If you thought Enoshima Island had a monopoly on love shrines, you would be sorely mistaken! Just a few minutes up the road in Kawagoe is Hikawa Shrine, a famous Shinto Shrine near Little Edo. It brings in many visitors, and while its small size may not make it the most notable shrine, it certainly has a lot of heart in it.
The shrine grounds are somewhat small, but even when it is crowded, it’s very easy to maneuver. People visiting Little Edo will walk or bus over in their yukata, strolling the grounds in traditional garb. I first went one summer day to check out the furin. There is a panoply of traditional shrine activities: You can engage in fortune telling, hang up charms with prayers for auspicious futures, buy some souvenirs, and stroll about the tranquil gardens. The line to pray is often very long, as many people come to get more luck in love. There was easily a minimum of 20 people waiting in line at all times to pray when I visited.
Red String of Fate
One important aspect of culture for this shrine is the idea of the Red String of Fate. Legend has it that everyone has a special vein that runs from the heart and through the pinky finger. This vein leaves the body and, invisibly, is connected with the vein of another. The vein is red, thin, and long, hence the image of a red string. The temple and the shops around have many different trinkets, ads, and pamphlets that capitalize on the legend. Seeing as it is a famous love shrine, it seems fitting that they would incorporate the legend into their presentation.
Ema (Wooden Plaques)
Another big Shinto tradition, on full display here as a beautiful tunnel, is the Ema, or “horse picture.” Long ago, Japanese people would donate horses to shrines for good fortune. Now, shrines sell wooden blocks for people to write wishes on and hang in designated areas around the shrine grounds in lieu of receiving horses. There can be specialized Ema that help bring about specific fortunes, and at Hikawa Shrine, love is the name of the game! I’m not particularly hurting in the realm of love, so I haven’t felt the need to buy one, but I would like to give it a go one day!
It’s nice to have such a lovely shrine so close to home. It’s definitely worth a stop if you find yourself in Kawagoe!