Hakata’s Guardian Shrine
Kushida-jinja is a Shinto shrine located in the heart of downtown Fukuoka on Kyushu Island. The locals love this spiritual oasis lost among the modern office buildings and shopping malls, and it has become the city’s epicenter during its summer festival, the Hakata Gion Yamasaka.
Fukuoka’s Kushida shrine is of a modest appearance and is often overlooked by tourists visiting Kyushu’s large city for the first time. Located next to the Hakata Shinkansen 🚅 station and a stone’s throw away from the popular Canal City shopping mall, it is of an easy access, but somewhat overshadowed by the surrounding buildings.
Regardless, the inhabitants of Hakata (former name of Fukuoka) are fond of this shrine that has been protecting the city since its founding in 757 and worships 3 of the most important deities (kami) of the Shinto pantheon:
- Amaterasu, the Sun goddess;
- Susanoo, her younger brother and god of storms;
- Okuninushi, Susanoo’s son and kami of agriculture and medicine.
An interestingly detailed Shinto enclosure
Overall, the shrine’s architecture does not really stand out and the grounds initially looks like any other Shinto enclosure in Japan. However, if you take the time to visit all its pavilions you’ll find details that will make you fully enjoy the visit. Kushida-jinja, affectionately known as Okushida-san by the locals, indeed provides several little highlights, such as:
- The display of an ancient and authentic Hakata-bei wall;
- A short red torii ⛩️ gates tunnel at the secondary Inari shrine;
- Drinkable water from the natural spring 🌸 next to the main building, whose stone fountain Reisen Tsuru no Ido is ornamented with crane statues;
- The sacred stone Chikara-ishi, that people try to lift; or,
- The main gate’s great red lantern 🏮, especially its compass decorated with the Chinese zodiac signs, showing each year the direction to look at so as to attract luck.
People naturally go to the shrine for the usual prayers and offerings of ema votive plates, or to draw omikuji paper fortune telling.
At the heart of Fukuoka’s traditional celebrations
Thanks to its central location, in the heart of the historical city center, Kushida-jinja is the locals’ favorite place for holding Fukuoka’s biggest yearly festivals:
- Hakata Dontaku, held on May 3 and 4, with a costumed parade of nearly 30,000 participants near the shrine;
- Hakata Gion Yamasaka, from July 1 to 15, holding a procession of richly ornamented and impressive floats, measuring over 10 meters high. One of them is displayed all year round in the Shinto grounds;
- Hakata Okunchi takes place in October, along with a food market and a light-up of the site with lanterns. It is one of the 3 Kunchi matsuri of Japan, with Saga prefecture’s Karatsu Kunchi matsuri.
Moreover, the visit of Kushida shrine is particularly recommended during Setsubun, from mid-January to early February. The Shinto gates are decorated with a giant traditional mask 😷 called Otafuku, and it is not a tribute to the famous okonomiyaki sauce! Otafuku is in fact a traditional female character of Noh theater, that symbolizes luck and good spirit. It is often displayed during the Setsubun celebrations so as the people using its mouth to enter the sacred grounds are blessed with luck and good health for the year to come.
Kushida-jinja is a very lively shrine that is included in the neighborhood’s daily life. Sightseers come for recharging and immerse further in the local folk culture.