Green leaves, red torii, blue sea. But wait, there’s more.
This is one of Japan’s newer shrines, dating back only to the 1950s. Legend has it that a divine white fox heralded a message that could be (very) loosely interpreted as something like, If you build it, they will come.
Sure, the 123 red gates look cool and the offertory box placed upon the top of one gate a few meters off the ground is fun in a gimmicky kind of way. Do get your selfies in front of the big front gate. But the fox was indeed wise, and those who take their time here will discover why.
This place has natural appeal. The twisting trail through the gates is special. The fox advised this place in particular. Once you’re here, and you’ve relished the gates, you may just begin to look around. This is a place where connection to Nature is easy.
There's a rocky outcrop on the coast with fantastic colors of swirling mineral deposits and geological treasures. Cliffs mark the edge of the land; they drop down into the Sea of Japan, which is particularly clear and beautiful here. Listen for the blowhole where the rocks meet the sea-also known as The Spouting Palace of the Dragon King. On rough days, the waves funnel through a hidden cave and spray spectacularly up into the air.
In a sense, the coins flying into the offertory box further up the mountain echo the blowhole metaphorically. As the sea leaves its realm and reaches into the sky, so the box calls your attention away from ground level upward and asks you to extend your offering far outside of yourself in connection to the environment.
Then there are the even smaller details of a summer's day: wildflowers, butterflies, dragonflies, and the smell of salty sea air. Around you, hawks glide on the air currents and windmills greet the breezes on the nearby coast. It's no Iowan cornfield.
元ノ隅稲成神社—Motonosumi Inari Jinja—Motonosumi Inari Shrine
龍宮の潮吹—Ryuuguu no Shiofuki—The Spouting Palace of the Dragon King (blowhole)
17-minute taxi or drive from Nagato-Furuichi Station, near Nagato City in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Parking 500 yen for the day.