The Shonai Shrine was built upon the foundations of the Shonai Domain castle: the Tsurugaoka-jo 鶴ヶ岡城. The castle was demolished after the end of the Boshin War in the 19th century. In 1877, the shrine was erected in its place to worship the former feudal clan of the region: the Shonai Clan.
The Shonai Shrine is located inside the Tsuruoka Park, which constitutes the former precinct of the Tsurugaoka-jo castle.
It leads the main events held in the park, such as the Shonai Taisai Festival every summer or the Tanabata celebrations on July 7th.
Every year in March, the shrine displays its own collection of Hina dolls for the Hinamatsuri festivities in the building called "homotsuden" 宝物殿.