Sakuragi Shrine, founded in 851 by a member of the Fujiwara clan, is the oldest in Noda City. The shrine is well known for its gardens with cherry trees that bloom late and early, and for its many winter flowering cherry trees. Any time you visit, you are likely to see the blossoms.
Recently, on the shrine grounds, archaeologists discovered artifacts that indicate that the site was a prehistoric burial mound for some important person or people. Local people have supported the shrine since its founding over 1000 years ago. Today, it is a lively place that hosts Shichi-Go-San coming of age celebrations, weddings, and blessings of people, businesses, and vehicles.
Visitors can purchase omamori, amulets for household and vehicle safety, and good relations. Visitors can also receive goshuin, calligraphic blessings in books that the shrine provides (or visitors can bring their own), and write wishes on cherry blossom-shaped votive tablets called ema.
Enshrined in the sanctuary are four Shinto deities. Izanami and Izanagi are the father and mother of all the gods, and their story is recorded in ancient records in Japan, along with Takemigaichi, the god of thunder. Perhaps the most significant for Sakuragi Shrine is Uka no Mitama. This god protects the rice in storehouses.
According to the shrine’s priests, the word for cherry blossoms, sakura, has two components. The first part, 「サ」sa, relates to sanae, the rice seedling, and saotome, a female rice planter. The second part, 「クラ」kura, is the abode of the rice god. Together, the two words are the name of the tree that is the abode of the rice god.
Bring a camera to capture the beauty of the garden, the many smaller hallowed places on the grounds, and the peaceful atmosphere. To the left of the gate, freshen up at the toilets which also contain a small altar, perhaps the holiest toilet you will ever see.
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You will see many of my stories on Japan Travel are about places and events outside of big city centers and tourist destinations. While I highly recommend the big name sights and experiences, I encourage visitors to see and feel the atmosphere off the beaten path, too.