Translated by Sandy Lau
Oyama Shrine In Kanazawa - A Wonderful Blend Of Architectural Styles!
Written by MATCHA
Oyama Shrine is located in Kanazawa, a city that is known as the "Little Kyoto of northern Japan". This shrine where Toshiie Maeda, an important historical figure, is enshrined is unique for its fusion of Japanese, Chinese, and European styles.
Kanazawa - the Northern Little Kyoto
Kanazawa, in Ishikawa Prefecture, is nicknamed the Little Kyoto of the old Hokuriku region. Kanazawa retains a similar number of old townscapes and cultures as Kyoto and it is for this reason that this nickname was given to the city.
The foundations of Ishikawa and Kanazawa were constructed during the Edo period. Ishikawa at the time was called the Kaga Domain and was governed by the Maeda family. The Kaga-Maeda family’s founder is Toshiie Maeda.
Oyama Shrine was erected in Kanazawa to honor the spirits of Toshiie Maeda and the Kaga Domain. This article will introduce Oyama Shrine, a distinctive shrine that is furnished with a European-style appearance, while also being a blend of Japanese-Chinese styles.
Toshiie Maeda and Kanazawa
Toshiie Maeda loved new things. He built up the still-undeveloped Kanazawa and then strengthened the foundations for the economy, culture, and education of present-day Kanazawa.
A well-known story is that of Toshiie and his wife Matsu. The historical drama “Toshiie and Matsu” featuring the pair was broadcast in 2002; this series handed down the tale of the harmony that existed in this couple, earning not only high TV ratings, but also rapidly increased the popularity of Kanazawa.
Four Highlights of Oyama Shrine
Oyama Shrine is located nearby Kanazawa’s largest shopping district, Korinbo. The predecessor of Oyama Shrine is the Utatsu Hachiman Shrine that was dedicated to the Maeda household. The shrine was moved to its current location in 1873. Let’s visit some of the fascinating spots at Oyama Shrine.
Highlight 1: The Japanese-European Oyama Shrine Gates
Oyama Shrine is different from most shrines as it has a gate that blends Japanese and European styles.
This gate was designed by people from Holland and was constructed as a three-floor structure of brick and wood. Its most characteristic feature is its European-style stained glass on the third floor. Japan’s oldest lightning rod is installed on the topmost part of the gate.
The Meiji period, when the shrine gates were built, was a time when European culture was pouring into Japan. Many structures built in those days, such as Dogo Onsen in Ehime and Yamashiro Onsen Kosoyu in Ishikawa, use stained glass in their construction.
When compared to those buildings, the gates of Oyama Shrine are even more unique thanks to their inclusion in a shrine, where European elements such as bricks and stained glass are exceptionally rare.
Please also pay attention to the carvings on the shrine gates. There are numerous carvings of ume (Japanese plum), which is the Maeda family crest.
Those who visit in the evening should also watch the gates light up after sunset. The gentle light passing through the stained glass will enchant those watching. It is an experience that you will definitely not get at a typical shrine.
Highlight 2: The Japanese-Chinese Main Shrine
When you pass through the shrine gates, the first thing that will immediately come into view will be the Japanese-Chinese styled main shrine. The roof of the main shrine utilizes a traditional Chinese architectural style. The elements of Japan and China are melded together in one building.
Enshrined in the main shrine is the founder of the Kaga Domain, Toshiie Maeda.
Highlight 3: The Gold Catfish Tail Helmet
You can spot carvings and ornaments that honor Toshiie Maeda throughout the shrine.
What is worth checking out is this gold helmet. Called the Gold Catfish Tail, this helmet is the same model as the helmet that Toshiie Maeda used long ago. It is designed to look like a catfish’s tail, which were thought to hold spiritual power, and is decorated with gold leaf, a specialty of Kanazawa.
A sculpture of his wife, Matsu, is also situated in a place not far from the statue of Toshiie Maeda. She almost appears to be quietly watching over her husband as he dispatches his troops.
Highlight 4: East Shrine Gates
The East Shrine Gates, located in the back of Oyama Shrine, was originally an installation in Kanazawa Castle. By passing through the East Shrine Gates, you can visit the historic ruins of Kanazawa Castle where the Maeda household once lived.
Visit Oyama Shrine when You Come to Kanazawa!
Oyama Shrine is an unusual shrine that combines the three styles of Japanese, Chinese, and European architecture. It may even be said that this shrine is very much like Toshiie Maeda as he loved new things.
Please also try visiting Oyama Shrine when you come to visit Kanazawa. There is no doubt that Toshiie Maeda himself would be pleased!