Suwa Shrine (Shimonita, Gunma)

Outline and History

Suwa Shrine is located in Shimonita, Gunma. It is believed to have been founded about 400 years ago.

The shrine is dedicated to three deities (Takeminakata, Yasakatome, and Homudawake), who were worshipped as gods of hunting and agriculture in ancient times, as military gods during the samurai period, and as gods of industry, traffic safety, and matchmaking today.

The splendid shrine pavilion (the central building of the shrine) was constructed between 1837 (Tempo 8) and 1846 (Koshita 3). The shrine was built between 1837 and 1846 by Yazawa Zenji Akikata (1772-1841), a native of Suwa City, Nagano Prefecture, where Suwa Taisha Shrine, the origin of Suwa Shrine, is located.

The shrine pavilion seen from the front.

Features of the shrine pavilions

The shrine pavilions of Suwa Shrine have various attractive features.

The first is an architectural style that cannot be seen in other shrines. Usually, the main hall and the hall of offerings in a shrine are connected by a long, large roof and floor on one side. At Suwa Shrine, however, the floor is broken off, and only the roof is connected to the building in a complex way.

The shrine pavilion seen from the side

The second is the powerful and eccentric sculpture. The center of the shrine building features two large dragons carved into the pillars and beams, and their powerful and elaborate workmanship reveals the carpenter’s great skill. Other carvings include those of peonies, cherry blossoms, and other plants, as well as a father-and-son lion sculpture based on a Japanese anecdote.

Large dragon carvings on the pillars.

Sculpture of a father and son of lions in the form of an anecdote.

Historic Festivals

For two days in mid-October each year, the Suwa Shrine Autumn Festival is held, a historic and heroic festival that has been held since the 1830s and is well known to the townspeople.

During the festival, the town of Shimonita is divided into seven districts, and participants from each district parade through the town on beautifully designed floats, accompanied by the beautiful sound of flutes and powerful taiko drum performances. The highlight of the festival is the first day, when the seven districts come together in the precincts of Suwa Shrine to present a powerful spectacle. 

Seven floats in one place

Suwa Shrine (Shimonita, Gunma)
319 Shimonita, Kanra District, Gunma 370-2601
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