Suwa Shrine has a long and complicated past. It began in 1614, the same year as Tokugawa's edict against Christianity. The shrine was formed as a way to unite the community against the growing population of Christian-converted Japanese in the area, which outnumbered the Shinto and Buddhist population. Many local Christians took to destroying the shrine's progress until a priest, Aoki Kensei, came to Nagasaki in 1624 and put a halt to interference. The shrine was later used as a census location in 1634 and required Christians to register and renounce their faith or face extreme penalties and in severe cases, death.
As the shrine grew, it became a place for many festivals and Noh performances in order to impress foreign traders visiting from Nagasaki Port. These Noh performances continued until a fire burned down the stage and Noh masks and props in 1856. On August 9th, 1945, during the Nagasaki bombing many nearby buildings, churches, and cathedrals were destroyed by the Nagasaki bombing. However, Suwa Shrine still stood. Locals said this was a testament to the strength of the Japanese kami as opposed to the imported Christian faith. The shrine and its priests played a major role in Nagasaki's restoration and subsequent healing.
Today, the shrine plays host to many annual festivals, among the most famous is the atomic bomb commemorative service. Every August 9th, this unique service combines elements of Buddhism, Shintoism, and Christianity in order to pray for the tens of thousands of lives lost to the bombing. Kunchi, is the other famous Suwa Shrine event, it demonstrated the importance of the shrine to the local community and also remembers the hunt against Christians. Interestingly, Suwa Shrine was also the first shrine in Japan to offer fortune papers (omikuji) in English.
Visitors to the shrine will enjoy the serene atmosphere of the surrounding lush green forest after the hike up 277 stairs leading up to the shrine itself.
Ride the streetcar to Suwa Jinja and climb the 277 steps to the shrine.
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