Kashima Shrine (鹿島神宮 Kashima-jingū) is a shrine dedicated to the Shinto kami Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto (武甕槌大神), one of the patron deities of martial arts. Various dojo of kenjutsu and kendo sometimes display a kakejiku emblazoned with Kashima Taishin (鹿島大神, an alternate name for Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto). The shrine is located in Kashima, Ibaraki and is the home of Kashima Shintō-ryū. During the New Year period, from the first to the third of January, Kashima Shrine is visited by over 600,000 people from all over Japan. It is the second most visited shrine in Ibaraki prefecture for New Year pilgrims.
Tsukahara Bokuden (塚原 卜伝, 1489 - March 6, 1571), one of the most distinguished swordmasters in Japanese history, was a frequent visitor to the shrine and the son of one of its four retainers. The Kashima Shintō-ryū school of martial art was developed by him and is said to be derived from a combination of his own experiences as a shugyōsha during Musha shugyō (武者修行 Musha-shugyō) and the Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū (天真正伝香取神道流 Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū). Tsukuhara learned Katori Shintō-ryū from his adopted father at Katori Shrine (香取神宮 Katori-jingū) which has a strong connection to Kashima Shrine and dedicated to a similar patron deity.
According to records the shrine was established in the first year of Emperor Jimmu (神武天皇 Jimmu-tennō) in approximately 600BC. The ancient Fudoki (風土記 Fudoki) of Hitachi province claims that in the time before heaven and earth, the great celestial god Kashima (香島の天の大神 Kashima-no-ten-no-Ōkami) descended from the heavens and throughout the reigns of Emperor Sujin (崇神天皇 Sujin-tennō), Emperor Yamato Takeru (日本武尊 Yamato Takeru-no-mikoto) and Emperor Tenji (天智天皇 Tenji-tennō) religious festivals and construction was carried out in the area of Kashima shrine in dedication and respect to the celestial god.
During the Heian period (平安時代 Heian-jidai) the Ise Grand Shrine (伊勢神宮 Ise Jingū), Kashima Shrine (鹿島神宮 Kashima-Jingū) and Katori Shrine (香取神宮 Katori Jingū) were given imperial Shinto status under the ancient Engishiki doctrine (延喜式神名帳 Engi-Shiki Jinmyouchou). Since ancient times both Kashima shrine and Katori Shrine (香取神宮 Katori Jingū) have been closely connected and served as important forward positions for the Yamato dynasty Imperial Court (大和朝廷 Yamato Chōtei) during their opposition of the Ezo and Emishi (蝦夷 Emishi, Ezo or Ebisu) peoples of northern Japan.
The treasure house of the shrine is said to hold the neck and its Japanese oke bucket container of Akurōu (悪路王 Akurōu) or Aterui (アテルイ Aterui), which were presented for enshrinement by Fujiwara Mitsuru (藤原満 Fujiwara Mitsuru) of Mutsu province (陸奥国 Mutsu-no-kuni) in 1664, the fourth year of the Kanbun era (寛文 Kanbun).
 Grand Imperial Ofuna Festival
This special festival held once every 12 years in the Year of the Horse is to honour the great deities Takemikazuchi (武甕槌大神 Takemikazuchi-no-Ōkami) of Kashima Shrine and Futsunushi (経津主神 Futsunushi-no-kami) of Katori Shrine. The festival is one of great pride for the people in the areas of Kashima and Katori and said to be one of the biggest in Japan. The next Grand Imperial Ofuna Festival will be in 2014.
The festival began during the time of Emperor Oujin (応神天皇 Ōjin-tenno) although it was stopped once during the civil war of the Muromachi period (室町時代 Muromachi-jidai). In 1870, the third year of the Meiji period (明治時代 Meiji-jidai), the tradition of the festival was revived and given grand imperial status. In 1887 it was decided that the festival would be held every Year of the Horse.
Today the Grand Imperial Ofuna festival begins in the morning on the first of September and officials from the imperial court are sent to convey the blessings of the Emperor. In the early morning of the second day a Mikoshi (神輿 or 御輿 Mikoshi) from Kashima Shrine is carried overland along the edge of Lake Kitaura (北浦 Kitaura）, a smaller part of Lake Kasumigaura (霞ヶ浦 Kasumigaura), to a large boat waiting in the harbor. The boat, adorned with a great Ryūtō (龍頭 Ryūtō) dragon motif, then joins a larger fleet of other colourful boats (in 2002 there were around 90) and carries the Mikoshi across the lake to the other side. From there a divine procession awaits to take the Mikoshi to Katori Shrine (香取神宮 Katori-jingū) where the main festival takes place. After the festival a special temporary logging known as an Angu (行宮 Angu) is constructed and the Mikoshi is taken there before being returned to its main shrine in the afternoon of the third day.
 Festivals and Annual Events
- New Years Day Service (1/1, 06:00)
- Festival of Origins (1/3, 10:00)
- White Horse Festival (1/7, 18:00)
- Setsubun Festival (Setsubun Day, 18:00)
- Kigen Era Festival (2/11, 10:00)
- Bountiful Crops Festival (2/17, 10:00)
- Saitousai Main Festival of Colour (3/9, 10:00)
- Spring Festival (3/9, 18:00)
- Spring Equinox and Spirits of the Ancestors Festival (Spring Equinox Day, 10:00)
- Rear Shrine Spring Service (4/1, 10:00)
- Inner Shrine Spring Service (4/2)
- Shrine Ruins Spring Service (4/3)
- Sakado and Numao Shrine Spring Service (4/4)
- Outer Shrine Spring Service (4/5)
- Outer Shrine Divine Spring Service (4/6)
- Ikisu Shrine Annual Spring Service (4/14)
- Bountiful Harvest and Horseback Archery Festival (5/1, 13:00)
- Summer Solstice Purification Ceremony (6/29, 18:00)
- Ōharai Shinto Purification Ceremony (6/30, 15:00)
- ☆ Grand Imperial Ofuna Festival (9/1 ~ 9/3, In the year 2014) ☆
- Annual Shrine Festival (9/1, 10:00)
- Chinese Lantern Festival (9/1, 18:00)
- Fortune Festival (9/1, 20:00)
- Return of the Deities Festival (9/2, 15:00)
- Xinggong Angu Imperial Logging Festival (9/2, 22:00)
- Enshrinment of the Ancestors Festival (9/21, 18:00)
- Autumn Equinox Festival (9/22, 08:00)
- Great Festival of Ancestral Spirits (9/22, 08:00)
- Offering of the Harvest Festival (10/17, 10:00)
- Rear Shrine Autumn Service (11/1, 10:00)
- Inner Shrine Autumn Service (11/2)
- Meiji Festival (11/3, 09:00)
- Sumo Festival (11/3, 10:00)
- Shrine Ruins Autumn Service (11/3)
- Sakado and Numao Shrine Autumn Service (11/4)
- Outer Shrine Autumn Service (11/5)
- Outer Shrine Autumn Service (11/6)
- Ikisu Shrine Autumn Service (11/13)
- Shinjyosai Offering of the Harvest to the gods (11/23, 10:00)
- Shrine Offerings Ceremony (12/20, 10:00)
- Tencho Festival (12/23, 10:00)
- Shinto Purification Ceremony (12/31, 15:00)
- New Year's Eve Service (12/31, 15:00)
- Ceremony for the Ancestors (1st Day of each month, 10:00)
 See also
- List of National Treasures of Japan (crafts-swords)
- Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-ryu
- Kashima Shinto-ryu
- Deer (mythology)
- List of Jingū
- Kashima Antlers
- Meik Skoss (1994). "A Bit of Background" Retrieved April 7, 2005.
- George Mccall (2009). "Tsukuhara Bokuden" Retrieved February 15, 2012.