Established in 1614, Suwa Shrine was built as a way to stop the spread of Christianity in Nagasaki. Suwa Shrine was built in the same year that Tokugawa Ieyasu reversed Japans relationship with Christianity. This edict forced Christian people to denounce their Christianity and convert back to the Japanese religions of Buddhism and Shinto. This did not go over well and was fought with resistence until 1624 when Aoki Kensei (the first priest of Suwa Shrine) and his sons would require every citizen to register at the shrine or be in fear of harsh punishments and even death if they did not register.
If you are lucky, the gatekeeper who I call Mr. Mister, will allow you to continue your journey to the main shrine. He was not keen on me taking his photograph, but I could not help it, he is just so cute!
There are around 250 steps to take from the bottom of the mountain, until the main gate of Suwa Shrine. Once reaching the top, there is a big straw rope, along with an amazing view of the city. Along the way top the top, there are also many stone torii gates.
The architecture surrounding this shrine is beautiful, as well as the landscape. Off to the right of the shrine is a nice garden and pond. This is a good place to rest after making your way up all of those steps!
Suwa Shrine Garden
The shrine itself is one of the best I have seen in Japan, and as it should be. From sunrise to sunset, the atmosphere surrounding this shrine is amazing, and you can see people at all times of the day coming here to pray and relax. Here is a small view of the pond within the garden. There is also a tea house to rest at and enjoy a drink while resting your legs!
Near the garden is also a very small zoo where you can see various animals including monkeys, and feed them!
There are also Komainu (stone guardian lion-dogs) found here. One is said to double your money if you wash it under its fountain, while the other is called “stop-lion” in which you tie a thin piece of paper around its leg and pray to “stop” certain bad behaviors of yours (drinking, smoking, gambling, etc.)
There are also many places to hang your fortune slips for good luck. Many people, young to old, come here to pray and wish for various things of importance in their lives. There is a certain atmosphere around this shrine that makes you feel like you wishes may come true.
Here is a close-up of the shrine. The woodwork and detail is very appealing, without being too flashy. This is also the final destination for the Kunchi Festival.
The Nagasaki Kunchi festival is also held at Suwa Shrine every year from October 7-9. The name is said to derive from the two words Ku(9) and Nichi(day) in Japanese, which eludes to the ninth day of the ninth month.
The Kunchi festival became such a massive event that during this time, events are held all over Nagasaki, however, they all lead up to their final destination at Suwa Shrine. Because of the Dutch and Chinese influence in Nagasaki, different cultural aspects are also integrated into the festival from these places.
For 400 years, this festival has been taking place. The dance performances are one of the biggest aspects of this festival also. Dances from around Nagasaki are performed that represent 59 of the neighboring areas. However, each district can only take part once every seven years. Because of this, there are around 7 different districts performing each year.
How to Get There
Take the street car Suwajinja-mae which can be reached from line 3,4, or 5
Hours and Fees
Open 24/7 at no charge for entry