Shingu Kumano Shrine Nagatoko
Built in 1055, the Nagatoko is Shingu Kumano Shrine's worship hall and translates to “long floor”. It is designated as a Nationally Important Cultural Asset. Built as the main structure during the Heian period to the Kamakura period, its thatched roof is supported by 44 massive pillars, each one 45 cm in diameter. This comprises a single large, open stage with no walls, and is said to have been used for ascetic training by priests, as well as kagura dance festivals.
Housed inside a nearby large wooden frame is the shrine bell, which visitors to the shrine are welcome to hit with the wooden rod. There is also a famous copper pot where, allegedly, rice was rinsed before being offered to the gods; it was designated as an Important Cultural Property in 1959. This treasure is housed at the shrine along with many others and are on display for visitors along with national and prefectural designated cultural assets.
Also not to be missed in the lion statue in the center of the treasure hall. It is known as a guardian of wisdom and there is a local legend that says if you can pass under the belly of the lion your own wisdom will blossom. It’s a popular place for students to visit before the exam season, and even politicians before election season.
Come autumn, the magnificent 800-year-old ginkgo tree is bathed in yellow and makes a beautiful contrast with the Nagatoko. This ancient tree has also been designated as a Natural Monument of Kitakata City. in November of every year, you can even see a special illumination of the ginkgo tree for a limited time.