Creepy or Cute? The Dolls of Awashima Shrine

Near the border of Wakayama and Osaka Prefecture the famous Awashima Shrine. Why is it famous? For centuries, people from all over Japan have come to Awashima Shrine to pray for fertility, safe birth— and to donate their old dolls. The shrine is filled with thousands of dolls, some are even hundreds of years old!

Awashima Shrine

From Kada Station of Nankai Kada Line, it’s a 20-minute walk to the shrine. The shrine is very close to the port of the boats to Tomogashima Island. 

Nankai Kada Line is famous for its medetai train!
Awashima Shrine
Tomogashima island afar

According to legend, long ago Empress Jingu was journeying home from a war overseas. She got caught in a terrible storm and prayed to the gods for help. The gods answered by giving her a sign that she should drift with the current. She did as the gods instructed and thankfully arrived safely in Tomogashima.

Once she got to Tomogashima she found a small shrine for Onamuchi, (aka Okuninushi) and Sukunahikona and realized that these gods were responsible for her safe delivery. The empress thanked these two gods and helped build up the shrine, ultimately creating Awashima Shrine.

Right away, you will notice the collection of dolls around the shrine. 

so many tanuki
Ichimatsu dalls
Japanese dolls

Why have so many people donated their dolls to Awashima Shrine you ask? Since Shinto believes that inanimate objects can over time develop souls, they must be properly disposed of, so that their angry spirit doesn’t curse you. At Awashima Shrine, you can donate your doll after you no longer need it. The shrine will keep the doll for a time, before properly disposing of and hold a memorial service for the doll, called kuyo [供養]. This is why there are so many dolls in every nook and cranny of Awashima Shrine.

While officially none of the dolls are cursed, some people insist that the shrine is cursed. Awashima Shrine even owns a doll whose hair supposedly grows, but unfortunately, that doll is not on display. If anything, it is still kind of creepy to see all the dolls gathered together in one place.

Honden of Awashima Shrine

Awashima Shrine enshrines Sukunahikona, Oonamuchi and Empress Jingu.

Awashima Shrine

Awashima Shrine is a famous women’s health shrine. Around the Edo Period, many people believed one of the gods in Awashima Shrine was the wife of the Sumiyoshi Gods. Myth says she developed some gynecologic ailment she threw herself into the sea and drifted to Awashima Shrine. Once she arrived at Awashima Shrine, the goddess decided to stay and help women suffering from similar ailments.

Despite the popularity of this myth, today Awashima’s relation to women’s health is because they enshrine Sukunahikona, the god of medicine. At any rate, many women come here, specifically to pray for their health or fertility.



118 Kada, Wakayama, Wakayama Prefecture





Getting To

Kada Station is the closest station to Awashima Shrine of Nankai Kada Line.  From Kada Station, it’s a 20 minute walk to the shrine. Since the shrine is very close from the port of the boats to Tomogashima Island, many usually visit Awashima Shrine while waiting for the boat to Tomogashima.



Mon-Sun 9:00-17:00









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