Bees and wasps drinking water to cool themselves down isn’t an unusual sight on a sweltering summer day, but a tiny drinking fountain tailor-made for their kind may be rather rare.
Hitokotonushi Shrine in the city of Jōsō, Ibaraki Prefecture, is known for such a drinking fountain catering to the thirsty little bees, which has been set up every summer since 2020. This small act of kindness has been appreciated by hundreds of bees—and warmed the hearts of thousands.
The honeybee drinking fountain was first created in 2016, but it did not reappear for the next four years due to the lack of apian visitors during that time. Attached to the ablution pavilion, the fountain’s platform is made from bamboo and stuffed with moss, which provides a footing for the bees and creates the feeling of a serene fairytale scene.
The small sign standing on the drinking fountain reads “a drinking spot reserved for groups of honeybees,” but paper wasps are also often seen drinking water from it. They do not only drink water to cool themselves down, but also carry it back to their hives to keep the temperature comfortable so that the babies are not harmed by the summer heat.
Know Before You Go
It’s rather difficult to reach Hitokotonushi Shrine without a car. To get there from the nearest bus stop (Shizen Hakubutsukan Iriguchi), you will have to buy a ticket to the Ibaraki Nature Museum for 750 yen and cross a long footbridge over the Sugao Marsh, then walk on past the Asunaro no Sato park. When taking this route, don’t lose the museum ticket as you can use it for re-entry.
There is no fixed date as to when the drinking fountain opens; it is only set up when the shrine decides to (usually by late July) and removed by September, or perhaps earlier. It’s best to check the shrine’s social media for updates. The shrine itself is open every day from 9 am to 5 pm.
Also note that, as mentioned above, the drinking fountain is attached to the chōzu-ya pavilion, which is used for ablution before approaching the main shrine, so be mindful of those visiting to pray. And don’t disturb or startle the bees and wasps since—as you know—they will sting when intimidated.