June is marking the rainy season in Japan which usually is taking place around June in Japan’s Kanto region. Tsuyu (梅雨) as it is called in Japanese, is mostly lasting about three-four weeks, bringing quite unstable weather. Not that it is raining all day, but some days are filled with light rain, some have sudden rain showers and it is changing very sudden, so that you can’t really trust the weather forecast.
Next to umbrellas there are two things popping up during the rainy season in Japan: hydrangea and teruteru bozu. While I really love to see the first ones, I won’t write about the beautiful hydrangea in this article. I want to tell you more about the small rain dolls and the Weather Shrine in Tokyo where you can find a lot of them.
I got to know the Koenji Hikawa Shrine (高円寺氷川神社), because of the pretty goshuin (seal stamps) they have with changing themes every month. Not knowing back then, that it actually consists of two shrines in one place. I visited that place twice so far, in February and May 2021. It is located just a few minutes walk from Koenji Station in Tokyo’s Suginami Ward and very easy to access when you are in this area. From Shinjuku station it takes less than 10 minutes with the JR Chuo line.
Koenji Hikawa Shrine itself was founded in the late 12th century. The main building burned down in World War II. The current building dates back to 1974 when it was finally reconstructed. The shrine office is located in a building right next to the shrine.
The Weather Shrine
Kisho Shrine (気象神社), also referred as Weather Shrine, is worshipping the God of Weather and is the only one of this kind in Japan. It is located on the left side next to Koenji Hikawa Shrine and is small compared to the main building. It’s history goes back to World War II, when the weather department of the Japanese Army was located in north Koenji. In those days, strategy was developed on the basis of weather condition and the shrine was first located inside the department itself. After the war, in September 1948, the shrine was transferred to Hikawa Shrine and has no special meaning for military anymore. Usually ordinary people go there to wish for good weahter for their special events, travel plans and more.
Next to the themed goshuin you can find many other things that are interesting at the Weather Shrine. Probably one of the first things you will see are the many colorful teruteru bozu (てるてる坊主) hanging on boards and trees on the way to the small shrine building. The tradition behind these little dolls supposedly was started by Japanese farmers who began hanging them outside of windows to wish for good weather. The name comes from the Japanese words “teru” which describes sunshine and “bozu” is a Buddhist monk. So it is literally a “shine shine monk“.
At Kisho Shrine you can get the teruteru bozu as omamori (luck amulets) and take them with you. They also have Hare Omamori, hopefully bringing you sunshine. Or you can try omikuji which is like an furtune oracle, however, here they have eight different colored teruteru bozu dolls. The eight colors go back to the eight phenomenons of weather. You can draw a face on it or write your wish, and you can decide if you either want to take it with you or dedicate it to the shrine.
Next to the teruteru bozu there is another object related to weather: geta shoes! Did you know that in the past these traditional Japanese sandals were used to predict the weather of the next day by throwing them? Because of this, the wooden wish plates at Kisho Shrine are designed as geta. On the geta ema (下駄絵馬) you can write your wish and hang it to the designated area.
The Weather Shrine recently became more popular through the anime movie “Weathering with you” (天気の子). I never watched it, so I didn’t know there is a connection to it. But I now read that the geta ema appear in the anime and the main characters visit a weather shrine. So if you are into that anime, you also should put the Weather Shrine in Koenji on your bucketlist.
I enjoyed my visit to the two shrines and will probably be back from time to time for the special goshuin. Also Koenji has a lot of more nice places to explore, for example nice cafés and a lot of thrift stores with second hand and vintage clothing. So check out this area of Tokyo!
166-0003 Tokyo-to, Suginami-ku, Koenji Minami 4-44-19
|Closest stations:||JR Koenji Station|
|Opening hours:||The office is usually open between 9:00 to 17:00 (might change by season). It is possible to enter the shrine site from the early morning.|
|Addmission:||No addmission fee for the shrine grounds|
|Official website:||Koenji Hikawa Shrine | Kisho Shrine|