Translated by Kayoko Windle
Oiwa Shrine In Hitachi, Ibaraki - Feel The Power Of A Sacred Mountain
Written by Mikako Utsunomiya
Mt. Oiwa in Hitachi, Ibaraki prefecture, has been known as a sacred mountain since old times. On the mountain there is Oiwa Shrine - a rare shrine, dedicated to 188 gods. Let’s visit the shrine and the sacred mountain!
Shinto is the name of Japan's indigenous religion. There are countless deities in this belief system, but regular shrines enshrine a couple of gods at most.
If you want to visit a place where many deities are enshrined, we recommend going to Oiwa Shrine in Hitachi city, Ibaraki prefecture. Surprisingly, this shrine is dedicated to not less then 188 gods, being located under the sacred mountain called Oiwa.
Mt. Oiwa is a mountain that is believed to be a sacred mountain according to a book from about 1300 years ago. Known as a power spot, this is a famous place that is said to have beneficial effects upon its visitors, making them more energetic mentally and physically, not only because of the natural setting but also due to the presence of the shrine as well.
Let’s Go to Oiwa Shrine
You will be walking on slopes in the woods. There are rental walking sticks available at the shrine office, which will help give peace of mind to anyone who has concerns about walking uphill. These can be borrowed before making your trek.
The giant sanbon-sugi (Japanese cedar tree with three trunks) will catch your eye first. It is estimated to be 500 years old, and features three distinctive trunks separated in the middle. Legend has it that there used to be a tengu (long nosed goblin) living in the tree. We can’t help but feeling that it is a naturally made masterpiece.
After passing by the sanbon-sugi, a roumon (two-storied gate) follows. Kongou-rikishi statues, or statues depicting fierce guardian Deva Kings, are standing by both sides of the gate. Their dedication in protecting the shrine touches us deeply.
Within the Saijinja Shrine you will find a Nyorai Buddha and Amida Nyorai statue, as well as many surprisingly huge trees.
There is a gosho-guruma wheel on the way to Oiwa Shrine. If you turn the wheel up, it is said that your dream in your current life will come true, while if you turn it downwards, your dreams for your next life will come true. Give it a try!
After crossing the bridge, you will get to Oiwa Shrine, where there are 26 deities enshrined. It is very rare that this many gods are enshrined together in Japan.
Guidelines to Climb Mt. Oiwa Behind the Shrine
You can climb Mt. Oiwa by passing behind Oiwa Shrine. It is an excellent place to look out at the extensive scenery from the top of the mountain. However, please keep in mind that this is thought to be a sacred place where gods congregate, so please behave with consideration to the following guidelines.
Do not deviate from the route.
Do not climb during rain or heavy snow.
Do not start climbing after 15:00.
Please wear appropriate attire.
Do not pick any plants, touch any wildlife or remove any stones.
No open flames, no smoking.
Do not leave trash behind or litter.
The Natural Enrironment of Mt. Oiwa
It takes about 40 minutes one way from the inside of Oiwa Shrine to top of Mt. Oiwa. This time we climbed to the Sato Jinja shrine. There are two routes, omotesando (front route) and urasando (back route), so you can enjoy different sights while you hike.
Birds were chirping and we could fully enjoy the beautiful nature. Little children were doing their best to climb, keeping the pace.
Access to Oiwa Shrine
Taking the Tokiwa line's ‘Hitachi express’ from JR Shinagawa, Tokyo, and Ueno stations is the most convenient route when traveling to Oiwa Shrine. It will take about an hour and a half, but if you prefer to take a less expensive route, then either the rapid or local trains are also available. These will increase the time required, however. From Hitachi Station, taking either the bus or a taxi is recommended. The frequency of the buses is limited, so looking up the schedule beforehand is advised. It takes about 20 minutes by taxi, and 35 minutes by bus from Hitachi Station to reach the shrine.
Take in some of the power of this shrine surrounded by nature and enjoy your visit to Oiwa Shrine and its surroundings.