Hotoku Ninomiya Shrine was built in 1856 and was dedicated to a man named Ninomiya Sontoku.
Ninomiya Sontoku was born into a very poor family. When his parents died he was placed into his uncle’s care. While he worked on his uncle’s estate he taught himself philosophy, maths, and economics. He was a prolific studier and has statues erected outside of schools depicting him reading a book and carrying sticks. Supposedly saying that no matter what he was doing, resting, working, playing, he would always be studying. Possibly the main reason Japan has such a reputation for its diehard study and work ethic.
In his teens, he took over a plot of abandoned and decrepit land and turned it into an agricultural masterpiece. He made a lot of money in his twenties as a landlord and was eventually asked to help a district on the brink of collapse due to financial difficulty. Hotoku turned the place around by using his skills as an agriculturalist and completely revived the local economy.
After hearing of Ninomiya Sontoku’s successes he was asked by the lords of the area to watch over Odawara and the Sagami Province.
I think I have become a little bit spoiled living in Japan and being able to see a shrine whenever I want. Seeing beautiful shrines over and over again can get a bit repetitive. Yes, it’s a beautiful shrine, just like all the others, no big deal. Well, the Hotoku Ninomiya Shrine has given me a fresh appreciation of all things shrine related.
The Hotoku Ninomiya Shrine is built on the grounds of where the great Odawara Castle once stood. Now, the shrine sits next to a smaller version of Odawara Castle, gardens, a few Cafes, and a small children’s amusement park.
Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the fact that it was a particularly quiet day, maybe I was just in a really, really good mood. But, Hotoku Ninomiya Shrine is the most beautiful shrine I have seen so far. Now, before all of you shrine enthusiasts DM me a torrent of hate mail, let me clarify. This is the first shrine outside of Tokyo I have seen. I may have to re-write this after I explore a little more.