Translated by Sandy Lau
Pray At Yuzuruha Shrine - A Lucky Spot Made Famous By Figure Skater Yuzuru Hanyu
Written by Osawa Kumi
Yuzuruha Shrine, a Shinto shrine in Mikage, Kobe, is where people pray for better fortune, including two-time Olympic champion figure skater, Yuzuru Hanyu, and soccer athletes. The gods of guidance enshrined here are thought to have helped many visitors.
Visit Yuzuruha Shrine and Improve Your Luck
Yuzuruha Shrine is located in the residential area of Mikage, about a ten-minute train ride from Sannomiya Station in central Kobe. The shrine was established at the end of the eighth century and holds over 1200 years of history.
The name of the shrine originated from Japanese mythology, when an empress consort offered a bow, arrow, helmet, and armor to pray for victory in battle. The Chinese character “ko” from Mt. Rokko, known as the symbol of Kobe, is also said to have been derived from the same legend.
You’ll come across torii gates at the entrance to the shrine when you continue along a road lined with cherry blossom trees. Torii gates represent the boundary between the territory of the gods and the world humans reside in.
The wooden hall of worship was built about 90 years ago and is the largest in the city of Kobe. The hall is regarded as a highly spiritual spot where the god of guidance will especially help lead visitors towards better fortune and the fulfillment of wishes, although all types of wishes are responded to here.
Make sure you pray mindfully to the gods using this guide to visiting a shrine as reference.
A Pilgrimage Spot for Figure Skating Fans
Although the shrine has long history and is rich in tradition, there is another reason why this shrine, located in a quiet residential neighborhood, has become famous throughout Japan and in other parts of Asia.
Its fame was brought about by Yuzuru Hanyu, the first Japanese figure skater in 66 years to win two successive gold medals for Japan in men’s figure skating. Following his win at the 2014 Olympics, he took the championship once more at the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics.
Yuzuru Hanyu reportedly first visited the shrine July 2011, after hearing from fans that the name of the shrine was similar to the kanji characters in his own name. This resulted in the shrine’s increase in popularity.
Hanyu is said to have also visited the shrine the year prior to the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in June 2017. Whether or not his prayer was one for victory is between Hanyu and the shrine deities. However, many fans prayed for his Olympic championship, and the shrine answered those prayers with its blessings.
At Shinto shrines, visitors write wishes onto small wooden plaques called ema to offer to the gods. A large amount of the ema hung at Yuzuruha Shrine are offered to the gods by fans praying for Hanyu’s success.
The Symbolic Yatagarasu and Visitors From Soccer Athletes and Fans
The symbol of Yuzuruha Shrine where Kumano Okami (*1) is enshrined is the yatagarasu, which is a mythological three-legged crow. The bird is said to have guided the Emperor of Japan from the Kumano Region (*2) to the Yamato Province (*3) according to Japanese legend. Pictured below is the cleansing basin at the shrine.
Despite the shrine's tradition and history, the cleansing basin has an automatic water supply, thanks to a modern sensor system. When you approach the basin, water will come flowing out.
*1 Kumano Okami: the enshrined god of Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Hayatama Taisha, and Kumano Nachi Taisha in Wakayama Prefecture.
*2 Kumano Region: the area between present-day southern Wakayama Prefecture and southern Mie Prefecture.
*3 Yamato Province: present-day Nara.
Both soccer athletes and fans come to visit the shrine to pray for victory, as the yatagarasu is also the symbol of the Japan national soccer team. In the western side of the worship hall you will find a soccer ball made from granite created in the region.
The yatagarasu isn’t the shrine’s only link to soccer. Another connection is the fact that soccer was brought to Japan by foreigners residing in Kobe following the opening of Japan’s ports, resulting in the popularity of the sport. Mikage Teacher’s College, which was a school located in the same area as the shrine, won soccer championships numerous times.
Visitors can also touch the stone. The ball has a stainless steel core that allows it to be rotated slowly. We suggest rotating the ball while you pray for a win.
Unique Good Luck Charms, Plaques, and Fortunes
You can also receive your good luck charm from a shrine maiden working at the shrine. Why not experience visiting a shrine yourself and add to the memories of your trip?
Pictured above is the charm of victory that many people come to pray for, due to the shrine housing the god of guidance. The hatsuho-ryo (*4) is 800 yen.
*4 Hatsuho-ryo: the renumeration (money for purchasing charms and other such items at a shrine) given to the shrine. “Ho” means an ear of rice and originally signified the “first crop (primarily rice) of the year offered to the gods”. There is no consumption tax.
Here is a ball-shaped charm that is extremely popular with soccer athletes and fans for a 800-yen hatsuho-ryo.
There are a large variety of charms available at Yuzuruha Shrine. Some Hanyu fans living overseas have reportedly purchased nearly 100 different kinds of charms!
This rectangular card-shaped charm for 800 yen is the perfect shape for your wallet or commuter pass case. You can carry it around without it being too bulky.
Here are soccer ball and yatagarasu ema, with a hatsuho-ryo of 800 yen each..
The shrine not only has charms, but also a collection of unique fortunes. Why not try getting your fortune told this year? Fortunes start from around 200 yen each.
Visit the Unique Spots on the Grounds!
The Strength Contest Stones Used Long Ago
A lifting stone is a stone used for strength contests. Historically in Japan, people competed against each other by lifting up heavy stones in strength contests since the Edo period. Each stone has its weight and the names of those that have successfully lifted it carved on the surface.
Sake Barrels in a Corner of the Shrine
You will also find Japanese sake barrels known as Komodaru, which are offered to the gods at the corner of the shrine inside a specific building dedicated to such food and alcohol offerings.
Yuzuruha Shrine is located in the Higashinada, Kobe, where the sake breweries known as the Nada-Gogo are located. As such, the famous breweries protect the shrine as ujiko (*5).
*5 Ujiko: those that have religious faith towards the gods (guardian deities) that protect the people residing in the same region.
A Drinking Fountain for Pets
A quiet residential neighborhood surrounds the vicinity of the shrine. Several people come to the shrine while walking their pets, and there is even a drinking fountain for dogs at the shrine.
Visit During the Festival and Cherry Blossom Seasons
Danjiri Festival Begins in May
Picture courtesy of Yuzuruha Shrine
Picture courtesy of Yuzuruha Shrine
Festivals in Japan originate from prayers for an abundant harvest in the spring and rituals thanking the gods for the harvest in autumn. Danjiri Festival is held every year from May 3rd to 5th at Yuzuruha Shrine.
There are around 31 danjiri, or festival floats, in Higashinada, which has a population of 200,000 people. Danjiri Festival is dedicated not only to Yuzuruha Shrine, but to the guardian deities of the entire region. A grand parade also takes place during this celebration.
Mikage Petal Festival During Cherry Blossom Season
The Mikage Petal Festival is held during the cherry blossom season every year during early April. In spring, cherry blossom trees will be in full bloom, with the Yoshino cherries on both sides of the shrine road and two Benishidare cherry trees at the front of the worship hall.
The cherry blossoms season change every year, so be sure to pay attention to the cherry blossom forecast if you want to catch the flowers in full bloom.
Photo courtesy of Yuzuruha Shrine
During the Petal Festival, the Nada-Gogo breweries offer Japanese sake like parishioners offering the sake to the shrine. A brewing song will also be performed.
If you come to Kobe, make sure to visit Yuzuruha Shrine, located in a quiet, suburban residential neighborhood. Definitely come to pray at Yuzuruha Shrine and experience a Shinto shrine, engrained into part of daily life in Japan.
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Made in cooperation with Yuzuruha Shrine