Awashima Shrine: Home to the Spookiest Dolls

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December 8, 2016

Awashima Shrine in Kada, Wakayama may be one of the most unique shrines in the Kansai area. Located about a 20-minute walk from Kada Station through a picturesque country town, the brightly colored vermillion shrine is most famous for the Girls Day Festival, or Hina Matsuri, held every year on March 3rd. The Shrine gathers up special Hina dolls and releases them into Kada Bay on small wooden boats. While this ceremony sounds sweet to behold, under the surface the story is a bit creepier. These dolls were all given to the shrine so they would not come back to haunt their owners.

There are many in Japan who believe that dolls have spirits that will torment their owners if they are tossed away. People from all over the country come to properly dispose of their dolls and statues at Awashima Shrine. There the priests will cleanse the dolls and appease their spirits so they can be discarded without seeking revenge on their owner.

All manner of figurines can be found here. Dolls, masks, lucky cats, and daruma statues are just a few of the types that can be seen around the shrine grounds.

Awashima Shrine is not a big complex, but it will take some time to explore all of the dolls hidden in the nooks and crannies. 45 minutes will likely be plenty of time to fully explore the Shrine. On the path leading up to shrine there are lots of fresh seafood restaurants where customers can choose their own seafood to be prepared for them on the spot.

Getting there from Osaka: From Namba-Nankai Station, take a Limited Express towards Wakayamashi Station. At Wakayamashi, transfer to a local train bound for Kada Station.

Note: Please keep voices down when visiting shrines out of consideration for other visitors. Please also refrain from taking photos of ema (votive tablets).

Judith LaFaver

Judith is an Oklahoma transplant residing in Hyogo, Japan. She’s a freelancer, blogger, avid traveler, and English teacher. After over 5 years in Japan, she keeps finding new surprises all over the country.

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