Cherry blossoms and a traditional spring ritual welcoming visitors at Kotohira-gu Shrine
With a deity of sea travel enshrined, Kotohira-gu Shrine has been worshipped for years and is a prominent tourist destination in Kagawa Prefecture. The shrine is also known for its two challengingly long stairways with 785 steps to the main shrine and another 583 steps to the inner shrine. In spring, about 3,500 cherry trees bloom in the grounds and fascinate visitors with beautiful scenery. Every year on April 10, a ritual called Ouka-sai (Cherry Blossom Festival) is performed to celebrate the arrival of spring. Miko (Shinto priestesses) and shinshoku (Shinto priests) gracefully walk in procession, with branches of cherry blossoms in the miko's hands and smaller branches attached to the shinshoku's kanmuri (a special headwear for the priests).