Isn’t it great when you stumble upon a true hidden marvel? Yokohama’s Iseyama Kotai Shrine is one such treasure, hiding a stone’s throw from the futuristic wonders of the Minato Mirai district.
It’s almost like you could drop a 10-yen coin straight into the shrine’s osaisen-bako (offering box) from the top of the Landmark Tower and yet somehow, it manages to stay out of sight until you find it. Despite being only a short walk from Sakuragicho Station, Iseyama Kotai Shrine can be a relatively difficult one to locate, so make sure to check the directions at the bottom of the page. It’s well worth the minimal effort.
Even from the road, the shrine would be unrecognisable if not for the distinctive torii marking the entrance at the top of the stairs. You’ll notice immaculately inscribed stone pillars lining those stairs and in summer, bright hydrangeas help guide you towards the great torii.
Having purified yourself at the chōzuya (water ablution pavilion) and entered through the impressive torii, it becomes apparent how deceptively large the place is. Across a large pebbled courtyard is the main shrine and to the left, partially hidden behind a few imposing weeping willow trees, sit a few smaller shrines.
A Bit of History…
The Iseyama Kotai Shrine was constructed back in 1870 and enshrines the Shinto sun goddess, Amaterasu-Omikami. It was one of many shrines which resulted as an initiative of the Meiji Government in response to the new found freedoms of Christianity in Japan. Fearing the percieved pollution of Western influence, constructing shrines was a government effort to promote the importance of Shinto, the national religion. So close to the Port of Yokohama, the Iseyama Kotai Shrine may be thought of as particularly symbolic, with the Convention of Kanagawa having been signed and then the Port opened, little more than a decade beforehand.
Like many other shrines all over the country, this place is flooded with people during the New Year period and when sakura is in-bloom. Mercifully, however, the Shrine remains relatively peaceful at other times and if you can manage a weekday the visit may afford the true Japanese experience people come looking for. The true value of a visit to the Iseyama Kotai Shrine is in finding such a beautifully authentic place, inconspicuous and almost invisible from the outside.
Personally, the shrine is a special one, being the site of my Japanese wedding ceremony, my wife’s parents’ wedding and where my wife came to receive blessings to protect in the wake of a breast cancer diagnosis (which appears to have worked). However, on any given day, you just might be lucky enough to witness a traditional Shinto-style wedding, a highlight being the bride’s Shiro-Kakeshita (bright white) Kimono, or “shichi-go-san” (a traditional rite of passage for 3-and-7-year-old girls and 5-and-7-year-old boys).
With history, beauty and an authentic, off-the-beaten-track feel despite being so accessible, it truly is worth the effort to visit the Iseyama Kotai Shrine. As mentioned, despite being so close to Yokohama’s more famous attractions, it might take some map-following to locate, if only because of how well it happens to be tucked away.
Opening Hours: 8:30am – 7.00pm
Address: 64 Miyazakicho, Nishi-ku, Yokohama-shi
Nearest Station: Sakuragicho
Website: http://www.iseyama.jp/ (Japanese only)
English info: https://trip.pref.kanagawa.jp/destination/iseyama-kotai-jingu-shrine/423