Mitsumiya Shrine in Saitama prefecture
The Mitsumine Shrine sits high atop a snowy mountain near Chichibu, so far from any train station that you’ll be eligible for a senior citizen discount by the time you get off the bus. At first it looks like a typical Shinto shrine with fox messengers at the gate…
…but a closer look reveals the resident messengers-of-the-gods to be WEREWOLVES.
And how can you tell it’s a werewolf? Because it looks like a dog, but it NEVER skips abs day at the gym. Ever.
Unlike the shapeshifting Western versions who could use a good back hair waxing, the Japanese spirits that can take the form of men or wolves are known for choosing to either devour lost travelers or lead them safely home.
Everywhere at the shrine, there are dog guardians instead of the foxes we’d usually expect to see.
But the most mysterious thing about the Mitsumine Shrine is that despite its seriously off-the-beaten-path location, the ō-kami do not seem to lack for generous donor action.
Check out how beautifully these buildings are restored!
The paint is so bright and new, it almost doesn’t look Japanese.
And gold leaf this shiny attests to how diligently the shrine’s supporters make sure the residents gods (and werewolves!) are not displeased with the size of their donations.
And why are they so devoted to this obscure shrine on the top of a mountain?
Yes, this Werewolf Shrine is also situated in a renowned “power spot” (like the Fox Shrine To End All Fox Shrines in Kamakura) which is the home of a dragon spirit and associated with the element water. This combination is especially powerful in attracting business success, so it not only attracts boatloads of pilgrims with the spring thaw, it’s not lacking in corporate sponsors.
We’ll stop at the magnificent spring to purify our hands before paying our respects to the werewolves…
…and if the spring is frozen (as it often is, in winter) we can wave these wands made of cedar shavings over ourselves instead.
The ema prayer plaques at the Mitsumine Shrine are especially magnificent. Werewolves are believed to have the power to get people out of a tight spot, and they also specialize in curing loneliness.
Here’s where the Mitsumine Shrine is:
Here’s a more local map, showing where the nearest train station is:
Here’s how to get to the Mitsumine Shrine from Tokyo:
The easiest way is to drive (the Chichibu area is in Saitama prefecture, and it takes about two hours from metro Tokyo) but you can also take the train from Ikebukuro to Mitsumineguchi Station, then get on a bus from there to the Mitsumine Shrine. The bus ride is about 45 minutes each way. Here’s the bus schedule.
I used the Japan Navigation phone app to figure out this route, and you can easily use it too, with your actual date and preferred arrival time. It’s also good for finding the easiest way to get to Ueno Station from where you’re staying. Here’s where to get the app and how to use it.
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Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Japan, produces the monthly Japanagram newsletter, and blogs at Only In Japan and The Tokyo Guide I Wish I’d Had
2 thoughts on “Let’s go to the Werewolf Shrine!”
This is absolutely fascinating!
I am a member of several Facebook cryptid lists specializing in werewolves, also known as dogmen or upright canids, and the article has piqued their interest.
Excellent article. Thank you.
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It’s interesting how the werewolf idea sprang up all over the world! Japanese werewolves don’t have the malevolent reputation they have in most of the world—like the kami-sama, they are believed to be powerful beings that are not usually much concerned with humans at all, but can be enlisted to help when their attention is sufficiently attracted.
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