Katori Jingu Sakura

Last week, on a trip to Mito City, we noticed the cherry trees along the Sakura River were just beginning to open their blossoms. We've been watching the reports on the internet every few days to time our return for Ohanami (blossom viewing). Yahoo! Japan has a good website for that (in Japanese) with reports from many specific sites around Japan. The url is http://sakura.yahoo.co.jp/

So, Mito City will wait, meanwhile there are blossoms to be found to our South. (Click on any of the pictures for a much larger image.)

For some time, I've been wanting to return to Katori Jingu, a major Shinto Shrine about 14 km from Kashima Jingu. It is across the Tone river from Kashima City in Chiba Prefecture. The last time we visited there was four years ago. Katori Jingu is on a hill and the path from the entrance to the main buildings curves as it rises up a gentle slope. Unlike the path to Kashima Jingu, which is lined with ancient cedars, this one is lined with Japanese maple (momiji) and cherry trees (sakura). In Spring, one is treated to the cherry blossoms and in fall, the autumn colors of the maple leaves. So, Saturday, we headed for Katori Jingu.

In front of the entrance is a street of souvenir shops and restaurants. We availed ourselves of both, having lunch at a restaurant before entering the shrine, and a snack after. The latter place is called "Uno Cafe" and was quite a treat. In addition to warm decor with lots of wood, old LP record album covers line the wall above the entrance - a few Japanese artists, but others too, such as Perry Como, the Carpenters, Beatles, and Ray Charles. One booth is next to a record turn table (those are making a comeback I hear) and 50s and 60s vintage music plays in the background. The menu offers a lot choices for coffee, as well as macha - the frothy, slightly bitter green tea brewed from powder with a whisk as is done in tea ceremony - and various flavors of dango (pounded mochi rice treats).

We were glad we visited when we did. The website was reporting half in bloom. Some trees were in fact in half-bloom, but others were in full bloom and some were past full and starting to grow leaves, so perhaps there is one more week of really good viewing there. There are some 700 cherry trees of 15 varities on the grounds.

Katori Shrine is an ancient one, like Kashima Jingu, and the two are closely connected in tradition and celebrations. Katori is dedicated to one of the two most important gods of marshal arts - Futsunushi no Kami, and Kahima is dedicated to the other - Takamikazuchi no Mikoto. The present main buildings of Katori Jingu were constructed about 1700.

I have written and posted photos of Kashima Jinju's kanameishi stone - the stone which holds down a catfish said to cause earthquakes. Well, Katori Jingu has one also, and we followed the winding path and climbed the many steps leading to it. Perhaps the two stones are connected beneath the earth?

There is a lovely koi pond there (some of the carps are huge). Water turtles can be seen swimming about or sunning themselves on stones.

The weather was delightful - about 18 degrees C (65 F), though a light overcast made for high contrast pictures and difficult lighting. In addition to the cherry blossoms, there were lots of yellow nanohana (rapeseed) in bloom and other flowers. The shrine was busy, but not crowded.

All in all a wonderful day for Ohanami. Some (lots) more pics. Enjoy.

We arrived soon after the annual Otaue Shinji, rice planting ceremony. I'd like to go earlier next year and see it.

Parasols used in the ceremonial procession are decorated with leaves and flower petals.

Some ikebana flower arrangements were on display as well.

Rice seedlings for the planting ceremony.

Violets growing in a cherry tree.

The kanameishi stone of Katori Jingu.

Nanohana blossoms. Oh, and K


K and S said...

Your photos are beautiful!

HappySurfer said...

Wow!! Lovely pictures. Thanks for sharing the beauty, PandaB. This year, I missed the blooms here so did not manage to capture any on film.

You even managed to snap the turtle doing the breast stroke. Nice.

WV: shinglit = Shindig indeed!

Don Snabulus said...

Our blossoms are just popping now. It is one of my favorite events of the year. Beautiful pics.

Bush said...

You are a gifted photographer and a wonderful travel guide. Your description of the grounds and historic overview were very interesting. But then you have always make sure that your readers feel like they have been invited to a special showing of Japan's wonders.

Olivia said...

Thank you for sharing all those wonderful photos with us. Violets growing in the crook of two branches were well spotted!

I also enjoyed every architectural detail you captured.

Olivia said...

I probably would have said something about the blossoms had I not had my fill of them here last weekend :)

I guess I am glad that Japan and the US can celebrate something so beautiful and delicate together.

Pandabonium said...

K and S - Thanks, Kat.

HappySurfer - K thought that turtle was dead until he raised his head up. :0

Snabby - As I recall there is a cherry tree near your house. When do they bloom up there?

Bush - Blush. I'm glad you enjoy the posts. As Ken Kamp wrote in my year book, "keep a loose slide".

Olivia - your pics of Washington D.C.'s sakura were great. It is something special to celebrate such a simple but beautiful thing.

K gets credit for noticing the violets up in the tree.

Olivia said...

Thanks :) There will be more this weekend when my friend comes down from NYC for the last days of the festival.

And well spotted, then, K!

ladybug said...

Thank you for another wonderul travelogue to a Japanese temple! I really enjoy the history you include with the pictures. I also like this one in particular as the Cherry trees seem more like the white ones I'm used too (which actually produce cherries..although I don't know if the temple's one's do..), rather than the regular pink "decorative" ones.

Pandabonium said...

Ladybug - thanks. I don't believe shrine's trees bear edible fruit. Nor do the ones in Washington DC that Japan gave the US 100 years ago.

The trees around lake Senba in Mito City are all labeled with which variety they are, which is kind of neat.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Wonderful pics, as always!

I haven't been to Katori Jingu for years, and I think a return visit is overdue (if I can find the time...).

It doesn't surprise me that Katori Jingu has a kanameishi, too. I was told (by the high priest at Kashima Jingu) that the kanameishi there is believed to be one of the foundation pillars from an original shrine building constructed thousands of years ago. I know nussink about the one at Katori, but I'd bet it's something similar.

Ikisu Shrine in Kamisu, another related shrine (but much smaller and simpler), also has a revered stone, but I wasn't able to get any info on it.

I need to get off my buttendsky and take some pics of the cherry blossoms here on the Ye Olde Academy campus.

Robin said...



My Favorite. thanks thank thanks

Pandabonium said...

Moody - interesting about the kanameishi stones. We visited Ikisu Shrine a while back and I was kind of disappointed that the main hall had been rebuilt out of concrete, but it is an interesting place historically and its location on the river is cool.

Robin - glad you enjoy them. More coming up next post. Namaste.

Oscelot said...

Your photos are absolutely gorgeous. I always enjoy reading your posts, looking at your photos and living through you, as it were. Do you by any chance have a photo book out, or any plans to make one? I would love to buy one. granted, it might take me a month or two to scrape together the money to buy it, but..

Pandabonium said...

Oscelot - thank you. No, I don't have a photo book out or plans for one. I'm glad you enjoy the ones I post on the blog.