Kashima is a port city in Ibaraki on the Honshu Island, best known perhaps for its legendary soccer team, the Kashima Antlers. The Antlers’ name pays homage to its home, Kashima, which means “Deer Island”. Deer, in turn, are traditionally seen as spiritual messengers, signifying the divinity of the city. Although the industrialization of Kashima has overwhelmed much of its cultural sites, the place still has several charming attractions and landmarks that deserve a visit.
1. Kashima Jingu
Kashima Jingu is the heart centre of Kashima city, both geographically and historically. It is believed the first Japanese Emperor, Jinmu, himself ordered the construction of the shrine more than 2,600 years ago. Kashima Jingu enshrines the God of War, from which the emperor received his mandate to unify the chaotic land. Since then, the shrine has received an endless line of warrior pilgrims, from sword masters and samurais in eons past, to martial arts disciples today.
Several national treasures survive in Kashima Jingu, including the oldest Japanese straight blade forged in the Heian Period. The mystical Mitarashi Ike (body wash pond), the depth of which is said to shift according to the height of the user, is situated just before the sacred halls of the temple. Kashima Jingu may be dusty with age, but in the hallowed grounds where deer roam, a sense of otherworldliness lingers.
Address: Kyuchu, Kashima 314-0031, Ibaraki Prefecture
Website: Kashima Jingu (in Japanese)
2. Kashima Soccer Stadium
Kashima Soccer Stadium is home to the Kashima Antlers, a tier-1 soccer team in the Japanese League. Any self-acclaimed soccer fan must visit the training ground of this elite team. More than just the record title holder with eight J. League Cup championships under its belt, the Antlers is also the first Asian team to qualify for the FIFA Club World Cup in 2016.
Kashima Stadium was opened officially in 1993, and was one of the first stadiums designated for football in Japan. From its original capacity of 15,000, it was expanded in preparation for the 2002 World Cup. Visitors can go on a tour of the stadium with an option to visit the Kashima Soccer Museum. Even better, secure tickets for one of the Antlers’ home games to get a taste of Japan’s football fervor.
Kashima Soccer Stadium
Address: Jinkōji, Kashima 314-0007, Ibaraki Prefecture
Website: Kashima Soccer Stadium
3. Shiroyama Park
Kashima Shiroyama Park is a verdant sanctuary on the edge of Kashima’s urban-scape. For four decades, it was part of a castle built by the powerful Masamoto Kashima and his influential clan. Although time has reduced the stronghold to ruins, in its place is a beautiful park that is the pride of the city’s residents.
Shiroyama Park’s magnificence reaches its peak in spring, when a pink curtain of over 300 cherry blossoms sweeps over its avenues. A festoon of lanterns hang between the trees to mark the start of Hanami (sakura-viewing party), with a program of performances to welcome the season of new beginnings. Even without the spring blossom festival, strolling down Shiroyama Park and its carpet of green can still be a soothing way to spend an afternoon.
Website: Shiroyama Park
4. Eureka Boat Tour
The Eureka Boat, named for Kashima’s sister city in the U.S Eureka, is a fun way to navigate the bustling Kashima Port. Kashima Port is one of the largest artificially excavated ports in the world. An estimated 13,000 ships pass through its channels, exchanging up to 65 million tons of goods each year. The current port was officially opened in 1969 as part of Kashima’s grand industrialization plan. However, the coast’s potential as a harbor was noted as early as 1654 when the Sumida River was completed.
The Eureka Boat tour runs every weekend and on public holidays. It sets off at the pier next to Minato Park, and a narrator on board gives a lively explanation of Kashima’s key facilities along the way. If you need a break from the cool rush of the sea breeze, do pop into the dining area on the lower deck for a light refreshment.
Eureka Boat Tour
Website: Eureka Boat Tour (in Japanese)
5. Ono Shiosai Hamanasu Park
Just 15 mins away from the city center, Ono Shiosai Hamanasu Park sits right next to the coast. The park’s idyllic space is dotted with zen lakes, well-clipped trees, and fields of vibrant Hamanasu (a local rose species) that enlivens the greenery. Most iconic of all is its observation tower that looms 77 m (252.6 ft) above sea level. On clear days, visitors can get an unfettered view of the energetic city beneath, and the vast sea stretching beyond.
Aside from a well-equipped playground within the park, there is also a planetarium with a gazing dome, a museum of local history, and an art museum adjacent to the observation tower. A jumbo slide guarantees an exhilarating experience for the little ones. There is no shortage of entertainment for the whole family at Ono Shiosai Hamanasu Park.
Ono Shiosai Hamanasu Park
Address: Tsunoore, Kashima 311-2212, Ibaraki Prefecture
Website: Ono Shiosai Hamanasu Park
6. Hirai Beach
Kashima boasts one of the best beaches in the country – Hirai Beach. The wide sandy shore of Hirai Beach stretches down to the port. Less exposed than the nearby Shimotsu Beach, you are less likely to have to jostle for space on this beautiful coast.
The relatively calmer waves at Hirai Beach are ideal for swimming, with shallow tides extending far back for young children to frolic in. Moreover, the gentler swells make it popular amongst amateur surfers. On days when you need a break from the hubbub of the city, this beach getaway is a mere 10mins drive away.
Website: Hirai Beach
Where the past and future meet
Even with the rapid industrialization of Kashima, the city manages to cultivate a unique identity – modernity laced with an age-old history. While it does not take many days to cover this list of must-sees, they are definitely worth spending some time on. Sports, spirituality, or surf, there is something for every interest here.
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