Washinomiya Shrine (鷲宮神社) is the oldest shrine in the Kantou region of Japan. It also happens to be one of the setting locations for Kyoto Animation’s Lucky Star, the very shrine that Kagami and Tsukasa work part-time as shrine maidens. I paid a visit today and took some interesting pictures.
How to get there
The shrine is located about 10 minutes away from Washinomiya Station (鷲宮駅) on the Toubu Isesaki Line (東武伊勢崎線). You can take the train directly from the Tokyo Metro subway station in Asakusa. The town is in the Saitama Prefecture and it is rather rural compared to the tourist-filled parts of Tokyo.
Alternatively you can also take the Hibiya Line from Akihabara and transfer to the Toubu Isesaki Line at Kita-Senju. In either case, the train goes to Kuki (久喜) and from there you have to transfer to a local line and take one stop to Washinomiya.
Basically you walk straight from the station until you cross a river and hit a traffic light junction, which also happens to be the only set of traffic lights I saw in the area. Then, you turn left and the shrine beckons.
What is there
The first thing I saw when I reached the shrine was a Tsuruya itasha parked in the lot. Awesome.
The second thing I saw was a live-size voodoo doll of what I presume to be Konata. Looks like the local folks are fully exploiting this unplanned desecration of their local traditions. Good for them.
Inside the shrine
Most of the shrine is rather standard fare. There are places to wash your hands, hang ema, draw omikuji and pray. If you’ve seen one Shinto shrine in Japan, you’ve seen them all. Except maybe for the ones in Kyoto, which are pretty cool and occasionally unique.
The most important thing to check out while you are at Washinomiya is of course the ema (絵馬) wood blocks. Simply exquisite. Or horrifying, depending on how you view the whole phenomenon.
I suppose it’s all rather harmless fun, and the town is apparently making quite a lot of money from the unexpected attention. Still, I wonder how the hardcore shrine goers feel about this moé invasion.
Well. The train ride to Saitama from urban Tokyo was long and expensive (be prepared to shell out close to 1,000 yen per trip depending on which part of Tokyo you start from), but all in all it was quite an interesting experience.
If you plan to make the pilgrimage, you can consider checking out the official website for any upcoming events.