Serene waters have been purifying worshipers for centuries.
For the most part, Kashima Shrine looks like any of hundreds of other Japanese shrines. Yes, it boasts a long history, having been founded over 1,300 years ago, but the architecture of the present facility, with its wooden structures and curved roofs, is pretty typical for a place of Shinto worship.
However, if you make your way back past the rear shrine buildings, you’ll find a scene of ethereal beauty.
#一度は行ってみたい日本の絶景 こちらのお写真では「鹿島神宮」と言う場所にある 「御手洗池」と云う御池の様なのですが これは確かに行きたくなってしまう美しい光景ですねぇ(*´ `*) https://t.co/3CaqsQd1bH—
榛の字(しんのじ-Shin no Ji) (@ShimbaHome) February 19, 2017
Called the Mitarashi Ike, or “Holy Washing Pond,” this body of water is fed by an underground spring that bubbles up to the surface. Legend has it that long ago the spring burst forth in a single night, and through the years it has never run dry, even when the region was struck by droughts.
トラベルjp＜たびねす＞ (@travel_jp_guide) July 07, 2016
The layout of Kashima Shrine has changed since its founding, and originally the Mitarashi Ike was located at the end of the main walkway by which worshippers approached the shrine. Before entering, they would use the waters of the pond to cleanse their bodies and souls, in keeping with the purifying properties of water recognized in the Shinto faith.
御手洗池（鹿島神宮） 古来より神職及び参拝者の潔斎の池であり、水は美しく澄み絶えず滾々と流れ出る霊泉です。 #神社 #鹿嶋 #鹿島神宮 #東国三社 #御神水 http://t.co/AbRfshkXTZ—
イシ夕'' 匕〒''キ＠御朱印&山登り (@hideki27fc5) September 22, 2015
These days, visitors purify themselves at separate stations near the current main entrance to Kashima Shrine. That’s not to say no one uses the pond, though, as it serves as the habitat for the shrine’s school of beautiful koi.
辰巳の辻占 (@divinus_jp) January 19, 2015
霊泉の湧く清らかな泉・御手洗池…その名の通り昔はここで禊をして心身を清めてから参拝をしていたとの神池 神代に一夜にして湧水し干ばつでも決して涸れない #鹿島神宮 https://t.co/FtRfaK8Nfc—
DaiyaKing21【龍神∞自由人】 (@21daiya) August 02, 2016
The Mitarashi Ike does still serve in its former capacity of purifying human beings once a year, however. During the Kashima Shrine’s Daikan no Misogigyo ceremony, worshipers strip down to loincloths and wade into its waters to chant prayers together. Participants tend to be particularly devout, or at least courageous, as the ceremony takes place in early February, when Japan is stil in the grip of bitterly cold winter temperatures.
If you’re after a less invigoratingly immersive experience, though, you can gaze at the pond’s peaceful and mysterious waters on any other day of the year you choose.
Kashima Jingu / 鹿島神宮
Address: Ibaraki-ken, Kashima-shi, Kyuchu 2306-1