Torii/Portal at the entrance of Ooi Shinto Shrine
Whatever City you visit in Japan, down to the smallest mountain village, you will discover at least one Shinto Shrine venerated by the locals. And if you are lucky enough to visit them during traditional holidays or festivals they become an unending source of lore study and photography!
How do you recognize a Shinto Shrine from other cult sites?
It is actually very simple even if you can’t read any Japanese!
1) The entrance is always marked with “torii/鳥居/portal”, however tiny the shrine.
2) You will usually find a hand-washing fountain/basin.
3) Entrance is free contrary to some of the shrines of other beliefs. Actually you will often see children playing in their yards in daytime.
Ooi Shrine garden
Now, if you happen to pass through Shimada City, by road or train or on your way from the International Airport take a couple of hours off for a leisurely visit of Ooi shrine/大井神社 as it is only a 10-minute walk from the railway station!
It is just the right size and a true representative of the long local history and culture.
It is also within walking distance to places such as Setsugekka Soba Restaurant where you could take a beautiful lunch before proceeding to the next stage of your trip through Shizuoka Prefecture and Japan!
Shimada Obi Festival Dancer Statue
Shimada is celebrated for its Shimada Obi/belt Matsuri/Festival, an event officially designated as one of 20 strangest/most original festivals in Japan. It is held every 3 years on the Years of the Tiger, Snake, Monkey and Wild Boar!
A young dancer of the other celebrated Shimada Festival, the 300-year old Daimyo Gyoretsu, which imitates the procession of a grand jumangoku (one hundred thousand koku, units of rice) daimyo with a total of 250 marchers stretching over 500 meters!
The New Year is an important time for the Shrine to collect money through the sales of New Year decorations!
The New Year is a great time for photography when people of any age and station visit the shrine!
New Year Decorations sales booth.
The Shrine has a small and cute garden with a carp pond and arched bridge!
2012 being the Year of the Dragon, so it would be a good idea to search for hidden representations of the fabled creature!
An ancient hand-washing basin inside the garden!
Traditional paper lanterns/chōchin (提灯), make for great photographs!
A sacred cow, symbol of fertility and wealth!
Keep your eyes open and you will discover some very intriguing statues such that of a “kappa/河童”, the Japanese cousin of the Scottish kelpie!
The French will be glad to discover frogs everywhere!
More dragons spouting water instead of belching fire!
Lions help the dragons guard the shrine from evil spirits!
Looking forward to meeting you at the next shrine!
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