Located about 15-20 minutes away from the bustling Omiya Station in Saitama City lies the expansive Omiya Park. Located within the grounds is Hikawa Shrine (Hikawa-jinja or 氷川神社 in Japanese). This shrine was favored by the Meiji Emperor and therefore gained important status to become one of the most important shrines in Kanto, but is reported to have been founded in 473 BC, so it has quite a history.
The approach to Hikawa Shrine is along a tree-lined path that runs in the middle of a street through Omiya. You will pass under three large torii gates and, during celebrations like New Year's, between dozens of vendors selling everything from Chocolate Bananas to Okonomiyaki to Daruma Dolls. The spring brings the cherry blossoms as well, and is quite beautiful.
The first thing you see after passing over a small creek on a bridge is the large and imposing main gate. This is instantly noticeable due to its size and bright orange color. The trees partially obscure the whole thing until you are right there and you are first struck by the beauty of it. Therefore this is a popular place to take photos and many people will stop to do so.
Passing through the main gate you are greeted by a more subdued shrine than the main gate would suggest, but still keeping its own beauty. The central building you will notice is a stage-like structure flanked on either side by a large tree. Once past this, is the main building and place of worship. This building is typical of shrines that exist elsewhere in the county as it is constructed of wood that is coloured like the forest surrounding it and appears to blend in.
You can easily spend up to an hour here exploring or even getting a ticket to tour the inside.
It is best to avoid special days like New Year's as the crowds will be quite big but if you go a few days later, the crowds will have thinned out a lot but the experience will not.
Plus, you are free to spend a few more hours exploring the surrounding Omiya Park!