Suwa Taisha is one of Japan’s oldest sanctuaries. Nobody knows exactly how old it is, but it was first mentioned in Japanese literature in the 7th century.
It is made up of four complexes, the two upper shrines of Maemiya and Honmiya on the Southern side of Lake Suwa, and the two lower shrines of Akimiya and Harumiya on the Northern side.
Honmiya is the main complex of the upper shrines. Built to hold the plentiful sacred rituals which animate the spiritual life of the region, this is the largest and most elaborated of the Suwa Taisha shrines. Take time to observe the detailed carvings of the shrine buildings and the massive ceremonial drum.
A bit of trivia: The god enshrined at Suwa Taisha, Takeminakata-no-kami, is said to have been the first to take part in a sumo match. For that reason, a local sumo competition takes place every year within the shrine premises. Make sure to check the earthen dohyo ring on the way out.
The best way to reach Honmiya is from JR Chino station. You can take a taxi (15min), walk (50min) or rent a bike (20min) and explore the surroundings.
Maemiya is just 15min away on foot and on the way there you can stop by Jinchokan Moriya Historical Museum.