Translated by Hilary Keyes
Nagasaki - See The Lion-Dogs At Chinzei Taisha Suwa Shrine
Written by Norihisa Hasegawa
Nagasaki's Chinzei Taisha Suwa Shrine is famous all across Japan. Let's visit and see the amulets, love fortune-telling and unique lion-dogs that make this shrine so popular.
Of all the areas in Japan, Nagasaki prefecture is considered to be the most Western-influenced, and is famously known for having the oldest Christian church in all of Japan. But, did you know that Nagasaki also has an equally ancient Shintō shrine?
As we delve further into the history of this ancient place, let's also take a closer look at the famous love fortune-telling and cutely funny lion-dog statues of Chinzei Taisha Suwa Shrine.
Read also: Encyclopedia: Komainu (Guardian Lion-Dogs)
What is Chinzei Taisha Suwa Shrine?
Chinzei Taisha Suwa Shrine, or Suwa Shrine in short, is where the three shrines of Suwa, Morisaki and Sumiyoshi are jointly enshrined. Every year many people pay visits to this shrine in order to pray to the gods for protection from bad luck, for en-musubi (*1), and for safety while at sea.
*1: En-musubi: connections between people, particularly between men and women or couples.
From the 7th to 9th of October the Nagasaki Kunchi or Autumn Festival is held; this popular festival is unique in that it is a true expression of the incredibly blended Western and Eastern cultures of Nagasaki prefecture. Beyond this festival, let's take a closer look at three of the attractive points of Suwa Shrine.
1. The Marriage Stone
Near the first gate of the shrine is Otokoishi, the male stone.
On the pathway approaching Suwa Shrine, you will find buried in the path near the first torii or gate the Otokoishi (male stone), and near the fourth gate, the Onnaishi (female stone). In front of the shrine itself, you will find the combination of these stones, the Ryōseigattaiishi (the unified stone of the sexes).
Near the fourth gate is Onnaishi, the female stone.
It is said that, if the man steps on the onnaishi and the woman steps on the otokoishi, then stands and prays on the stone of both sexes, their wishes for love will be granted.
The Ryōseigattaiishi or Unified Stone of the Sexes.
This belief has surprisingly lasted since about the year 1600.
2. Love Fortune-telling
To the right of the main shrine you can find love fortune-telling. Two of the most popular deities in Japan, Daikoku and Ebisu-sama are said to divine the love fortunes of their worshipers here.
To begin with, men make monetary offerings to Daikoku (seen in the foreground of the above photo), while women make monetary offerings to Ebisu (in the background of the picture).
While thinking of the person you like, close your eyes and try to walk to the other side (the other statue); if you succeed, your wish will come true! So please give it a try.
At most shrines, you will find two rather serious looking stone guardian lion-dog statues, but at Suwa Shrine, the lion-dogs are quite unique and popular photography spots. Let's look at the features of and wishes granted by these statues.
1. The Stopping Lion-dog
If you tie a piece of ribbon-like paper around the leg of this lion-dog and pray, you will be able to stop yourself from doing things; this is especially true for people wishing to stop drinking or quit smoking.
2. Shintō or Buddhist Prayer Lion-dog
Here, as you make your prayer, you turn the pedestal that the lion-dog stands upon.
3. Kappa Lion-dog
There is a dent in the head of this lion-dog similar to that found on kappa (*2); you fill this hollow with water as you make your wish.
*2 Kappa: creatures from Japanese folklore that are also said to be water gods.
4. Gomainu Well
This is the Gomainu Well, also known as "the money washing well". It is believed that if you wash money with the water flowing from this lion-dog's mouth, its value will double and that if women drink the water, their childbirth will be easy.
The most unique of all the lion-dogs found at Suwa Shrine are these two, found near Haraido Shrine; one stands on its hind legs, the other on its front legs, it's almost as though they are coming and going!
When you visit Nagasaki, please be sure to stop by and see these incredible lion-dogs, and try the love fortune-telling you can only find at the history-rich Chinzei Taisha Suwa Shrine.
Chinzei Taisha Suwa Shrine
Address: Nagasaki, Kaminishiyamamachi 18-15
Credit Cards: -
Other Languages: -
Pamphlets in Other Languages: English, Chinese, Korean
Nearest Station: Suwajinjamae Station (路面電車諏訪神社前) via street car
Access: 5 minute walk from the underground tunnel from Suwajinjamae station
Phone Number: 095-824-0445
Homepage: Chinzei Taisha Suwa Shrine (Japanese only)