Hear the word ‘shrine’ and it may conjure up images of majestic Torii gates adorned with white paper and straw shimenawa decorations, beautiful old structures with thatched roofing and intricate wooden carvings, and worshipers washing their hands at a Chozuya fountain before offering a coin and a prayer to the deity of the shrine. In the small town of Asahi in Yamagata Prefecture, however, you will find a different kind of shrine all together; a shrine with none of the above!
空気神社 ‘Kuuki Jinja’ ~ Shrine of the Air
Welcome to the ‘Kuuki Jinja’ – the shrine of the air!
A relatively modern place of Shinto worship, the Kuuki Jinja was built just 28 years ago (in 1990) as a outdoor sanctuary to venerate the air ~ ‘the natural force which supports the five elements of wood, fire, water, metal and water, and which preserves the existence of all living beings’.
A 5m squared stainless steel platform becomes a mirror, reflecting the lush green beech forest and surrounding natural environment as it changes with each season.
In reverence of nature, an ‘air festival’ is held at the shrine once a year on the closest weekend to international environment day (June 5). This year (2018), the festival will be held on June 2~3.
Local elementary school students from Asahi-machi perform a ritual dance at the shrine during the Kuuki no Matsuri (air festival)
Offerings to the shrine of the air
If you find yourself in Yamagata Prefecture, be sure to make time for a visit to this one-of-a-kind shrine! Take the chance to fill your lungs with that fresh forest air, reflect and take in the beauty of the nature around you.
Kuuki Jinja ~ the Shrine of the Air
Air Festival: the first weekend of June every year (2018: June 2~3)
Closed: during winter (due to heavy snowfall)
Address: Shirakura 745–1, Asahimachi, Nishi-Murayama District, Yamgata Prefecture