Grand shrine overlooking Matsushima Bay
鹽竈神社 / Shiogama-jinja Shrine
Area : Matsushima Bay
In ancient times, a deity taught people how to make salt by boiling seawater in large cauldrons. In thanks, around the year 800 they named the area Shiogama (literally "salt cauldron") and dedicated Shiogama-jinja Shrine to this deity. A salt-making ritual is still performed every July at neighboring Okama-jinja Shrine. Today Shiogama-jinja Shrine is known as the protector of fisherman and safe childbirth.
Shiogama-jinja Shrine stands on a steep hill overlooking Matsushima Bay. Climb the 202 stone eps to reach the main entrance to the shrine (there is a second less steep flight of stairs on the east side of the shrine.) Its impressive red buildings date from the early 1700s. Fourteen of them are designated as National Important Cultural Properties. On the same site stands the stately Shiwahiko-jinja Shrine, a high-ranking shrine dedicated to a guardian deity of agriculture.
The Shiogama-jinja Shrine Museum focuses on the samurai history of the region and its highlight are original swords donated by the ruling Date family.
Shiogama-jinja Shrine has many events throughout the year. Spring has hana matsuri (cherry blossom festival). The shrine's grounds have a rich variety of sakura trees including Shidare-sakura weeping cherry trees from Kyoto and the Shiogama-zakura with its ball-like double-petaled blossoms. Summer brings minato matsuri (maritime festival), where portable omikoshi shrines are carried down from the shrine to waiting boats and then paraded across Matsushima Bay. Autumn has special evening hours when the shrine is lit up at night with music and dance performances. Winter has the hote matsuri where white-clad men parade omikoshi through the city streets and then back up the steep stairs to the shrine in evening.
Local Voice"My favourite place is a pond on the east side of the shrine near the museum. There are many trees surrounding it and the grass is neatly kept. It is a calm and peaceful place. I would come here often after work to relax and take in the spectacular view of Matsushima Bay."