Oyama Shrine, a unique experience

If you are visiting Ishikawa you must add Oyama Shrine on the top of your must-see list. Constructed in 1599 this shrine has a long and interesting history, many meaningful statues, Koi fish ponds, stunning wooden carvings, and architecture which attracts thousands of visitors every year. Most of the visitors use the opportunity and visit the shrine during the Kyakumangoku festival which includes ceremonies, demonstrations, and many activities. The Oyama Shrine is always open to visitors and easily reachable by public transportation.

A little history of the shrine

The Oyama shrine was established in 1500 in Kanazawa, Japan. It is a Shinto shrine which means that it is the place of the gods. Shinto shrines are meant for Kamis – the spirits of nature, landscape as well as the deceased.

The Oyama shrine was dedicated to one of the Oda Nobunaga generals Maeda Toshiie who was in the office from 1583-1599, his highest rank was the Great Counselor Dainagon. The shrine was originally located in Mount Utatsu Yama, but after 1872 it was relocated to Oyama Jinja. The Oyama Shrine is famous for its unique gate which is a mix of Japanese, Chinese and European styles. The gate was designed by the Dutch architect H. Holtmann in 1950 at this time the gate was not very popular although years later it was established as an Important Cultural Asset. The garden of Oyama Shrine was designed by Kobori Enshu and includes wooden bridges that make a path across the pond. It is said that the top floor of the shrine was once used as a lighthouse, today the stunning stained glass windows are still illuminated during nighttime.

Prayer information

Japan has two main religions – Buddhism and Shinto, you will recognize a Shinto shrine by the large gates at the entrance where the Buddhist shrines will have two large statues at their entrance. The gates play an important role in shrine architecture. It is a transfer from the human to the god world. When the visitors enter through the gate they must bow and then proceed to wash their hands starting with the right hand, then to the left and finishing off with washing your mouth. Prayers have a very specific pattern before you enter the shrine you must make a donation that is normally put in a red box located next to the entrance. After you have made your donation you can ring the bell of the shrine followed by bowing and clapping your hands two times which will show your presence to the gods, after this ritual, you must have a little moment of silence and one more bow. Many young couples visit the Oyama Shrine to pray for a happy marriage and life, others come to Oyama for New Year’s celebration and pray for their families and health.

Interesting places near the Oyama Shrine

You will most likely visit Kanazawa in order to see the Oyama Shrine, but the city is so much more than that and you should take the long weekend to explore all Kanazawa can give.

Kenrokuen Garden – one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan, constructed by the Maeda family, it was opened to the public in 1871. It has all the 6 sublimities which make a perfect garden- space, view, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, and water. There is no bad season to visit, but we recommend visiting in spring when it is the plum blossom season or autumn when the park becomes colored with the fallen leafs.

Ninjadera temple – built by the Maeda lords as a military outpost with many defenses and escape routes;

Higashi Chaya District – get a cup of tea in one of the many little tea houses and listen to the geisha performances;

DT Suzuki Museum – see the works of the Japanese philosopher Suzuki Daisetz Teitaro who has left an extensive collection of philosophy and research behind him;

Seisonkaku Villa – samurai villa built by Maeda lords offers a look into the traditional Japanese style rooms which have been left in a perfect condition.

How to get to Oyama Shrine

You will find the Oyama Shrine to the west of Kanazawa Castle Park. Kanazawa Station provides Loop Bus services, you should take the bus stop 7 from the station and get off at the Minamicho stop, the fare is around 2-3 dollars and it will take you less than 10 minutes to get there including the walk to the shrine. If you are traveling with your JR Pass use the 1-3JR bus which also departs from the Kanazawa station once an hour.

Alternatively, get on the special shuttle bus that will take you from the Kanazawa station to either Korinbo S3 or S10 stop, the fare is also around 2-3 dollars on weekdays and 1 dollar on weekends and holidays.