World-travelling Meiji Shrine staff member of 10 years becomes a unique priest and re-establishes shrine in Niseko

Tamaki Akihiro (right) carries out purification rituals on worshippers from whom offerings have been received as he endeavors to re-establish Kaributo Shrine

Chief priest Tamaki Akihiko (45) is endeavoring to re-establish Kaributo Shrine, which is located in the center of the town of Niseko. After traveling to approximately 40 countries worldwide, Tamaki studied to become a Shinto priest and, after gaining experience at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo, has quite a unique CV. Five years ago, Tamaki relocated to Niseko from Tokyo after being attracted by Mt. Yotei and, when the opportunity arose, became the successor of the shrine. On deciding to become the chief priest to protect the shrine, he vowed to “keep the shrine as one loved throughout the region.”

 Tamaki was born in Saitama prefecture. After attending university in Tokyo, he travelled around Asia, Europe and the like as a backpacker. During his interactions with foreigners, Tamaki sensed that “despite being Japanese, knew nothing about Japan,” so he re-entered Kokugakuin University in Tokyo to acquire the qualifications required to become a priest. He then gained 10 years’ experience as a member of staff at Meiji Shrine, which attracts many overseas visitors.

 The key to Tamaki’s relocation was a photo of Mt. Yotei, shown to him by a friend. Sensing he was being attracted to Niseko by that majestic landscape, Tamaki relocated there in May 2016.

 While working as a hotel receptionist and the like, he helped out at Kaributo Shrine to make use of his experience as a priest. The chief priest at the time was elderly and there was no natural successor so, after being invited to do so, took over the role of chief priest in December of the same year.

 After taking over, he established an office from which to sell amulets and the like. He received offerings of tatami mats from within the town and beyond and worked hard to re-establish and refurbish the shrine, of which the main hall had deteriorated with age.

 Tamaki aims to create “a shrine to which people feel they can drop into at any time”. He posts on social media and organizes events in which farm produce is sold within the shrine’s precincts.

“The opportunities I have been given are really important to me. I want to create a shrine that is loved by the locals,” says Tamaki.


Kaributo Shrine