Here’s another trip that was a part of my school program at Hokkaido Japan Language School (JaLS). This afternoon, we headed off to the Hokkaido Jingu Shrine in the middle of Maruyama Park (円山公園 – maruyama kōen). We had to walk over to Ōdori Station again this time, but we boarded the orange Tōzai Line subway train.
Maruyama Park is apparently at the very end of the Ōdori Road, which is the major east-west road in Sapporo that divides the city into north and south. We exited the subway and walked to the very end of Ōdori Road and entered the large park.
Maruyama Park is 70 hectares of wooded forest inside the city of Sapporo. Not only is it home to the Hokkaido Jingu Shrine, but also the Maruyama Zoo. We didn’t have time to explore the whole park, but the setting was very tranquil inside.
The Hokkaido Jingu Shrine was established in 1869 during the Meiji era. According to Wikipedia, the soul of Emperor Meiji is enshrined here along with 3 Shinto deities. This is Hokkaido’s main Shinto shrine and was established as part of the “reclamation” of Hokkaido to Japan. We learned that the shrine faces northeast and is meant to protect Japan from danger in that direction. I’m not sure what that danger was, but that’s what the priest had told us through our translating teacher.
Before going into the shrine we all had to cleanse ourselves with water. One of our teachers demonstrated the proper order of cleansing of the hands. So we just followed along in this hand-washing ritual at this cleansing fountain.
For even more “cleansing,” we were lead by the shrine priest through this large, green cleansing wreath. We had to enter through the wreath, turn left and circle back to the front. Go through the wreath a second time and turn right this time. We circled back to the front once more. We entered through the wreath a third time and circled left once more. This was the cleansing ritual. It was outlined also for other visitors to the shrine on a poster next to the wreath. It’s all in Japanese, but the picture was pretty self-explanatory.
Now that we as a group were all purified, we were allowed to enter the shrine grounds. The main shrine area has a very impressive roof that dominates the grounds. This is where people come up and offer money in an offering depository. There were also bells that one could ring after making ones prayer and money offering. One ring only, though. One isn’t meant to go bonkers on the bell.
Because our language school had made special arrangements with the shrine, the priest took us to a large room to the side of the shrine. It was like a museum area explaining the history of the shrine and how it came to be. All the explanations were in Japanese and our teacher had to translate. However, there is only so much that he could translate for us.
After the museum area, we were taken to a room where there was a stage set up. We were not allowed to photograph or film once we were seated. A priestess took to the stage performing some sort of ritual as others off-stage played traditional Japanese music to accompany the priestess’ dance-like movements.
After the performance, we went back to the main shrine grounds and explored the prayer and amulet area. In Shinto shrines, they often have amulets for people to purchase. Some of these offer protection or good luck. One can also draw a piece of paper with one’s fortune. If it’s a good fortune, you take the paper with you. If it’s a bad or so-so fortune, then you can tie the bad fortune to a stand with wires. This way, you are leaving your bad luck here. One can also purchase wish cards like the ones in the photo below. The ones I saw in Kyoto were traditional pentagonal-shaped wooden cards. However, this shrine had a great variety of cards. There were even plenty of Rilakkuma cards to write one’s wish upon.
After my schoolmates finished playing around with their fortunes, the priest took us outside of the shrine and to a little shack beside the shrine. Inside this shrine was a little snack shop that made fresh, hot, piping mochi snacks.
Inside the mochi was red bean, or anko. Red bean is a very common filling in Japanese snacks and desserts. The mochi was still hot and chewy, but the outside had this fine, crispy layer. It was so delicious. Best of all, it was free for us because we were doing a special tour with the shrine priest.
With our tummies filled with the warm mochi snack, we posed for photos with our teacher/tour guides and made our way back through beautiful Maruyama Park to the subway. Just imagine this place during cherry blossom season in the spring.
As chance may have it, my classmate, Kacy, is a YouTube vlogger for “We go on plane now?” detailing her time in Japan. She has posted her story of our trip out to the Hokkaido Jingu Shrine. I’ve embedded it below for your enjoyment.