The Kashima Jingu Shrine in Kashima City, Ibaraki is the head shrine of some 600 Kashima Jinja shrines across Japan. The shrine has a long history, dating back to the start of the Imperial era when Emperor Jinmu ascended to the throne in 660 BC. The enshrined deity, Takemikazuchi no Okami, is a god of war who appears in myths on giving away control of the land. Kashima Shrine, along with Katori Jingu Shrine in Katori City, Chiba, and Ikisu Jinja Shrine in Ikisu City, Ibaraki, are collectively known as the Three Shrines of Kanto. In the Edo Period, pilgrimages of these three shrines were second only to the pilgrimage to Ise Shrine in popularity, and even now the shrine is a spiritual hot spot.
Kashima Shrine has long been worshipped by the Imperial Household and military commanders as a shrine deifying Japan’s founding and the god of martial arts. The main shrine was dedicated by Hidetada, the second shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate, the rear shrine by Tokugawa Ieyasu, and the tower gate - one of the three most famous tower gates in Japan - by Tokugawa Yorifusa, the first head of the Mito Tokugawa family. One of the four torii gates surrounding the shrine - Nishi no Ichi no Torii - is one of the largest water torii gates in Japan. Standing 18.5 meters tall, and 22.5 meters wide, the sight of this massive torii gate rising out of the Kitaura lakeside is truly something to behold.
The prestigious Kashima Shrine holds up to 90 festivals over the course of the year, which brings flocks of people, as well as other martial arts events and local events held year-round. The biggest event is the Mifune Festival, which is only held once every 12 years in the Year of the Horse. Said to be one of the largest and magnificent water festivals in Japan, the sight of massive lines forming of some 3,000 people, and a convoy of 120 boats hoisting portable shrines enshrining the spirits of enshrined deities is something that beggars belief.