Serene waters have been purifying worshipers for centuries.

For the most part, Kashima Shrine looks like any of hundreds of other Japanese shrines. Yes, it boasts a long history, having been founded over 1,300 years ago, but the architecture of the present facility, with its wooden structures and curved roofs, is pretty typical for a place of Shinto worship.


However, if you make your way back past the rear shrine buildings, you’ll find a scene of ethereal beauty.

Called the Mitarashi Ike, or “Holy Washing Pond,” this body of water is fed by an underground spring that bubbles up to the surface. Legend has it that long ago the spring burst forth in a single night, and through the years it has never run dry, even when the region was struck by droughts.

The layout of Kashima Shrine has changed since its founding, and originally the Mitarashi Ike was located at the end of the main walkway by which worshippers approached the shrine. Before entering, they would use the waters of the pond to cleanse their bodies and souls, in keeping with the purifying properties of water recognized in the Shinto faith.

These days, visitors purify themselves at separate stations near the current main entrance to Kashima Shrine. That’s not to say no one uses the pond, though, as it serves as the habitat for the shrine’s school of beautiful koi.

The Mitarashi Ike does still serve in its former capacity of purifying human beings once a year, however. During the Kashima Shrine’s Daikan no Misogigyo ceremony, worshipers strip down to loincloths and wade into its waters to chant prayers together. Participants tend to be particularly devout, or at least courageous, as the ceremony takes place in early February, when Japan is stil in the grip of bitterly cold winter temperatures.

If you’re after a less invigoratingly immersive experience, though, you can gaze at the pond’s peaceful and mysterious waters on any other day of the year you choose.

Shrine information
Kashima Jingu / 鹿島神宮
Address: Ibaraki-ken, Kashima-shi, Kyuchu 2306-1
茨城県鹿嶋市宮中 2306-1

Source: Kaiun no Jinja Power Spot
Featured image: Twitter/@ShimbaHome
Insert image: Kashima Shrine (1, 2) (edited by RocketNews24)