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Michelin Star Hodosan Shrine

Hodosan Jinja in Nagatoro, Chichibu, Saitama

Hodosan Shrine is located at the foot of Mt Hodo in the Nagatoro area of Chichibu. It is famed for both its history and its beauty. The shrine has rare intricately detailed carvings on its transom. They were awarded one star by the Michelin Green Guide. The carvings depict twenty-four Confucian parables.

The shrine is popular all year round, attracting more than a million visitors a year. However, it is particularly busy during the New Year's period when thousands of people come to pay the first homage of the year. The shrine is dedicated to the first Emperor of Japan as well as the fire and mountain deities. Legend has it that the shrine was founded in 110 A.D by the Japanese prince Yamato-takeru-no-Mikoto. The current buildings were constructed during the Meiji period (1868 – 1912).

The shrine also has a rear shrine at the top of Mt Hodo. Many people hike to the top of the mountain after paying homage at the base shrine to consolidate their prayers. You can also use a ropeway to get to the top of the mountain. The rear shrine is quite basic, but it also has wolf komainu (guardian lion dogs) which the shrine is famous for. The komainu of most shrines are a type of lion dog. However, there are several shrines in the Chichibu with wolf komainu. The area is steeped in folklore of sacred wolves and wolf worship.

The shrine is one of my personal favorites. It is well worth a visit at anytime of the year. But if you want to absorb some traditional Japanese culture and enjoy a more festive atmosphere, I recommend early January, when the wintersweet are in bloom on the mountain. There is plenty to do in the area to make it a full day trip out of Tokyo.

Getting there

The Hodosan Shrine is within walking distance of the Nagatoro Station on the Chichibu Railway line. There is also a shuttle bus at busy periods during the year.

There is free parking in front of the shrine. However, at New Years and other busy periods it is very difficult to get a parking spot. There is another large car park nearby, beside the Hodosan Ropeway.

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