Mitsumine Shrine, Mt. Mitsumine

Worshipping Japanese wolves at the Shrine of the Three Peaks

By Rey Waters    - 3 min read

Since 2009 I have visited literally hundreds of shrines throughout Japan. They tell more than just a spiritual story, but also history, beauty, craftsmanship, and lots of folklore. Just about the time I think I have seen them all, another unique one pops up on the radar.

During our recent trip to Chichibu in Saitama Prefecture we decided to visit Mitsumine Shrine. This is a mountain worship shrine focusing on the extinct Japanese Wolf (Ookami).

We were interested since Miwa and I had adopted a wolf named Mewook at Wolf Haven back in Washington State.

Probably the most popular wolf worship shrine in Japan is Mitsumine. It was founded over 1900 years ago by Prince Yamato Takeru. He was a famous unifier of Japan. The legend says one day he became lost in the mountains and was met by a white wolf who guided him back down to safety. His father Emperor Keikoo retraced his son`s steps up the mountain and was in awe of the view and named Mitsumine the 'Shrine of the Three Peaks'.

Another reason the wolf became a deity was that it was considered a protector of crops by eating the small animals who were constantly destroying the farmers' fields, especially the rice fields.

Today the wolf is considered a protector from misfortune. As you begin your climb up the mountain there is a unique triple tori gate with wolf statues on each side. Continuing on and follow the arrows which will lead you to Zuishinmon Gate - beautiful wooden entranceway to the main shrine. I especially like the carving of the Japanese Red Crown Crane.

After visiting the main shrine be sure to further explore the grounds. There are sub-shrines, a statue of Yamato Takeru, and a beautiful view of the mountains from Youhaiden. On the way back down, stop at one of the restaurants for some soba and walnut dipping sauce. As you continue on down the mountain there is an information center with a small museum showing animals from this area.

After that, we took the 75-minute bus ride back at Seibu-Chichibu station. We boarded a train to Kamo-Nagatoro and hiked along the Arakawa River to Nagatoro Station.

We visited this area back in the fall of 2018. See the article: https://en.japantravel.com/article/welcome-to-nagatoro/52955

Saitama Prefecture has a lot of scenic attractions, so make sure you include it in your travel itinerary.

If not going by car, take the bus from Seibu-Chichibu Station to Mitsumine Shrine.

Getting there

From Ikebukuro Station use the Seibu Line Express to Seibu-Chichibu Station, which will take approximately 90 minutes.

At Seibu-Chichibu Station board a bus to Mitsumine-jinja, It takes about 75 minutes and cost 950 yen.

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Rey Waters

Rey Waters @rey.waters

Born in the U.S.A. - Worked 30 years in executive management high tech Industry, owned a management consulting firm and a wildlife art publishing company.  In 2012 completed the Ultimate Travel Writer’s course and published my first article Tower Hopping in Japan with Travel Post Monthly.  Since then I have published travel related articles and books in the U.S., Japan, and Costa Rica. As of 2018 I have traveled all 8 regions in Japan.   My objective in writing articles is to expose prospective tourists to areas of Japan outside the Tokyo - Kyoto corridor.   I enjoy writing about the outdoors, festivals, crafts, museums, local food, history, and the wonderful people I have met along the way. Residing in Yokohama for over eight years, I have explored the entire city by foot and have written about my experiences.   There is so much to see in Japan.

Join the discussion

Sleiman Azizi 3 weeks ago
I'm pretty sure there is a wolf shrine in Tokyo... I'll have to have another look to confirm that though.
Alena Eckelmann 4 weeks ago
Very interesting, Rey. This is a story that I have been interested in for a long time. Did you know that the last wolf in Japan was apparently captured and killed on the Kii Peninsula in 1905. This happened in Higashi-Yoshino in Nara Prefecture. Wolves are now considered extinct in Japan. Two great academic studies were compiled about this: how the wolf got from being venerated as a deity to being killed as a pest and danger. These studies are published in English in book format: Waiting for Wolves in Japan by John Knight, and The Lost Wolves of Japan, by Brett L. Walker. I have read both books. A lot of background for someone interested in the story of wolves in Japan.
Rey Waters Author 4 weeks ago
Thanks Alena, I will look into both books. Did you know there is an International Wolf Center here in Japan that has acquired wolves from North America to reintroduce into Japan, and there is a Japan Wolf Association. http://english.japan-wolf.org
Kim 4 weeks ago
Stunning shrine grounds!
Elena Lisina 4 weeks ago
This is very interesting jinja, thanks for sharing! The architecture reminds Nikko style, and the views are wonderful!
Justin Velgus a month ago
What a great find and interesting story. The shrine grounds are beautiful.