Atsuta Jingu or Atsuta Shrine is one of the most important Shinto shrines in Japan. The number one shrine is the famous Ise Jingu which is also not too far from Nagoya and can be easily reached as a day trip from Nagoya.
What is Shinto?
Shinto is a religion only found in Japan and you can only be a member of the faith if you are Japanese, it is not possible for foreigners to convert to Shintoism. But this shouldn’t keep you from visiting the many beautiful shrines all over the country and even make a wish there by praying to the different gods of Shinto.
The followers of Shintoism believe that there is a god in everything, in every object of nature such as mountains and trees but also the sun, moon, thunder and so on. Shinto shrines are often dedicated to one deity but they can enshrine multiple gods at once.
The most sacred goddess in the Shinto believe is Amaterasu the sun goddess who is enshrined at Ise Jingu.
The Sacred Sword Kusanagi no Tsurugi
Atsuta Jingu, in turn, was built to house and protect the sword Kusanagi no Tsurugi. Legend has it that Amaterasu gave the sword to the emperor of Japan and from it gained the right to rule. The sword is the most important of the Three Sacred Treasures of Japan.
When you visit Atsuta Jingu in the south of Nagoya you, unfortunately, cannot see the sword, it hasn’t been displayed to the public in a very long time. Still, Atsuta Jingu is a very spiritual and serene place to visit and a beautiful example of a Japanese Shinto shrine.
In this post, I will cover all you need to know about Atsuta shrine to make your visit more interesting and easy.
The History of Atsuta Jingu
Atsuta Jingu is said to be almost 2000 years old. The story goes that in the 43rd year of Emperor Keiko’s reign (113 AD) Yamato Takeru, the prince, died and his possessions together with the word Kusanagi were put in a shrine at the home of his widow. In the 51st year of Keiko’s reign, these relics were moved to the current location of the Atsuta shrine.
This story of the founding of the shrine was recorded in the first two history books known in Japan today the Kojiki and Nihonshoki written respectively in 712 and 720 AD.
When you first arrive at Atsuta Jingu it is customary to wash your hands and mouth in the basin provided at the entrance gate. You can simply fill a ladle with water and first wash one and then the other hand, just be careful not to let any water flow back into the basin. If you want to do it right, and not many Japanese do nowadays, here is how to properly purify your body before entering a shrine:
1. Fill your ladle with water. You will want to use only this one scoop for the whole ritual so use it sparingly.
2. Take the ladle in your right hand and pour a small amount over your left hand.
3. Switch hands and pour some water over your right hand.
4. With the dipper in your right hand pour some water into your cupped hand and transfer it to your mouth to rinse it. Do not drink directly from the dipper and do not swallow the water. Spit it beside the purification basin.
5. Once again pour some water over your left hand to cleanse it.
6. Lastly, turn the dipper upright so that the remaining water rinses the handle. Empty the dipper completely and return it to its place.
The Most Sacred Place at Atsuta Shrine
Atsuta Jingu includes a little pilgrimage path leading through the forest and passing different sacred places along the way. You can stop and make a wish at each one by throwing a coin in the donation box, putting your hands together in prayer, closing your eyes and bowing your head respectfully while making your wish to the kami (a Shinto god).
The path leading through the forest is the holiest place at Atsuta Jingu and the sign at the entrance asks you to be silent and respectful.
At the end of the trail, you will naturally arrive at the main shrine building. Make your most important wish here. Let me explain to you how to do it right.
How to Make a Wish
Everything in Japan has traditions, rules, and rituals to follow and so it is no wonder that a shrine visit would be the same. To make a wish at a shrine follow the steps below:
1. Bow slightly with your legs straight your hands along your body on either side just bending your upper body in a straight line.
2. Toss your offering in the form of a coin in the box in front of you.
3. If there is a bell ring it to awaken the god.
4. Bow deeply twice.
5. Clap your hands twice.
6. Keep your hands together in prayer and make your wish. Don’t forget to thank the god as well.
7. Bow once more when you are done.
Omikuji and Omamori
To the right side of the main shrine, you will find a building selling different things. The main items of interest to foreigners are Omikuji and Omamori.
Omikuji Fortune Telling
An Omikuji is a sheet of paper which tells your fortune. At Atsuta shrine you pay 200 yen (2 US dollars) then you draw your personal Omikuji which will tell you whether you will be lucky or unlucky in the future.
If you are happy with your result you can keep your Omikuji, for example in your wallet. If your fortune is bad you have to bind the Omikuji on a rope provided to prevent the bad luck from actually happening. You can also bind your good fortune Omikuji if you don’t want to keep it with you.
Unfortunately, the Omikuji are in Japanese only, so you will need someone to tell you what exactly it says.
An Omamori, on the other hand, is a little amulet or talisman which you put on your phone, wallet or bag to bring good fortune. They usually have a purpose, some being for success in school, some for health, some for finding a significant other, some for wealth and so on. At many temples and shrines, the descriptions are in Japanese as well as in English which makes it easy to find the right on.
Unfortunately, at Atsuta Jingu there are only the Japanese characters to help you choose your Omamori. It’s probably best to ask a Japanese person for help if you want to buy an Omamori.
Where to Eat at Atsuta Jingu
After a stroll around the shrine, it is a great time to sit down and have some delicious lunch. There are two restaurants at Atsuta Jingu which I suggest you check out.
One is a very famous Hitsumabushi restaurant called Horaiken the other an equally famous but much cheaper Kishimen noodle restaurant called Miya Kishimen right in the center of the shrine grounds.
Houraiken is a restaurant with a long tradition which is widely popular with the locals. The restaurant has multiple branches all over Nagoya and they all command long lines during lunch and dinner times.
Hitsumabushi is not a cheap dish but in my opinion, the best food in the world and I highly recommend you try Hitsumabushi once during your visit to Nagoya. If you want to find out more about Hitsumabushi and where else to eat it read this post.
Hitsumabushi is actually one of the dishes we always try during our organized food tours in Nagoya. If you want to try Hitsumabushi, as well as 7 other foods and snacks from Nagoya, consider participating in a Nagoya Meshi Food Tour.
HITSUMABUSHI HORAIKEN JINGU SHOP
Opening Hours: 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. closed monday and tuesday
Address: Jingu 2-10-26 , Atsuta Ward, Nagoya 456-0031
At Miya Kishimen you can choose from different Kishimen noodle dishes, there are hot and cold options. You order at the counter and to help you make a decision there are pictures on the menu. Each dish costs about 1000 yen (10 US dollars). I suggest you try the cold Tenoroshi Kishimen if you visit in summer. They were delicious! Read the full review about Miya Kishimen in Nagoya here.
If you want to find out more about the delicious Nagoya dishes check out the Nagoya Food Guide.
MIYA KISHIMENT – JINGU RESTAURANT
Opening Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Address: Jingu 1-1-1, Atsuta Ward, Nagoya 456-8585
How to Get to Atsuta Shrine
Atsuta Shrine is served by 4 different train stations. If you are coming from Nagoya Station take the Meitetsu line to Jingu-Mae Station (230 yen) or the Tokaido line to Atsuta Station (190 yen). From there it is a short walk, just follow the signs from the station.
Final Thoughts about the Atsuta Jingu
Atsuta shrine is a very serene and spiritual place right in the heart of a bustling city. It is a great escape from the hectic and noises and should be one of the things to do in Nagoya for every traveler.
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For more information about Nagoya, in general, read the Nagoya Travel Guide. If you want to find out what else you can do in Nagoya you can either read a one day Nagoya itinerary or check out details about the different Nagoya activities.
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In love with Japan and its amazing food, Lena wants to share her passion with the world. That’s why she started Nagoya Foodie. To teach about Nagoya, her adoptive home online through blog posts and offline through unique food tours.