I want to preface this post with how much I love shrines!
They are definitely one of my favorite things about Japan. Looking back, when I first visited this country I would always get lost because 9 times out of 10 I would wander off to a nearby shrine. Actually, I couldn’t walk down a street without getting lost because there are shrines everywhere, even in places you wouldn’t expect to find them.
Now that my deep rooted love for shrines has been established, let’s talk about Iwaki Shrine!!
I have the greatest privilege of getting to drive past this shrine on my way to work everyday. I have seen this shrine (so far) in sunshine, fog, rain, snow, and with autumn foliage. This shrine is beautiful; no matter when you decide to visit, it’s always worth seeing. (However, if you go in winter, please take your time driving up the icy and snowy roads).
Iwaki-san Jinja is so beautiful (even if you are just catching a glimpse of it driving past it in your car). When it is sunny outside, and if there are no clouds in sight, the three peaks of Iwaki can be seen right through the torii at the foot of the mountain. And let me tell you, it is breathtaking. Honestly Mt. Fuji has nothing on Mt. Iwaki. (Sorry Fuji lovers but The Mt.Fuji of the Tsugaru region has my heart). The wooden torii are even impressive since they are able to survive the harsh snow and wind that Iwaki gets every year. It is said that this shrine was built about 1,200 years ago, and that these torii have survived the winter for about 400 years. That’s pretty impressive right? I can hardly survive Tsugaru winter and I’ve only been here for about a year.
My first visit to the shrine was on a Sunday morning. I was scared to drive to work the next day in fear that I wouldn’t be able to find my school. So I went on a mini adventure were I found my school, explored this shrine, and discovered just how sweet dake-kimi actually tastes.
During this visit I instantly fell in love with the shrine. (I know you’re probably thinking, “well duh you just said you literally love every shrine you see”, but just wait, there really is no comparison).
The obaasan that stay at the front of the shrine selling apple ice cream. The vibrant green trees that make the red torii pop out at you. The sound of running water flowing down from the top of the mountain. All with the three peaks of Iwaki towering over you. It. Is. Stunning.
If this first visit wasn’t enough, the next visit surely made me love this shrine even more. I went with my students for a festival that celebrates Iwaki (岩木山神社大祭) which prays for the safety of family members and an abundant harvest. Seeing the end of お山参詣(oyamasankei) and my kids playing 登山囃子(tozanbayashi) at the base of Iwaki really did me in. The food stalls lined up and down the shrine looked super cool and honestly I just got lost in the moment. I think truthfully this was the exact moment that I knew I really was going to enjoy living in Hirosaki.
Those first two experiences were amazing but climbing the mountain really solidified my love. Iwakiyama-jinja is actually the starting point to climbing Iwaki on foot. (I think someone will talk about climbing Iwaki so I’ll leave that to them). What is amazing to me is that there is actually a small shrine at the top of Iwaki, and the two shrines are in fact related!! If you climb to the top of the mountain, go to the little shrine, then look directly down the two shrines should be perfectly in line with each other. That’s pretty cool right?! (I am really excited about this because 5min. ago I didn’t think they were related, so I asked my coworker sitting across from me if they are connected, and he excitedly explained that in fact 関係がある(they have a relation) so I am relaying that information to you now!!) It’s actually officially 岩木山神社奥宮 (a shrine located behind the main shrine, but dedicated to the same deity)
And now hopefully you can see why I am absolutely in love with Iwaki Shrine. It really is a beautiful and marvelous place to get lost in.