Manchester University
Oak Leaves

May 5, 2017

Letter From Japan

Haylee Parrish
Guest Writer 

This week I had the opportunity to travel to Hokkaido Shrine, a well-known Shinto shrine and landmark located in the western region of Central Sapporo along the Tozai subway line. According to Sapporo’s travel website, the shrine, built in 1869 as a means to uplift the spirits of pioneers, continues to exist as a source of happiness for the people of Hokkaido, who visit the shrine during important celebrations and to view blooming plum and cherry blossoms, guarded over by the shrine’s four gods. The shrine exists as an integral part of Sapporo’s history and culture.

To get to the shrine, I passed through Maruyama Park, walking along a peaceful path edged by tall, guard-like trees on either side. Throughout the park, benches are placed for passerby to sit and relax while they take in the beauty of the surrounding nature. Along with its lovely forest, the park also features a field open to the public and baseball facilities. At the end of the path, a series of stone steps lead up to the entrance of the shrine marked by a “torii” gate, which is a characteristic of Shinto shrines.

Upon entering and passing into a large open area leading to the main gate, visitors approach a small area containing water and “hishaku,” or water ladles, with which to cleanse the hands and mouth before entering the shrine. Outside of the main gate that opens into the shrine, one can sit at nearby tables to admire the shrine’s architectural beauty and the tranquility of the nature that encompasses it. Nearby, a large bronze statue of Yoshitake Shima, a pioneer in Sapporo’s development, stands tall for visitors to examine, guarding over the shrine and those who pass through its gate.

Inside the main gate lies an open-air area that leads up to the shrine where visitors may pray in a traditional and respectful fashion. Sapporo’s travel website suggests that visitors who choose to offer a prayer do so while following a “two bows, two claps, and one bow” guideline. Proper posture should also be recognized.

Visitors also have access to souvenirs to purchase while at the shrine. By depositing a coin into a box, one can draw a fortune that offers advice and a proverb. Close to the entrance to the main gate, charms such as those in the forms of pouches and bells can be purchased for various purposes, such as to ward off illness or provide traffic safety. Popular souvenirs that Sapporo’s travel websites list include plum wine and cherry blossom tea, which are purchased at the shrine office.

Sapporo’s Maruyama Park and Hokkaido Shrine offer a rich exploration into Hokkaido’s nature while also providing visitors with a means to engage in cultural exploration of Japan’s native Shinto religion.
Until next time, “mata ne!”