Iwashimizu Hachimangu: Biggest Hachimangu Shrine in Kansai

If you are familiar with Japanese shrines, you probably have heard the word “Hachiman” somewhere. The god Hachiman is one of the most popular gods in Japan. Commonly seen as the protector of Japan and the god of war, Hachiman is the combination of Emperor Ojin, his mother Empress Jingu, and the goddess Hime-gami. While there are literally thousands of “Hachiman” shrines all over Japan, one of the the largest Hachiman shrines is Kansai ‘s own Iwashimizu Hachimangu [石清水八幡宮]. Just around an hour from Osaka, this shrine is very popular among the people of Kansai, but is oddly not well-known among foreign tourists. 

 

The History of Iwashimizu Hachimangu

During the mid-9th century, the monk Gyokyo, in Usa Jingu (the largest Hachiman-gu shrine in Japan) received an oracle from Hachiman. The voice told Gyokyo that Hachiman wished to go to Mt. Otoko in order to protect Kyoto. Shortly after this, construction of Iwashimizu Hachimangu began. The shrine was completed in 859 and has guarded over Kyoto since. Iwashimizu is one of the three big Hachiman shrines in Japan and many emperors came to this shrine to pray for victory, especially during war-time.

Iwashimizu Hachimangu's iconic red architecture
Iwashimizu Hachimangu, haiden.

The messengers of Hachiman are pigeons though it is not entirely clear why. Some people say the white pigeon guided the Hachiman gods from Usa to Iwashimizu. In any case, you can find pigeons throughout the shrine grounds and believe it or not, the emblem of the Keihan Line is shaped like a pigeon because of Iwashimizu Hachimangu.  

shrine charm of a white pigeon from Iwashimizu Hachimangu
Iwashimizu omamori
bright white bird shaped logo of the keihan railway in Japan
a striking similarity.

 

Getting to Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine

The closest station to Iwashimizu Hachimangu is the Yawata-shi Station of Keihan’s main line.

From Osaka:

Take the Limited Express to Kuzuha and it will take your straight there.

From Kyoto:

Take the Limited Express to Chushojima. Then, change to the local line for Yawata-shi Station. Be careful, only the local or semi-express stop at Yawata-shi Station.  

Iwashimizu Hachimangu is located on the top of the Mt. Otoko. To get to the mountain from Yawatashi Station, we encourage you to take the cable car. It is only 200 yen to the top of the mountain and it leaves Yawata-shi Station every 15 minutes. If you really want to walk, there is a trail and it takes 30 minutes to walk up the mountain.  

 

Shrine Grounds

Because Iwashimizu Hachimagu is on the top of a mountain, at the foot of the mountain is an Otabisho [御旅所], or temporary shrine. When festivals take place in Iwashimizu Hachimangu, the gods come down from the top of the mountain to the Otabisho. Be careful this is not the main shrine! 

large dirt courtyard of japanese shinto shrine
Otabosho

 

Walking to Iwashimizu Hachimangu

The path to the Iwashimizu Hachimangu is right next to the Korasha. Don’t worry Mt. Otoko is only 140m high and it takes only 30 minutes to the top of the mountain.

path between stone torii and guardians surrounded behind trees
Path up the mountain
stone path up otokoyama between green forest
path

Along the path you will find a spring called “iwashimizu” which is the namesake of the shrine.

bright orange shinto shrine on top a a flight of stone steps surrounded by forests
Shrine for iwashimizu well
fresh water iwashimizu well and traditional style red and gold japanese style roof with stone pillars
Well

After this, you will see the large south gate.

roof covered red gate of Japanese shrine
South Gate

The gate does not directly face to the honden, so you can go back without turning your back on the Hachiman gods.

stone path on a fall day lined with Japanese stone lanterns
Path to haiden

Iwashimizu Hachimangu Honden

Iconic red Iwashimizu Hachimangu during shichi-go-san festival
There were many people because it was Shichi-Go-San.

The Iwashimizu’s honden (1634) is registered as a Japanese national treasure. The honden a rare example of a style known as Hachiman-zukuri. Hachiman-zukuri is very unique because the honden consists of two separate buildings, the Gaiden [外殿] and Naiden [内殿]. The roofs that cover these buildings connect in an iconic “M” shape. It is said that the gods stay in the Gaiden in the morning and then go to the Naiden at night.   

blue and gold carving of a kirin, a Japanese mythical creature, on the side of a shinto shrine
Carving of kirin near the honden

The honden has many beautiful carvings whose themes ranges from animals to flowers. If you’d like to see them join one of the shrine’s guided tours. Unfortunately, since you are so close to the honden, taking pictures is prohibited

Tours

The tours go from 11:00 to 2:00pm and cost 1,000 yen. The guided tour includes:

  • Fully guided tour by a priest
  • Up close view of golden gutter donated by Nobunaga
  • Receiving purification directly in front of Naiden
  • Souvenir pigeon strap

 

Points of Interest

Wakamiya Shrine and Wakamiya Dono-sha

These two shrines located just behind the outside of the honden are famous protection shrines. Wakamiya is a protection shrine for men and  enshrines the sons of emperors Ojin and Nintoku. Next to it is Wakamiya Dono-sha, which enshrines the daughter of emperor Ojin, who extends protection for women.

large wooden shinto shrine covered in yellow strips of fabric
Wakamiya Shrine

Edison Memorial

Interestingly, there is a gigantic memorial for Thomas Edison near the parking lot of Iwashimizu. Why Edison? Actually, when Edison was inventing the light bulb, he realized that the bamboo from Otoko-yama was the most suitable for the filament of his light bulbs.

large black memorial to Thomas Edison surrounded by bamboo
Edison Memorial

Hashiri Mochi [走井餅]

One of the foods you should definitely try at Iwashimizu Hachimangu is hashirii mochi.

white oblong shaped japanese rice cakes filled with red bean paste on paper and a brown dish
hashirii mochi

Though Iwashimizu may not be a big tourist spot, this mochi is very popular food with visitors. You can eat this mochi at the stall near the Edison monument, or at the restaurant next to the Otoboshi. Be sure to stop by either before or after your visit the shrine!

old fashioned Japanese restaurant with dark wood fixtures and large cloth sign
Restaurant at base of mountain

Iwashimizu Hachimangu

Address 30 Yawatatakabo, Yawata, Kyoto Prefecture, 
〒614-8005
Website http://www.iwashimizu.or.jp/
Hours of Operation Opened Mon-Sun. Hours vary by season
April to September: 5:30–18:30
October: 6:00–18:00
November to March: 6:30–18:00
Admission/ Tour Fees Shrine Admission: Free

Guided Tour of the honden: 1,000 yen

Visiting Iwashimizu is a full day, but its very much worth the time and energy. The forests on the mountain are very refreshing and of course, the shrine itself is very unique. Best of all, since its not located in the heart of Kyoto, it is typically not very crowded. Take plenty of time to explore and bring a lunch with you.

Coming next time,
Fine Dining at Sakaisuji Club

The adventure continues…

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