Winter can be nice too

There are many things people hate about winter. Frigid temperatures and heavy snow and ice can cause extra work, delays, cancelations, and in some cases, even accidents and health risks. However, the season isn't without its merits. Here's a photo that might make you think "winter can be nice, too!"

The 荘内神社 (shōnai-jinja | Shōnai Shrine) in Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture, posted it to their Twitter account (@jinjahan0817) on December 19th, 2023.

Flowers on water

Shōnai Shrine decorates the basin of its 手水舎 (chōzu-ya or chōzu-sha | "water ablution pavilion"), where people purify themselves by washing their hands, with colorful flowers. This practice, known as 花手水 (hana chōzu | lit. "flower water ablution"), began in 2017 at the 柳谷観音楊谷寺 Yanagidani Kannon Yōkoku-ji Temple in Kyoto but has recently spread to other temples and shrines throughout Japan as use of the chōzu-ya is discouraged during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Through social media, images of colorful flowers floating in water basins became popular. It's not hard to see why. They offer a beautiful and soothing sight that adds charm, not to mention another reason to visit, for the temples or shrines that maintain them.

A bit of help from Mother Nature

This photo of the hana chōzu at Shōnai Shrine, however, stands out from the rest thanks to a little bit of help from Mother Nature!

"The hana chōzu froze❄️ Please stay warm, everyone✨"

Reproduced with permission from 荘内神社 Shōnai Shrine (@jinjahan0817)

The cold temperatures froze the water, trapping the flowers in the ice!

It's such a mysterious and beautiful sight, almost like a transparent display of pressed flowers but in a sheet of ice.

The post elicited numerous comments, such as:

  • "It's so beautiful. It looks like art!"
  • "This is charming in its own way."
  • "It's fantastic. But it looks cold!"
  • "It's too beautiful. I want to see it! Winter makes the world seem beautiful, doesn't it?"

If you're thinking of visiting, Shōnai Shrine is about a 20- to 25-minute walk from the 鶴岡駅 Tsuruoka station on JR's Uetsu Main Line or you can take the 鶴岡市内循環Bコース Tsuruoka City Circular bus (Course B) to the stop at 致道博物館 (chidō hakubutsukan | Chido Museum) and walk for 3 minutes. The shrine is open from 9 AM to 4:30 PM and can be reached by phone at 0235-22-8100.

For more information, visit their official website.

Where to see hana chōzu in the Tokyo area

This frozen flower display can only be seen in winter, so if you're thinking of seeing one in person, first check which shrines and temples have hana chōzu from their social media accounts (if they have one), then wait for temperatures to dip below the freezing point overnight and aim to visit first thing in the morning!

Although there's no guarantee you'll see one when you go, some of the shrines and temples known to maintain hana chōzu in the Tokyo area include 法輪寺 Hōrin-ji temple and 十二社熊野神社 Shinjuku Jūniso Kumano Jinja shrine in Shinjuku Ward, 下谷神社 Shitaya Jinja shrine in Taito Ward, 乃木神社 Nogi Jinja shrine in Minato Ward, and 鳩森八幡神社 Hatonomori Hachiman Jinja shrine in Shibuya Ward.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.