Haruna Shrine – 榛名神社
Gunma Prefecture is famous for the Three Mountains of Jōmō. Each one of these mountains, namely Haruna-san, Akagi-yama and Myōgi-san host respectively a shrine with the same name: this time we will talk about Haruna Shrine, located at the foothills of Haruna-san.
What’s special about Haruna Shrine?
Haruna Shrine is located in the verdant cedar woods of mount Haruna, about 860 meters on the sea level. Getting to the shrine requires a little walk in the forest, so you can totally feel this mountain’s nature.
Haruna Shrine was established in the year 586, therefore it is a shrine with a long history. Here the god of fire is worshipped, together with the elements of earth, mountain and water.
The shrine area is wide and you need to walk for about 700 meters to reach the main hall from the entrance torii. Among the streams you see while approaching to the main hall you will see some spots where small falls take place. These falls freeze in winter, becoming gorgeous icicles.
You can feel the deep taste of this peaceful environment, created by the mountain’s rocks and the shrine’s building. The middle gate called Sōryū-mon, located on the way to the main hall, is gorgeous. Also, the huge rock rising upon the main hall is incredibly impressive.
How to reach it
I have visited Haruna Shrine in almost every season: the shrine is particularly bautiful summer and winter.
Gunma’s summer is very hot, even among the yet hot Japanese summer, but Mount Haruna’s streams and altitude refresh this area. Walking in the shadow of the cedars along the path feels great. In winter the falls were frozen and I could see huge icicles. You can cross small streams right next to them. However, as it can be slippery, it’s easy to get a broken bone doing so, so pay attention!
I entered the shrine’s area and saw the building’s detailed decorations. In particular, one statue that you can behold just outside the main hall has a very scary expression.
The stream running downhill close to the shrine’s area ends in a little dam. Next to that spot the entrance to the path going to the top of the mountain is located. The walk is a bit long but hiking from here to Haruna Lake is surely interesting.
When visiting Haruna Shrine you can eat a lot of soba in the small restaurants by the path entrance. I enjoyed Monzen-soba, which was accompanied by some delicious tenpura. On other visits I tried different dishes as well.
Haruna Shrine is just a wonderful and peaceful place. Since you can combine visiting this shrine with a trip to Haruna Lake or Ikaho hot springs, we highly recommend it as a day-trip from Tōkyō.