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Photo By: Sydney Seekford
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Koganeyama Shrine

Visit a shrine built to honor the first discovery of gold in Japan 1200 years ago, whose grounds comprise a whole island.

By Sydney Seekford

Koganeyama Shrine, located at the foot of Mount Kinka in Miyagi Prefecture, was built to honor the discovery of gold on the island around 750. It claims to be the first place gold was discovered in Japan. It’s said that if a person visits three years in a row, they will never worry about money again in their life.

Accessible by morning boats from the Oshima Whale Center in Ishinomaki, visitors will encounter a simple visitor center with one of only two toilet facilities on the island. From there, a long paved road leads up to the first torii (shrine gate) of the shrine, which is home to hundreds of sacred deer. The entire mountain is considered shrine-property and Kinaksan itself is a designated national park.

A Shrine Surrounded by Holy Deer

Koganeyama Shrine

Photo by: Sydney Seekford Say hello to the wildlife that inhabit the island.

The deer are accustomed to human guests and show little fear or aggression towards humans. Feed is available for a few coins on the temple grounds. It’s recommended visitors wear shoes that they don’t mind getting dirty, as the deer aren’t exactly litter-box trained.

Kinkasan’s deer are storied to be their own subspecies, which adapted to life on the island over hundreds of years. They are known for having long but thin and hollow antlers as a result of the limited nutritional resources available on the mountain.

Remarkable Architecture Unites the Mountain and Sea

Koganeyama Shrine

Photo by: Sydney Seekford Catch all the intricate details on the honden’s facade.

The shrine features several notable structures, including the main temple, which is set back from the rest of the facilities up a long staircase. What makes the building particularly stunning is the separation of the honden (kami’s residence) and adjoining haiden (worship space) by a gap in the roof work.

This purely architectural feature was included to show off the intricate craftsmanship of the honden’s facade, which features maritime motifs and dragons. In contrast, the haiden is decorated with mountain themes, displaying Kinkasan’s importance as a mountain rising out of the sea, standing as a border between two spiritual landscapes.

The Power of Gold

Koganeyama Shrine

Photo by: Sydney Seekford Check out the different power spots before heading home.

Established primarily to honor the gods of fortune and wealth, Koganeyama shrine is also home to a fountain for purifying money in the hopes of bringing in more. Traditionally, coins were washed, but in recent times, shrine-goers rinse credit cards or splash a few drops of holy water on the “e-money” living in their cell phones.

The shrine is also home to several “power spots,” mainly in the form of ancient, gnarled trees that are said to possess the power to grant money through the blessing of snake deities or heal illness.

Things To Know


The shrine is open year-round and is free to visit. However, access is limited to boats arriving from Oshima Whale Town’s port, and it is recommended to book overnight accommodations on the island and enjoy blessings and morning prayer for a more in-depth experience.

Water Taxi and ferry schedules vary depending on the time of year and daily weather reports but are generally limited.

For example, Sea Dream water taxi service operates once a day, with departures at 9 A.M to the island and 12:30 P.M. from the island back to Oshika Whale Town port. Fees: ¥2,500 /adults, ¥1,250/children.

Wild animals

During mating season, male deer may become more aggressive with each other and tourists. No live-animal encounter is without risk of injury, and the shrine is not liable for guests’ interaction with the deer. In autumn, an antler-cutting ritual is held for the safety of both deer and guests.

How To Get There


By train

Take the Tohoku Shinkansen bound for Sendai from Tokyo station or Ueno and transfer to the Senseki-Tohoku line for Ishinomaki at Sendai. The trip from Tokyo to Ishinomaki takes approximately two hours, 45 minutes. Taxis from Ishinomaki station are the best way to reach the Oshika peninsula.

By bus

Oshika peninsula is approximately six hours from Tokyo by car. The shrine itself is only accessible by boat.

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