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Photo By: PIXTA/ みやちゃん
Region
Chubu
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Nagano
Population
2,214,409

Suwa Taisha

Suwa Taisha’s four main shrines have been standing amongst the forests and in veneration of Mount Moriya for over a millennium.

By Elizabeth Sok

With Lake Suwa nearby, Suwa Taisha’s four main shrines have been standing amongst the forests and in veneration of Mount Moriya for over a millennium. For a trek through some of Japan’s oldest Shinto shrines, earmark a day for a pilgrimage in the heart of Nagano Prefecture.

As with many shrines in Japan, the origins of Suwa Taisha are murky. Although it has the honor of being mentioned in Japan’s oldest historical texts from the eighth century, how far its roots stretch back is unknown. According to legend, Maemiya Shrine was the first of the four shrines to be founded by Takeminakata, a deity who lost a power struggle with rival gods and fled to the land to found the site.

In the centuries that followed, the Suwa Taisha complex was venerated as an important location by Japan’s elites and saw the blending of Shinto and Buddhist beliefs into its architecture and practices of worship. One of the highlights of the shrine is the Onbashira Festival which takes place once every six years and features over a dozen 200-year-old tree trunks sliding down the mountainside.

Kamisha Shrines

Honmiya Shrine

Photo by: PIXTA/T-Urasima Honmiya Shrine is perfect for nature lovers.

Located on the southern side of Lake Suwa, the Upper Shrine complex comprises Maemiya Shrine and Honmiya Shrine. Maemiya is the only one of the four shrines to have a honden or main hall which houses an object of worship believed to carry the spirit of a deity. While the current version of the main hall only dates back to the 1930s, its construction was aided by the famous Ise Jingu, one of the most important shrines in the whole country. Honmiya Shrine is the other site to the south of the lake and contains many surviving buildings, including several that have been designated Important Cultural Properties by the Japanese government. Built in the northern shadow of Mount Moriya, the Honmiya Shrine area is perfect for nature lovers looking to feel the spiritual weight of the surrounding area.

Shimosha Shrines

Shimosha Harumiya Shrine

Photo by: PIXTA/ Masa Visitors should also check out the bronze komainu, a guardian lion statue on the shrine grounds.

Situated on the northern side of Lake Suwa, Akimiya Shrine and Shimosha Harumiya Shrine form the Lower Shrines of Suwa Taisha. Akimiya Shrine is notable for having a cedar tree over 600 years old and measuring about 35 meters tall with a circumference of over five meters. Visitors should also check out the bronze komainu, a guardian lion statue typically found at Shinto shrines, which is the oldest in the country.

Things To Know

HOURS AND FEES

The shrines are open 24 hours and are free to enter.

How To Get There

Address

By car

The sites are not easily accessible by public transportation and it’s highly recommended to use a car or take a taxi. The closest stations are JR Kami-Suwa station (Honmiya), JR Chino station (Maemiya) and JR Shimo-Suwa station (Akimiya and Harumiya).

Where To Stay

Chino Sky View Hotel
  • 2-16-7-1 Tsukahara, Chino-shi, Nagano, 391-0002 Japan
  • ¥7,502 - ¥8,591
  • 3.59/5 (455 reviews)
  • 3.2 km
Kamisuwa Onsen Rako Hananoi Hotel
  • 2-1200-3 Takashima, Suwa-shi, Nagano, 392-0022 Japan
  • ¥8,070 - ¥9,060
  • 4.21/5 (2,834 reviews)
  • 5.1 km
Kamisuwa Station Hotel
  • 4-10-15 Kogandori, Suwa-shi, Nagano, 392-0027 Japan
  • ¥7,150 - ¥8,350
  • 4.38/5 (2,153 reviews)
  • 5.5 km
Kamisuwa Onsen Hamanoyu
  • 3-3-10 Kogandori, Suwa-shi, Nagano, 392-0027 Japan
  • ¥41,800 - ¥75,240
  • 4.44/5 (1,069 reviews)
  • 5.7 km
Kamisuwa Onsen Hotel Beniya
  • 2-7-21 Kabushikigaishiya Hoterubeniya, Suwa-shi, Nagano, 392-8577 Japan
  • ¥8,700 - ¥22,100
  • 4.37/5 (1,215 reviews)
  • 5.9 km

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