Kashima Shrine

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  • Japanese: 鹿島神宮 or 鹿島神社 (Kashima jinguu; Kashima jinja)

Kashima Shrine, located in modern-day Kashima-chô, Ibaraki prefecture, was the most major Shinto shrine in Hitachi province since the 9th century, and one of the most major shrines in the archipelago as a whole.

The shrine is dedicated to the deity Takemikazuchi, a direct offspring of Izanagi and one of the first deities to be mentioned in the Kojiki.

The Oumesai ("White Horse Festival") is a major festival associated with the shrine. Originating in the Kamakura period, it involves the viewing of a white horse on New Year's; up until the Bakumatsu period, it was the only festival celebrated within the gates of the main hall at Kashima.

The deity of the shrine, Takemikazuchi, also known simply as "the Kashima deity" (Kashima-no-kami), along with the shrine itself, came in the Bakumatsu period to be strongly associated with controlling and containing the Namazu, the legendary giant catfish believed to cause earthquakes. In namazu-e images of the 1850s, the Kashima deity is seen physically holding down the catfish, either by standing atop the fish, holding a spear through its head and thus pinning it to the ground, or in conjunction with a specific stone called the kaname-ishi ("keystone").