I’ll be honest: Hokkaido Shrine attracts hundreds of people during the New Year, but it cannot compare to many shrines in Kyoto. Yet I think it was still worth seeing. The first thing I liked (and noticed) about Hokkaido Shrine were the trees. Like many Japanese shrines and temples, Hokkaido Shrine’s cherry trees draw a lot of people during ohanami season. I was two months late to see 1400 cherry trees in bloom but I was still impressed with the tall tress lining the paths that lead to the main shrine.
When I got to the main shrine, where four of Hokkaido’s principal tutelary deities are housed, I was surprised to find it almost empty of people, a rarity in well-known Kyoto shrines and another thing I liked about Hokkaido Shrine. It was nice to immediately get to the saisenbako (賽銭箱) without waiting in line, to say my prayers without feeling pressured by someone waiting behind me, and to be surrounded by silence in a place where I expected to find it.
The shrine’s convenient location (just a few minutes from Maruyama Zoo!), tree-lined paths, and comfortable silence make it a good place to see. But I think what makes it worth the trip, especially for superstitious people like me, are the amulets. There were different types of amulets for health, success, love, victory, and luck. There was even a Hello Kitty Total Protection amulet! Although some shrines and temples in Kyoto have the same amulets, Hokkaido Shrine had an information sheet that explains what each amulet is for – in English!.
Hokkaido Shrine doesn’t really have many quirks to make it more memorable than other well-known shrines and to make it stand out as a tourist attraction. It’s not as famous as Fushimi-Inari Shrine and not as pretty as Shimogamo-jinja Shrine, but it has its own simple charms and that was enough for me.
January 01 – New Year’s Festival
January 03 – Shinto Festival of Origins
January 14 – Offerings of Burned Talismans
June 15 – Annual Shrine Festival (Main Festival)
June 30 – Shinto Purification
August 15 – Annual Kaitaku Shrine Festival
September 15 – Annual Tonmiya Festival
November 23 – Rice Harvest Festival
December 31 – Shinto Purification
From Maruyama Koen Station, walk for 15 minutes.
From Maruyama Koen Station, walk for 2 minutes to the bus station.
Take a bus to Jingumae Stop (2 minutes).