Located in Higashi-ku, Kashii-gu Shrine is one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan. According to legend, Empress Jingu had a shrine built in the year 200 in honor of her husband, Emperor Chuai, who died here. Several centuries later, the shrine was also dedicated to Empress Jingu and Emperor Ojin, the son of Emperor Chuai and Empress Jingu, and came to be known as Kashii-gu.
These three emperors are considered legendary since historians have been unable to verify whether or not they existed, but Kashii-gu still maintains close ties to the imperial court. Even now, the Emperor sends an imperial envoy to visit Kashii-gu once every 10 years, making it one of only 17 shrines in Japan where such visits are made. To date, Kashii-gu has welcomed 138 imperial envoys, and the next visit is scheduled for 2015. The approach to the shrine, which is known as Imperial Envoy Road, is lined with 165 beautiful camphor trees, one from each of the 165 past and present municipalities in the prefecture.
The main hall was built using Kashii-zukuri, a unique architectural style that can only be found at Kashii-gu Shrine. The current shrine dates back to 1801, when Nagayori Kuroda (also known as Narikyo Kuroda), the 10th lord of Chikuzen Province, commissioned its reconstruction. (The original was supposedly much larger.) The spacious grounds are home to the Ayasugi, a massive Japanese cedar that is said to have been planted by Empress Jingu herself, as well as an exquisite romon, or tower gate. There is also a water iris pond, which blooms during the rainy season, and an iris festival is held on the second weekend of every June.
There are several subordinate shrines on the premises of Kashii-gu, one of which is dedicated to Takenouchi no Sukune, a legendary hero who supposedly lived for nearly 300 years and served five imperial courts. The secret to his longevity was a nearby well of eternal youth. Visitors can still drink from the same well, a five-minute walk from the shrine, in hopes of fending off old age. It has also been selected as one of the top 100 renowned water sources in Japan.
The next time you’re in Higashi-ku, be sure to stop by Kashii-gu Shrine.
Originally published by Fukuoka Now Magazine (Jun. 2014)