A shrine dedicated to the war dead which prays for peace
Hiroshima Gokoku Shrine, which is built upon the grounds for Hiroshima Castle, has a serene atmosphere in contrast with the hustle and bustle of the city. It was originally built in 1868 in honor of the warriors of the Asano clan who had died in battle during the Bonin War. Since then, however, it has also been dedicated to the more than 90,000 war dead from the Second World War. Although it had been destroyed once after the atomic bombing, it was rebuilt on the grounds of the remnants of Hiroshima Castle which is now a park. Due to the visit of Emperor Hirohito in 1971, visitors to the shrine increased greatly, and it now boasts the largest number of New Year’s visitors in the Chugoku district with more than 600,000 people. It is also famous for the professional baseball team, the Hiroshima Carp, visiting the shrine annually for victory.
The Mando Mitama Festival to placate the spirits
In May, the Mando Mitama Festival is held at Hiroshima Gokoku Shrine. To give solace to the spirits of the war dead, approximately 2000 paper lanterns are lit within the grounds for a solemn atmosphere. At the Miko Odori on the first night of the festival, 100 unmarried women put on clothing of shrine maidens, carry bells and perform a matchmaking dance. The Kagura Kyoen Taikai which is held on the second night, various music and dance troupes get together in a competitive performance which is filled with spirit. First-timers can also enjoy the competition since a description of the program is introduced before showtime.
The notable koi with its deep connection to Hiroshima
Koi carp has such a deep connection with Hiroshima that Hiroshima Castle has been referred to as Koi Castle among other things. Even at Gokoku Shrine, there are bronze statues of koi on either side of the Hondo main hall. Given the names of Shouri-no-Zo and Souri-no-zo, you can get good luck by praying and then rubbing the statues. There is also the really interesting koi omikuji which has fortune slips placed inside figures of carp that can be held in the palm of your hand.