three steps: drink the first mouthful while praying for your own longevity, the second praying for the wellbeing of your family and the third mouthful while praying for the health of friends or partners.
Please be aware that this water contains natural salts, so if you want to live longer, please don't drink too much of it.
2. Check out the Festival Floats
When you explore Kushida Shrine, you will find the Kazari Yamakasa or large stationary festival floats, such as that in the above photo. There are two main types of floats found in Japan: ones that are portable as they are built on wheeled platforms, and others which are stationary. Both are made when people want to pray for peace and wish for protection from peril.
The picture above shows the float used during the Hakata Gion Yamakasa festival, a famous summer event in Hakata. This Kazari Yamakasa is decorated with images of samurai warriors related to Hakata and scenes from Japanese fairy tales and anime.
This float is rebuilt on July 1 of every year then displayed here at Kushida Shrine for a year. If you have the chance, please take a closer look at it and enjoy the extreme attention to detail that the ornaments show.
3. Test your Strength with the Chikara Ishi
Head behind the Kazari Yamakasa and you will find several large stones all lined up. These stones are called the Chikara Ishi. They were originally used as fortune telling tools. In the past, when someone wanted to know how the weather would be or if the crops will grow properly, they used to lift these stones. If they were able to lift them with no difficulty, then the answer was considered a positive one. Gradually the meaning of these stones changed and they came to be seen as a mere test of strength.
In the past a sumo wrestler in Hakata demonstrated his strength by lifting a large stone, and then dedicated it to the god of Kushida Shrine; this began a custom of sumo wrestlers dedicating large stones to the shrine that continues today, including the wrestler Hakuho Sho.
There is a single stone there that has the Japanese characters for "shiseki" or trial stone, carved into it. You can try lifting this stone when visiting the shrine. The others should be left in place.
4. Check this Year's Lucky Direction with the Eto Eho Ban
It is easy to miss it but you should also check out the Eto Eho Ban, which is situated right by the entrance gate. The Eto Eho Ban is a large picture disc featuring the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac and the 4 cardinal directions. If you look up when you pass through the gate, you will see a marker indicating what the lucky direction of the year is.
5. Only in Winter! Pass through the Mouth of the Largest Otafuku in Japan
There is a big festival held in Hakata on Setsubun (February 3) called the Setsubun Taisai.
When the festival is coming up, the biggest Otafuku mask in Japan, measuring 5.3 meters in height and 5 meters in width, is displayed on the torii gate right in front of Kushida Shrine's main building. An Otafuku is a Japanese theatrical mask that represents a plain, plump-faced woman.
It is said that passing through this mask brings good luck. So if you visit this shrine from the end of January to February 3, do try to go through it.
How to Get to Kushida Shrine
Kushida Shrine is located near Reisen Park, in the heart of Hakata. The nearest stations are Nakasukawabata and Gion, on the subway line. From either of these two stations, it takes about 8 minutes on foot to reach Kushida Shrine.
It can be easily accessed from Fukuoka's popular shopping center, Canal City Hakata. It's an eight-minute walk.
Visit Kushida Shrine, the Spiritual Center of Fukuoka!
As Kushida Shrine is visited by many visitors from other countries, omikuji or paper fortunes are available in English, Korean, Chinese and Taiwanese. If you are visiting Hakata, make it a point to visit the home of their beloved protective god, Kushida Shrine.