Haruna Jinja and Mitsumine Jinja 榛名神社、三峯神社

April 13th. 2023

Michi no eki Green Flower Bokujo Oogo

Green Flower Bokujo Oogo proves to be an excellent choice for an overnight stay. The parking area behind the buildings is away from the main road, quiet, flat and spacious. As the facilities can be accessed from either side of the building this is the obvious choice. The facilities themselves are excellent and well maintained though, from a personal perspective, the choice of music I found detrimental to the overall experience.

There is also a spacious park next door with tulips and a replica windmill. This park has an observation platform to view the expanse of the Kanto Heiya (plain) stretching away far below. If you arrive as we did in the midst of a severe Kosa (yellow dust) Blanket, you will see very little. Kosa is dust from the Gobi Desert plus assorted pollution from China. No doubt on a clear day you can see Tokyo Sky Tree and Mount Fuji. (That is just a flippant aside)

Harunako (Lake Haruna) 榛名湖

From the michi no eki, we first make for Harunako, the caldera lake of Mt. Haruna and the second highest elevation lake in Japan.The scenery of the area was splendid but the lake itself does not overly impress.

Lake Haruna

Lake Haruna

It is famous as it is near an old onsen town that has been easily accessible from Tokyo for many decades. The scenery is splendid enough to attract a landscape painter who appeared to be very skillful indeed.

Haruna highland

Haruna Highland

Haruna jinja (shrine)

Our next stop was Haruna Jinja. This was a huge, delightful surprise, very impressive. Does it surpass Rakan-ji as our top spiritual site? D. doesn’t think so, but it is well up there as the best shrine.

Haruna shrine Zuishin

Haruna shrine Zuishin-mon

It is a collection of relatively small shrine buildings nestling under and between towering pinnacles of what appears to be very unstable rock. The whole place is in a narrow gorge surrounded by mixed forest and huge Sugi (cedar) trees.

Haruna shrine

Haruna Shrine

There is also a slender dragon waterfall and a natural stone arch on the right as you first approach the shrine. Few people notice this I suspect. I didn’t until D. pointed it out. To capture it was beyond my meagre photographic skills.

Waterfall at Haruna shrine

Waterfall at Haruna Shrine.

Unfortunately for us, the main hall was undergoing restoration so was obscured behind scaffolding and sheeting. The sheeting helpfully had a large rendition of the building it was obscuring. The other buildings had already been restored and shone, magnificent in their new paint.

Haruna shrine

Haruna Shrine

A number of temples and shrines we have visited on this trip have been newly painted. It is interesting to note that the red used on the shrines is the more muted shade than the bright orange of most shrines. Is this a Kanto thing?

Shukubo (shrine guest houses)

In the small village at the foot of the shrine are a number of buildings with the name -Bo, which is from Shukubo. This indicates that they are place where people who visit the shrine can stay -a hotel of sorts.

This dates from the mid Edo period when the shrine, in effect, sent touts to drum up business in relatively nearby Edo. This scheme appears to have been wildly successful. Neighborhood groups or perhaps trade associations would collect funds to send representatives to the shrine on behalf of the group. This is the same system as Furumine shrine. In the 17th century there were more than 100 Shukubo in this area.

Entrance of Haruna shrine

Entrance of Haruna shrine

The representatives of the local associations would, of course, have walked to the shrine from Edo and stayed at one of the Shukubo. After visiting the shrine, they would bring back Ofuda or talisman. This would be of paper, wood or perhaps metal depending on your budget. This object imbued with the spirt of the shrine gods would obviously benefit the community. 14 of these guest houses remain though their function would have changed to a restaurant or souvenier shop.. Perhaps they host coach parties.

Mitsumine Jinja (shrine)

Heading towards Chicbu in Saitama, after a long drive through the mountains we arrived at Mitsumine Jinja at late afternoon. The shine is 1100m. high and there a climbing route from here to Mt. Kumotori which is highest mountain in Tokyo. (over 2000 metres) There used to be a ropeway but not anymore so only the way to get to the shrine by car or bus.

Mitsumine shrine

From the carpark to Mitsumine shrine

Every shrine has a Komainu (lion-dog) in the estate usually at the entrance, Unusually, this shrine has Wolf instead of lion-dog. Apparently, the many wolves in the area protected the farms from the wild pigs and deer. Also this place is famous of three Torii which we failed to see.

Mitsumine shrine

Mitsumine Shrine, wolf.

We arrived at the shrine late in the day so it was not at all busy, This shrine has become popular as a power spot  and consequently the road to the carpark is often busy. We hurry to go up to the shrine and look around its colorful buildings and collect a Goshuin. Even from the car park we can see a good view of the mountains.

Mitsumine shrine

Mitsumine shrine

After the shrine we drive R. 140 through the mountains towards Yamanashi Pre. To arrive michi no eki Ootaki onsen. Luckily, this michi no eki has a convenience store (not 24 hours) ensuring easy access to a cold beer. But unfortunately the onsen is closed.

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