Sweet act of kindness melts everyone’s hearts.

In Japan, Shinto shrines are usually shady spots, shrouded with large trees and leafy plants that attract all sorts of visitors, including non-human ones like cats and insects.

Up in Ibaraki Prefecture, a shrine called Hitokotonushi has become particularly popular with the local bee population, who’ve been visiting the temizu-ya (Shinto water ablution pavilion) on the grounds to quench their thirst during summer.

Rather than shun the winged insects, staff at the shrine have chosen to care for them in a remarkable way instead. In keeping with Shinto’s respect for nature, all living creatures are to be revered and respected, and these honeybees are now amongst the most spoiled in the country, because the shrine has installed a gorgeous miniature drinking fountain especially for them.

As the above photo shows, the bees no longer have to cling precariously to the edge of the large water trough to get a sip of water — they can now quench their thirst in a more secure position, atop two mounds of wet moss.

It’s a win-win for everyone using the temizu-ya, as not only do the bees get to hydrate themselves in the heat of summer, it also helps to keep the insects separated from human users, and although they’re still in close proximity to people at the fountain, staff have added a sign to let visitors know the bees are gentle and rarely sting unless provoked.

The sign above reads:

“To those using the temizu,
Honeybees in the neighbourhood are currently coming to the shrine to drink water. We are now guiding the bees to their own exclusive water drinking spot. 
They have a very gentle disposition so they rarely sting.
Please look over them warmly without provoking them.” 

The bees have been loving their drinking spot so much the shrine even installed a second fountain a short distance from the one seen above, to help the bees maintain “proper social distancing”.

The new drinking fountain is possibly even more beautiful than the first, with its depiction of a miniature shrine, complete with torii shrine gate and a pebble-lined pathway down the middle.

▼ The bees now look like busy workers at a shrine.

The second fountain also has its own sign, repeating the same message to visitors as before, with the addition of a cute four-panel illustration drawn by one of the miko shrine maidens.

In the first panel, the bee appears to be sweltering in the heat, saying “I’m hot“, before it discovers the bee drinking fountain and says, “What’s this!?” As the bee draws closer, happy honeybees can be seen on the moss, expressing their excitement as the flying bee says “This helps.” The comic ends with the bee telling the reader: “I’m not scary. Please be nice.

▼ And as it turns out, bees aren’t the only ones enjoying the refreshment of the mossy water fountain.

As soon as the shrine shared images of the drinking fountain on its official Twitter account, they quickly went viral as people’s hearts swelled with joy at the kind gesture.

Comments included:

“They look so cute!”
“Such a fantastic idea!”
“The bees must love this!”
“What a kind world.”
“What a wonderful shrine!”

It truly is a wonderful gesture of kindness between humans and Mother Nature, and as it turns out, the shrine has been creating fountains like this for local bees at the water fountain since at least 2016.

▼ The 2016 terracotta setup is far more simple than the more intricate, beautifully decorated drinking spots enjoyed by the bees today.

It’s nice to know the local bees are continuing to enjoy this shaded drinking spot year after year, sharing some respite from the summer heat peacefully with the shrine’s human visitors. It’s one of the many reasons why we love Japanese shrines…and their gorgeous water features!

Shrine information
Hitokotonushi Shrine / 一言主神社
Address: Ibaraki-ken, Joso-shi, Otsukatomachi 875

Source: Twitter/@hitokoto0913 via Net Lab
Featured image: Twitter/@hitokoto0913
Insert images: Twitter/@hitokoto0913 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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