Main gate at Oyama Shrine, Kanazawa © touristinajapan.com.
Chubu, Kanazawa, Temples and Shrines

Oyama Shrine, Kanazawa

Oyama Shrine (Oyama-jinja) is a unique shinto shrine, located in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture. The shrine, which is dedicated to Maeda Toshiie, is especially known for it’s unusual, Dutch architecture which was added in the late 1800’s.

Accommodation Kanazawa Tours Hokuriku Arch Train Pass 

In 1599, the shrine was established on Mt. Utatsu under the name “Utatsu Hachiman-gu“. It enshrines lord Maeda Toshiie who passed away the same year. Toshiie, of the Maeda family, was the first lord of the Kaga domain. He laid the foundation for what would become the Maeda clan, a very powerful samurai clan, who ruled the Hokuriku region for centuries.

In 1873, after the Meiji Restoration, the shrine was relocated from Mt. Utatsu to Kanazawa city, on a piece of land where the Maeda family had a villa. The shrine was renamed to Oyama-jinja, and is now located right next to Kanazawa Castle Park. The current day location is symbolic, as Maeda Toshiie himself ordered the construction of the fortified Kanazawa Castle.

The “Dutch” main gate

The prominent main gate, which used to be part of Kanazawa Castle, was added in 1875. It is an odd and unusual sight in Japan, with it’s mixed European and Asian architecture. The gate consists of three floors; the bottom floor is a heavy stone base with three arches. The second levels resemble a mix of a pagoda and a european clock tower. The upper level has a dutch stained-glass window at the top.

While the dutch glass and architecture seems unusual, it is a clear indicator of the time when it was built. The construction found place few years after the Meiji restoration when Japan opened up to the rest of the world. The dutch had a strong presence in Japan, and many important buildings from that time period have clear influences from the “strange” world outside Japan.

Legend has it that the top of the gate was once used as a lighthouse.

All photos above © touristinajapan.com.

The garden

Oyama shrine has a beautiful and some-what modern-style, Japanese strolling garden. The garden was designed for the villa that used to be where the shrine is today, and so dates back to the edo-period. Today, modern elements have been added, like some unusual zig-zag board walks across the ponds and several modern statues – including a golden statue of Toshiee Maeda’s war helmet.

It is said that the gardens designer, Kobori Enshu, laid out the ponds to resemble musical instruments. One pond for instance is supposed to resemble a “biwa”, a japanese string instrument. The same instrument which supposedly lends it’s name to the famous Lake Biwa near Kyoto.

The shrine and it’s garden are located near Gyokusen’inmaru Garden and Kenroku-en Garden – two beautiful gardens which can easily be visited while you are in the area.

All photos above © touristinajapan.com.

Getting there

Oyama shrine can easily be reached by foot when visiting Kenroku-en, Kanazawa Castle Park and Gyokusen’inmaru Garden.

Loop bus: the loop bus which runs around Kanazawa stops near Oyama Shrine and Gyokusen’inmaru garden. Both the right loop and left loop can be taken. The stops are respectively RL13 (Korinbo) and LL3 (Korinbo). One-way fare: ¥200. A day pass costs ¥500. 
Official Bus website: hokutetsu.co.jp

Shuttle bus: a dedicated shuttle bus departs from Kanazawa Station. Get off at stop S3 (Korinbo) or S10 (Korinbo) depending on the direction you arrive from. One-way fare: ¥200 on weekdays, ¥100 on weekends and holidays.
Official Bus website: hokutetsu.co.jp

JR Bus: if you have a JR Pass, then you can take advantage of the JR Bus which runs through Kanazawa. It is free for holders of the Japan Rail Pass. The Korinbo Line, which departs from Kanazawa Station, stops near Oyama shrine and Gyokusen’inmaru garden. Get off at stop 4 (Korinbo) when departing from Kanazawa Station.
Nishinihon JR Bus website: nishinihonjrbus.co.jp


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