Shrines in Japan are transforming their stone pools of water into gorgeous flower arrangements. These known as “hanachozu” are popular photo spot to catch the beauty of fresh flowers in a stunning arrangements using seasonal flowers. A small town in Saitama prefecture has turned their few hundred meter street into an array of these hanachozu placed on the entrance of each local shop and shrine. Take a look at this article to see what they offer.
The act of arranging flower heads in water basins (chozu) is called hanachouzu, combining the words for “flower(hana)” and “water basin (chozu)” together literally. The purpose for such a water basin is to purify your hands, which is a custom to cleanse your body and soul before you go in and offer your prayers to the gods. These “hanachozu” are still rare to find in shrines around Japan as many do it for seasonal events, but a small town in Saitama prefecture, Gyoda City has decided to hold “Gyoda Hanachozu Week” every 1st to 14th day of the month starting from October 2020. During the first 14 days every month, the street where Gyoda Hachiman Shrine is, will be filled with “hanachozu” on the entrance of local stores and few placed inside the shrine. These are all specially arranged by the local shop owners and each will be different.
The main venue for this “Gyoda Hanachozu Week” is Gyoda Hachiman shrine where it is famous for its “prayers”. A typical example of this prayer is "mushi-fuji" literally translated as "insect sealing", where children's crying and screaming without reason are calmed down by prayer. In Japan, there is an ancient expression, "A temper tantrum(kan-no-mushi) makes a noise".There is a theory that people in ancient times had many opportunities to see parasites, so they got worms, and expressed them as "mushi" where the term "mushi-fuji" was said to be made. In addition, the shrine's prayer is famous for protection against cancer, various diseases and other incurable diseases, and vices.
Gyoda Hachiman Shrine
"Suikinkutsu (water koto cave)"a type of Japanese garden ornament that creates a musical splashing sound placed inside the shrine
Hanachozu at the entrance of the shrine (flowers will change depending on the month)
The town where this Gyoda Hanachozu Week is held was once called the “Carpenter’s Town”. According to historical records, when the Lord of Kuwana was transferred to the Oshi clan, many carpenters, called Kobiki-shu, came from far away to help supplement the housing of low-ranking samurai who were in short supply. The residential area created by their work was called the "Doshin-machi Hakken" (near present-day Tenma, Gyoda City), and the area where they lived and worked was called "Carpenter's Town". The Hachiman Street where these samurai once lived, is still a residential area, with Gyoda Hachiman Shrine as a spiritual symbol.
If you go one street behind the shrine, there are some old houses and warehourses still left. One popular spot is the Isami Corporation School Factory which was founded in 1907 as a manufacturing factory for Tabi, Japanese traditional socks. Currently, factories can be seen from outside only.
Strolling around to see some historical buildings is another way to enjoy the town other than the beautiful arrangements of hanachozu. The Hachiman Street is a few hundred meters long street in front of the Gyoda Hachiman Shrine where they have many local shops from bakeries to noodle shops to sake specialty shops to Saitam’s traditional sweet shop selling Jumangoku sweet buns. The hanachozu arranged by each local store are also as beautiful as those at the shrines and must not be missed. Some are so small that you would have to look down carefully.
Event Details & Access
For 2021, dates are TBD. Check its webpage here.
To access the shrine:
Gyoda station on JR Takasaki Line. After getting off the train, take the bus to Shoko Center (商工センター). From the bus stop, Shoko Center, its about 6 minute walk to the shrine.
Gyoda-shi station on Chichibu Railway (8 minute walk)