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Kashima Shrine's Best Kept Secret

Shrines Shinto Temples & Shrines Ibaraki Kanto
Kashima Shrine's Best Kept Secret

For the most part, Kashima Shrine in Ibaraki Prefecture looks like any one of hundreds of other Japanese shrines. Founded over 1,300 years ago, the architecture of the shrine looks pretty typical for a place of Shinto worship. However, if you make your way back past the rear shrine buildings, you’ll find a scene of ethereal beauty.

Called the Mitarashi Ike, or “Holy Washing Pond,” this body of water is fed by an underground spring that bubbles up to the surface. Legend has it that long ago the spring burst forth in a single night, and through the years it has never run dry, even when the region was struck by droughts.

The layout of Kashima Shrine has changed since its founding, and originally the Mitarashi Ike was located at the end of the main walkway by which worshipers approached the shrine. Before entering, they would use the waters of the pond to cleanse their bodies and souls, in keeping with the purifying properties of water recognized in the Shinto faith.

These days, visitors purify themselves at separate stations near the current main entrance to Kashima Shrine. That’s not to say no one uses the pond, though, as it serves as the habitat for the shrine’s school of beautiful koi.

The Mitarashi Ike does still serve in its former capacity of purifying human beings once a year, however. During the Kashima Shrine’s Daikan no Misogigyo ceremony, worshipers strip down to loincloths and wade into its waters to chant prayers together. Participants tend to be particularly devout, or at least courageous, as the ceremony takes place in early February, when Japan is still in the grip of bitterly cold winter temperatures.

If you’re after a less invigoratingly immersive experience, though, you can gaze at the pond’s peaceful and mysterious waters on any other day of the year you choose.

For more information about Kashima Jingu Shrine including its location, be sure to click on the full story below from RocketNews24.

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