The enchanting Torii Gates of Fushimi Inari Taisha

The first time I visited Fushimi Inari-taisha was way back in January of 2016. Since then I have been to the heritage site a couple of times but I never came around to writing about it.

The Inari shrine is one of the most popular shrines in Japan. The classical vermillion Torii (gate) with a pair of stone fox images guarding such shrines can be found everywhere in the country. The most striking feature of Inari worship (Inari shinkõ) is the high degree of diversification and even personalization of this kami. Devotees do not simply worship “Inari,” but a separate form of Inari with its own name.

Fushimi Inari-taisha (伏見稲荷大社) is the head shrine of the Kami Inari, located in Fushimi-ku area of Kyoto. The shrine sits at the base of a mountain, also named Inari, which is about 230 meters in height. Most of the shrine’s prominent structures are located right at the base of the mountain. However, for the adventurous types, there are numerous trails that lead right up to the summit of the Inari mountain, where you can find some very old and interesting shrines.

Whichever trail you choose, it is about 3 km to the top. Along the way, you will witness hundreds of smaller shrines, some freshly painted and some, in a somewhat debilitated state. The most intriguing part of the hike, however, are the thousands of vermilion-colored gates called Torii.

Vermilion is said to be a color that repels magical powers and is the reason it is often used in shrines, temples and even palaces in Japan.

Most of you, I assume, would be arriving to Fushimi Inari-taisha from Kyoto via the JR train line unless you are using your personal vehicle. As soon as you get off the train at the Inari Station, you cannot miss the huge Torii gate that leads to the main shrine grounds. The shrine’s close proximity to the bustling city of Kyoto makes it very easy to reach but that also means massive crowds, especially during the weekends. My recommendation would be to reach as early as you can.

The Great Torii of Fushimi Inari Taisha

Visit to a Japanese temple or shrine starts with passing through an exorbitantly designed gate. These ubiquitous gates that form an integral part of every Shinto shrine, vary from shrine to shrine in terms of both size and effect. Made from bronze, stone or wood, they are typically constructed to form a horizontal beam – kasagi, supported by two cylindrical columns called hashira. The first massive gate you pass while visiting Fushimi Shrine is known as the Daiichi Torii. It is meant to indicate to the visitor that he or she is now passing into an even more sacred space.

If you visit the Taisha from Keihan Fushimi Inari Station via Miyuki Road, you will not be passing through this torii gate.

The wooden ones are always colored in bright vermilion. Though commonly built at a scale that comfortably fits a small group of people, they range from miniature torii placed on shrines by worshipers to mighty structures such as this one leading into Fushimi Inari-Taisha.

Beyond the Torii, you will find the entrance gate to the shrine known as the Rōmon gate or Plum Blossom Gate, guarded with statues of foxes on either side. Generally, you will find a couple of lion-dog statues beside the shrine gate, but in the case of an Inari shrine, a fox statue is placed instead of the guardian dog. How the fox began being considered as the guardian spirits of the Inari shrines and messengers of the Gods. I will deal with a little later in this very article.

The Rōmon gate was donated to the shrine by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1589

The Rōmon gate along with the entire complex burned to the ground during the Onin War (1467-1477) in the mid-15th century and everything you will see onwards from here is a reconstruction. Beside the Rōmon gate, you can find the Chozuya, to purify yourself before entering the shrine complex.

A brief history of Fushimi Inari Taisha

Fushimi Inari Shrine is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto deity of rice cultivation and business success. This deity is said to grant a wide variety of prayers, from gokoku hojo (better crop output) to shobai hanjo (business prosperity), and in some regions of Japan, anzan (safe childbirth), manbyo heiyu (being completely cured of any illness), and gokaku kigan (prayers for academic success). Owing to the popularity of Inari’s division and re-enshrinement, this shrine is said to have as many as 32,000 sub-shrines (bunsha) throughout Japan.

Inari is a different kami to each believer, shaped by what each person brings of his own character and understanding of the world.

The earliest structures on Mt. Inari were built as early as 711 CE. It was originally erected as their patron deity by the influential Hatas, the descendants of the Korean prince naturalized in the 4th century. The day Inari Okami was enshrined on Mt. Inari is known as “Hatsuuma.” To commemorate Inari’s enshrinement, the Hatsu-uma Festival began to be celebrated every year. It’s been about 1300 years since and the custom is still maintained to this day. The shrine was later re-located to the base of the hill in 816 on the request of the monk Kūkai.

The shrine became the object of imperial patronage during the early Heian period (794-1185). In 965, Emperor Murakami decreed that messengers carry written accounts of important events to the guardian Kami of Japan. These heihaku were initially presented to 16 shrines, including the Inari Shrine.

Inari was first worshipped in the form of three deities (perhaps because there are three peaks on Inari Mountain in Fushimi) and later, from the time of the Kamakura period (1185–1333), as five deities. There has been great variation in the priestly assignment of kami as the three main deities of Inari Mountain; the current tradition of enshrinement, standardized during the Meiji period, is as follows:

  • Lower Shrine: Sannomine Uganomitama no õkami
  • Middle Shrine: Ninomine Sadahiko no õkami
  • Upper Shrine: Ichinomine Õmiyanome no õkami

Another custom that developed during the Heian period was the “souvenir cedar” (shirushi no sugi), a term so popular it became symbolical with the Inari shrine. The custom required one to take a small branch from one of the cedar trees on Inari’s mountain and attach it to themselves as a kind of talisman. It was especially popular to do this on the first horse day in the second month (nigatsu no hatsuuma), the traditional day of Inari’s worship.

In 1875, the name of Inari Shrine was changed to Mizuho Kosha

From 1871 through 1946, Fushimi Inari-taisha was officially designated one of the Kanpei-taisha (官幣大社), meaning that it stood in the first rank of government-supported shrines.

The mythical Fox of Inari

At Inari shrines, foxes (Kitsuné), are regarded as the messengers of Gods. The word Kitsuné comes from two Japanese syllables: Kitsu & ne. Kitsu is the sound of a fox yelping and ne is a word signifying an affectionate feeling. Each fox statue holds a ball-like object representing the spirit of the Gods, a scroll for messages from the Gods, a key for rice storehouses, or a rice ear in its mouth.

One legend suggests that an agricultural cycle is similar to that of a fox’s behaviors and habits, and the routes of the shrine gates are considered to be foxes’ routes. Ancient Japanese people seemed to believe that foxes had mystical powers.

According to the Nihon Ryoki, one of the oldest records, a great number of foxes lived in the national capital of Kyoto in ancient times. According to the Nihon Shoki, the Kitsuné were held in respect as an animal of good omen. In 720 a black fox was presented from the Iga province to Emperor Gemmyo (661-726 CE), the founder of the capital of Nara.

It is said that during the reign of Emperor Kammu ( 737-806 CE), foxes used to bark at night inside the Imperial Palace grounds and sometimes were even seen walking up the stairs of the palace. In the Edo Period (1603–1867), local people established the practice of erecting gates along the path of the foxes on the mountain behind the shrine to protect and fulfill their prayers.

Night Photo-walk at Fushimi Inari-Taisha

The daytime experience at Fushimi Shrine is one of noisy crowds and chattering school children. Because of its close vicinity to Kyoto, the Fushimi shrine is always crowded with the daily wide-eyed tourists from different parts of the world who generally forget to respect the heritage place in their excitement. So this year when I decided to visit the shrine once again, I planned it specifically at night, when it truly becomes magical. The number of tourists also decreases significantly at this time and I can promise you that it will be a much better experience if you choose to do the same.

As you walk out of the JR train station, you will immediately notice a fox illuminated by a beam of light near the station gate, carrying a rice stock in its mouth.

Heritage structures at Fushimi Inari Taisha

The first Torii leads you to another. It is a beautiful sight sans the crowd.

The two-storied Rōmon gate is the building that makes up the main entrance of Fushimi Inari Taisha and has been designated an important cultural property. It was not part of the earliest structures of the Inari shrine, but there is evidence that it already existed around 1500 CE.

The two-storied gate, built with a hip-and-gable roof covered with cypress bark thatching, is believed to have been built during the rule of Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the time from the Warring States period to the Azuchi-Momoyama period. Hideyoshi prayed for his mother Oomandokoro’s recovery from illness, and the gate was built in gratitude for her recuperation.

On both sides of the Rōmon gate are statues of gods called “zuijin” and they act as bodyguards for Inari Okami. Of all the Rōmon gates at shrines located in Kyoto, this is considered to be the oldest and the largest.


Just beyond the two-storied Rōmon gate, will find the Gehaiden, illuminated brilliantly by the lanterns inside. This brightly lit structure is used for various dance performances during festivals. When I visited the shrine in 2018, I was lucky to experience a dance inside the hall. The hall was then surrounded by hundreds of people and absolutely not like how it is presented below.

The Gehaiden is built with a hip-and-gable roof covered in cypress bark thatch. It is also a designated important cultural property. The iron lanterns hanging from the eaves (edge of a roof) depict the twelve signs of the zodiac.

Azumamaro Shrine

While facing the Gehaiden, on your right you will find a small narrow path that leads to the Higashimaru Shrine enshrining Kada no Azumamaro. On its left wall, you will find hundreds of omikuji and wooden ema plates left behind by visitors.

Azumamaro was active in the mid-Tokugawa period as a priest of the Fushimi Inari Shrine and wrote works including “On Opening Schools and Annotations” to Nihon Shoki. In the modern period, he came to be extolled as one of the four great men of kokugaku or the “Learning of the Imperial Land.”

Prior to Azumamaro, there was Ooyama Tameoki, a disciple of Suika Shinto of Yamazaki Ansai, who also served as the priest of the Fushimi Inari Shrine and studied Shinto as the Learning of the Imperial Land. Kada Azumamaro was from the Hakuro family and Ooyama Tameoki was from the Hata family, these two came from two competing priest families. Yet, they both tried to master the Learning of the Imperial Land through the interpretation of Kojiki and Nihon Shoki.


Just behind the Gehaiden, lies the main shrine referred to as Naihaiden. It is very close to the Gehaiden at the base of the mountain. A small flight of steps leads you to into the red building. Here you can pay your respects by giving a coin offering, ringing the bells, and praying by bowing twice, clapping twice, praying silently, and then bowing once again. The Naihaiden was also burned down during the Onin War, and the existing building is said to have been rebuilt in 1499.

The main shrine or Honden lies just behind the Naihaiden. It is the holy building where Inari Okami resides. It is also where festivals and prayer rituals are held. The main shrine located within the Naihaiden was built in 1499 in the nagare-zukuri style with its streamlined roof. The 500-year-old building is painted vermilion and is an important cultural property.

Five kami, or gods, are worshipped: Ukanomitamano Okami, Satahikono Okami, Omiyanomeno Okami, Tanakano Okami, and Shino Okami. Collectively, these kami are referred to as Inari Okami. The gables in the entrance are Karaha-fu, a type of cusped gable, and each beam has beautiful Chinese firebirds and flowers carved into it.

Juyosho or Shrine Management Office

This is where you can buy souvenirs like ema plates, amulets, talismans, and the ever-popular omikuji. Applications for prayers, kagura performances, and offerings are also accepted here. The Ema plaques that they sell here are unique. They are called “gankake torii” which are shaped like torii gates. Usually, during the daytime, there is a long queue in front of the counter with a good number of young girls trying their luck at omikuji.

At the inner shrine and at the Gozendani, ema are shaped like white fox faces and called Gankake Myobu Ema. Ema (wooden tablets for writing wishes on) are very popular in shrines and temples around Japan. People write their wishes and leave the tablets hanging up at the shrine where the kami (Shinto deities) can receive them. Usually, ema have a more rectangular shape, but the special ema at Fushimi Inari Taisha is in the shape of a fox. The ema can be purchased at the shrine for ¥500. After purchasing the ema, write your wish on the back, and on the front draw the face of a fox. It is quite similar to Kasuga Taisha, where instead of a fox, you draw the face of a deer. It is very exciting to see all the ema lined up with the different faces that the visitors have left behind.


The Gonden is used as a temporary home for the kami when the main shrine or other buildings are being repaired. It is a lot smaller than the size of the main shrine, and it is made in the Gokensha Nagarezukuri style, an asymmetrical gabled roof style with six pillars. It too is a designated important cultural property. The current building is a reconstruction built in 1645. To the left of the Gonden hall, you will find a series of steps that go up the mountain. Climbing this stone staircase marks the beginning of “Inariyama Mikamiseki worship.”


This is the Kami-Massha shrine. The big torii to its left goes towards the Okumiya shrine from where the series of torii gates start.

Okumiya Shrine

At the top of the wide stone steps, you will find the Okumiya shrine dedicated to the same Inari Okami as the main shrine. It used to be called the Kamigoten and is made in a different architectural style than the other shrines in the precinct. It also is a designated important cultural property.

To the left of the Okumiya shrine, somewhat hidden by the trees you can find the first of the series of giant torii gates leading through Senbon Torii to the Okusha Shrine.

Continue along the large torii pathway called Myobu Sando and the path will split into two routes with torii gates that stretch tunnel-like. When going to Okunoin from the entrance, pass on the left side. On the other hand, when going down from Okunoin, pass on the right side. That is, we should always keep to the left in the direction we are going.

Senbon Torii

As I mentioned before, the highlight of the Fushimi shrine are the rows of torii gates, known as Senbon Torii. Those who have heard about the Fushimi Inari Shrine, immediately think of the Senbon Torii, or the thousands of red torii gates leading pilgrims up the sacred mountain. The word “Senbon,” literally meaning a thousand is just used here to represent many many more, closer to 10,000. They are so close to each other, that they form an almost perfect tunnel that completely conceals the outside world. Some of the old Japanese literature describes Senbon torii as a tunnel, similar to a birth canal from which a true believer is reborn onto the sacred space on the Kami’s mountain.

Even though I have been here multiple times, I have never thought about counting these torii gates. It is said that there are about 10,000 torii gates lining this road up the mountain to the shrine at the top. This sight of the torii, all lined up is magnificent and, perhaps one of the most iconic views of Japan.

Currently, about 10,000 torii gates stand side by side along the entire approach to the mountain.

After passing through the “Senbon Torii”, you will arrive at Okusha, commonly known as “Oku-no-in”. Legend has it that if make a wish in front of the stone lantern here and lift the empty ring (round-headed stone) of the lantern. It is said that if the weight you feel when you lift it is lighter than expected, your wish will come true, and if it is heavy, it will not come true. From here we turn left and head up into the mountain.

The gateways here are of a brilliant vermillion and black and are engraved with inscriptions from the donors. The custom of donating a torii began in the Edo period (1603-1868.) At times tightly packed and at times irregularly spaced and several yards apart, the torii lead visitors on the 3 km hike up, along the steep hillside, past an assortment of smaller shrines. Strolling up one of the torii tunnels, you will feel lost in a magical red world. It is an almost unreal sensation that washes over you as you venture yet further into the belly of the mountain through this surreal passage.

Some 30 thousand torii are said to have been donated by various people seeking Inari’s blessing on their businesses over the years. Merchants from all over Japan pay large sums of money to get a torii installed dedicated to them, at the shrine. As you move into the next set of torii gates, it does not feel like a tunnel anymore as the gates begin to get separated little by little. The gates here are a little more orangish.

The gates space out more as we head towards the summit. As the torii spread out, the outside light begins to pour into the tunnel and my attention was drawn to the forest that I had entered almost without noticing. The gates here are also not illuminated from the inside so you only have the lights from the street lamps to move around in the dark. The emerging space in alliance with the sequence of columns and beams creates a crisscross of patterns of light and dark.

The path continues upward through the dense cedar forest passing various clusters perched on the hillside until you reach the end of the torii gates.

This area is generally quieter with only the dedicated tourists making it up this far. Being late at night it was almost deserted apart from a couple of young Japanese visitors. A fleet of steep stairs will take you up to a four-point crossroad. The path to your left goes up the hill. On your right, you will find a very narrow lane called the Tamahimesha.


This is the Tamahimesha area where you can find many shrines dedicated to Inari. There is a place called Yotsuji in the middle of Mt. Inari. This is a perfect place to rest and you can enjoy the view of Kyoto. The view at sunset is especially beautiful!

Lit candles at a Kanmidokoro Takeya.

This was as far as we went. We didn’t go beyond this point and started our descent back to the base of the hill. During daytime you can hike further to the top of the mountain. While descending we took a different route.

As we reached the base, the Gehaiden was looking absolutely stunning in the night.

It was pretty late at night by the time we started to leave. To my surprise, I could still see some people making their way into the shrine. Yes, the shrine is open 24 hours with both the approach to the shrine and, the Honden itself, illuminated all night. So you can visit anytime you want.

Contrary to general assumption, the Inari Shrine does not own the entire mountain and a number of religious establishments on the mountain are totally independent from the Fushimi Shrine. It is impossible to tell though, which belongs to the shrine. Most guides are also not aware of this division between shrines and private areas.

The pilgrimage tradition at Fushimi’s Inari Mountain that started in the Heian period is still thriving. There’s something to be said about Japan’s almost seamless blend of new and traditional. Never have I seen such a balance of modernism from such an industrious country, all of their technological advances, infrastructure, media, and corporate lives don’t depreciate their respect for tradition and history.

Thanks for reading! Please leave your comments or questions using the comment form below. I am now going to double-check my shopping list before I disembark for India in a couple of days’ time. If you like my stories you can also connect with me on Instagram.

Admission Timings

Open 24/7

Admission Fees



711 CE

Annual events at Fushimi Inari Taisha

Fox-feeding (Kitsune-segyo)
A custom prevailing in Osaka and vicinity. Believers visit their local Inari shrine carrying a small paper lantern shouting “O-segyo! O-segyo!” a call to the fox that it is feeding time. On their way home, they leave the fox’s favorite food of azuki-meshi, fice boiled with red beans and fried bean curds on the banks or any other place where foxes are expected to go.

Rice Planting Festival in Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
Rice has been very important for Japanese people for centuries, and farmers have always worked hard together to cultivate rice. At Fushimi Inari-taisha, you can get a brief glimpse of this ancient Japanese culture. The Shinto rituals for prosperity and good harvests include seeding, planting, and harvest festivals are held respectively on April 12th, June 10th, and October 25th.


Zenkō-ji is a Buddhist temple located in the city of Nagano, Japan. The temple was built in the 7th century. The modern city of Nagano began as a town built around the temple.

Catching the train to Nagano

Nagano countryside

Nagano Station

Niomon Gate

Souvenir shops

Sanmon Gate

Incense Urn

Rokujizo Statues

Main Hall of Zenko-ji

Temple grounds

Sutra Depository

Wooden idols inside Sutra Depository


Statue of Shinran

Bell tower

Last shot of Zenko-ji before leaving

Waiting for the train to Nagoya

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Byōdō-in (平等院) is a Buddhist temple in the city of Uji in Kyoto Prefecture, Japan, built in late Heian period.

Fall in Byodo-in

More fall trees

Byodo-in Temple

Bridge to Temple

Other side of Temple

Up the stairs to Temple Bell

Temple Bell Tower

Mani near bell tower

Roaming on the grounds

Viki with momiji

Evening setting on Byodo-in

Shopping for Matcha stuffs

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Praying for love at Izumo Taisha

Izumo-taisha, also known as Izumo Ōyashiro, is one of the most ancient and important Shinto shrines in Japan. No record gives the exact date of its establishment, but some of the oldest mythological stories of the country originate at this very place.

Located in Izumo of Shimane Prefecture, the shrine is dedicated to the god of nation-building, Okuninushi-no-okami, and it is said that, if you visit the shrine, you will have great luck when it comes to your love life and personal relationships.

How to reach Izumo-taisha

I and my wife, Mani, were staying at the Dormy Inn, just beside the Izumoshi Station. Dormy Inn is a nice place to stay in Izumo, with comfortable rooms and easy accessibility to local convenience stores.

This was my first visit to Izumo, primarily because the city is located on the extreme western edge of the Shimane peninsula, and it takes almost 4 hours to reach from Kyoto. I have been to Shimane before in 2016 when I visited the lovely Adachi gardens, but Izumo continued to remain on my bucket list.

The area surrounding Izumoshi Station is very quiet, unlike the bustling stations of Kyoto, Tokyo, or even Osaka. The town is literally littered with idols of Ōkuninushi, like the one below, which I saw on a roadside near the station. Ōkuninushi has had a massive impact on the history of Izumo, but we will delve into his story later on in this article.

It was 9 am in the morning. After a light breakfast of onigiris, we took the local bus to Izumo Taisha. Buses depart from bus stop #1 in front of Izumoshi Station roughly every 30 minutes. The one-way ride to the shrine takes about 25 minutes and costs ¥530.

The bus was mostly empty. I guess most travelers here are locals and they prefer their personal vehicles to travel. We had on us the “Enmusubi Perfect Ticket” which allows for a hassle-free travel on local buses. If you are in Izumo for a few days, I would recommend obtaining the “Perfect ticket” from the Izumo Tourist Information Center, inside JR Izumoshi Station.

This ticket costs ¥1500 per adult and entitles you unlimited free rides on local trains and buses for 3 consecutive days. The ticket also includes discounts and certain special privileges at a few tourist spots.

You can also take the local Ichibata train to the shrine, but it will likely take up more time as it involves changing trains midway at Kawato Station.

The red and white bus dropped us off near a large grey colored Torii gate that marks the beginning of the walk to the heritage shrine. A Torii is the symbol of a Shinto Shrine. It marks the entry into the sacred grounds of the Shrine. Four Toriis in total need to be passed before reaching the Izumo Taisha shrine and each is made of a different material: stone, wood, iron, and copper (in order from the first to fourth). We missed the first Torii since the bus went past it and dropped us off near the second one. If you are interested, you can walk back to the white torii, made of stone. In ancient times, it used to be the original entrance gate to the shrine.

From the wooden torii, a wide paved path leads visitors towards the shrine grounds. Along the way, you will find many stone lanterns like the one below. Moss had gathered around the top and the base. The detailing in the carving of the lantern will tell you that its made for Kimachi stones located near Lake Shinji.

Myths surrounding Izumo Taisha

Before I show you the age-old structures inside the Izumo Taisha complex, let me explain to you some of the myths surrounding this heritage site. Like most cultures, the Japanese also have their own interesting take on the origins of their country. The Shinto myths originating from Japan can be segregated into four eras. Izumo Taisha originates from the first – the mythical era of the heavenly and earthly kami. Kami are basically the spirits, gods, and deities in the Shinto religion. The gods were divided into Amatsu-kami (heavenly gods) and Kunitsu-kami (earthly gods.)

All my conclusions have been drawn from two of the oldest written records in Japan – Kojiki (the legendary stories of old Japan) and Nihon shoki (the chronicles of old Japan). The myths of Izumo represent their own cycle in these classical works, which have several discrepancies with the Yamato myth cycles which mainly concentrated on the tradition of the imperial family and repeatedly tried to downplay the importance of the stories originating from Izumo.

According to the Kojiki; Heaven and Earth were created in this era referred to as the mythical era. The Earth itself at that time was said to be just a formless ocean with no landmass. In the beginning, as is mentioned in Kojiki – five deities came into existence at the time of the creation of the universe, called the Kotoamatsukami. Unlike the later gods, these deities were born without any procreation. The Kojiki further portrays the birth of Inazagi-no-mikoto and his younger twin sister Izanami-no-mikoto as the seventh and final generation of deities that manifested after the emergence of the first group of gods. Together they are considered to be the patriarch and matriarch of all other Japanese gods.

Receiving a command from the other gods to solidify and shape the earth, the couple, with a jeweled spear, standing on the heavenly floating bridge that connected the Heaven to Earth, stirred the watery chaos of the ocean depths. As they raised the spear, it is said, brine that dripped from the tip fell to form solid islands, that together formed the archipelago of Japan.

The two then proceeded to have many children. Izanami, however, died after giving birth to the fire god Kagutsuchi. Izanagi, wishing to see Izanami again, goes down to Yomi no Kuni, the land of the dead, in the hopes of retrieving her, but fails.

On returning back, Izanagi, feeling contaminated by his visit to Yomi no Kuni, went to the river-mouth of Tachibana in Himuka to purify himself. As he immersed himself in the water, various deities came into existence. The three most important kami – the sun goddess Amaterasu Ōmikami, the moon deity Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto, and the impetuous god Susanoo-no-Mikoto – were also born here.

At this time a depressed Izanagi, said, “I have borne child after child, and finally in the last bearing I have obtained three noble children.” Then he goes on to remove his necklace and, giving it to Amaterasu, he entrusted her with her mission, saying, “You shall rule Takama-no-hara, the dwelling place of the heavenly gods.”

Next, he said to Tsukuyomi, “You shall rule the realms of the night.” Finally, he turned to Susanoo, entrusting him with his mission, “You shall rule the ocean.”

The Kojiki states that the world where the people lived is called Ashihara no Nakatsukuni, while the realm of the dead which was believed to exist inside the earth is called Yomi no Kuni.

While the other deities ruled their realms in obedience to the commands entrusted to them, Susanoo did not rule the land entrusted to him. Instead, he wept and howled until his beard extended down over his chest. It is said, the prolonged mourning Susano-o displayed for his mother Izanami, turned green mountains barren. His weeping was such that it caused the rivers and seas to dry up.

In a well-known sequence from that myth-history, the Kojiki relates how the god Susanoo was banished by decree of his father, Izanagi. During his mourning, he committed numerous transgressions like destroying Amaterasu’s rice fields, desecrating the hall where Amaterasu was to taste the first rice, and interrupting the weaving of heavenly garments.

On coming to know of Susano-o’s transgressions, Izanagi asked Susanoo, “Why is it you do not rule the land entrusted to you but weep and howl?” Susanoo replied, “I wish to go the land of my mother.”

On hearing his reply Izanagi, became greatly enraged and said, “In that case, you may not live in this land!” Thus saying, he banished him with a divine banishment to rule over Yomi no Kuni, the realm of the dead on Earth.

Following his banishment, the Kojiki recounts Susano-o’s descent from the Heavenly Plain to the ancient province of Izumo, where his character undergoes a dramatic shift. He resigned himself to his fate and eventually after many wanderings on Earth, built a magnificent palace in Izumo, at Suga. Under his leadership, the Japanese islands came to be controlled from Izumo. Izumo came to be known as the realm of gods on Earth.

Susanoo lived in Suga with his wife and had many children. One of his descendants was Okuninushi. Okuninushi had eighty brothers and was always reckoned to be the least among them. How he came to rule these lands from being one of the most unworthy among his siblings is another interesting story.

It should be noted that the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki – compiled at different moments, in different linguistic modes, and with different sources and audiences in mind contradict each other on various fundamental points.

As we continued our walk towards the shrine, we were surrounded by tall pine trees that were hundreds of years old. In order to protect these ancient trees, visitors are not permitted to walk through the central pathway. The third Torii lies at the start of these pine trees. We took an adjacent path that led us into a wide, open area from where we could see Mt. Yakumo clearly.

At the end of the trail we found a small stone torii. This is the shrine of Kinazuki Forest. Interestingly there is no shrine after the torii. The forested area is itself considered a shrine.

It is said in the old days, the gods of Takama-no-hara gathered in this place to build the “Sunshine Palace“, the predecessor of Izumo Taisha. At the time of construction, the gods used a “pine” to beat wood and solidify the ground. This “pine” used by the gods is said to be still buried deep in the ground of this forest. This torii gate was built and worshiped as a place where tools used by the gods are buried.

The story of Okininushi

As we neared the fourth torii, that leads directly into the innermost shrine grounds, we found the temizuya, or ritual cleansing place where you should stop and wash your hands.

Near the Temizuya, you can find a statue of Okuninushi and what looks like a giant wave with an orb balance on it. This statue is a more artistic depiction when Okuninushi met Omono-nushi, represented by the gold orb on top of the wave. This is an important moment in the mythology of Okuninushi because at this moment he realized that he had the support of the heavenly gods.

The main god worshiped at Izumo Taisha is Okuninushi-no-Okami, who is also well known in Japan as Daikoku-sama.

Okinunishi married several times and had many children. The procreative actions of Okinunishi created alarm bells ringing as their descendants started taking over Earth. Amaterasu, who was still the ruler of heaven, taking displeasure at this act sent deities down to pacify and subdue the land, which was being overrun by unruly and troublesome divinities.

The initial attempts to subdue the unruly divinities ended in failure, as the first deities sent down from Takamahara ended up allying with Okuninushi instead. On her third attempt to dissuade Okuninushi, the heavenly deities decided to send a powerful warrior Takemikazuchi-no-kami who descended on Inaba beach in Izumo. Only after the deity Takemikazuchino descends and is about to kill Okuninushi’s son did he agree to surrender the land to Amaterasu’s envoys.

In exchange for his submission, Okuninushi received recognition for his own status as the deity of the great shrine of Izumo. As a sign of gratitude, Amaterasu let him retain dominion over the religious and magical world.

According to the Nihon Shoki, the goddess Amaterasu said, “From now on, my descendants shall administer the affairs of state. You shall cast a spell of establishing a good relationship over people to lead them a happy life. I will build your residence with colossal columns and thick and broad planks in the same architectural style as mine and name it Amenohisu-no-miya.”

After the subjugation of Okuninushi, a crucial episode in the imperial legitimation follows. Okuninushi resigned and retreated into his palace in Kizuki. Amaterasu assigned her grandchild Ninigi to descend to Earth and take over the rule. Thereafter no other lineage than that of the sun goddess was to hold the sovereignty. The Gods of the Izumo line were thereby downgraded for all times into a subordinated position. The end of the mythical era thus sees the earthen kami subdued by the heavenly kami.

As per her deal with Okuninushi, the other gods were gathered and ordered by Amaterasu to build a grand palace at the foot of Mt. Uga. I used the term palace, do not be confused by it, I am still referring to Izumo-taisha. Izumo-taisha has been known by various names in the past: Sunshine Palace → Kizuki Taisha Shrine → Izumo Taisha Shrine

Since then, couples and sweethearts both young and old have made the pilgrimage together to pray at the temple for good fortune and long lasting commitment. This connection of the divinity to love and sexuality is preserved in the corresponding religious traditions. Okuninushi, the great God of Izumo, today is as popular as he was in the past – as Enmusubi no kami, the divinity of the fateful bonds of love between two people. The belief traveled miles over the years and is now known all over Japan for bestowing fortunate marriage.

As with all mythological stories there are variations and they should be just consumed as a story and nothing else.

Brief history of Izumo taisha

There is no knowledge of exactly when Izumo-taisha was built, but a record compiled around 950 CE (Heian period) describes the shrine as the highest building, reaching approximately 48 meters, which even exceeded in height the 45 meter-tall temple in Nara that enshrined the Great Buddha of Tōdai-ji. A gigantic ramp is said to have led to the shrine building.

There exists a book named “Kuchizusami“, that recorded the names of the famous rivers, long bridges, great buildings, or any other major landmarks in Japan. In the book, one of the phrases mentions “Izumo is the top, followed by Yamato, then by Kyoto”. It could have been in reference to the height of the buildings in Japan at that time, the main building of the Izumo Grand Shrine was number one; the hall for the Great Buddha figure of Todai-ji temple in Yamato (present Nara) was second, and Daigokuden Palace in Heiankyo (Kyoto) was the third in height.

The document from the 10th century, indicate that the highest building in the complex was around 48 meters and stood on 9 massive columns. To reach the temple there was probably a massive flight of steps as well. Excavations have confirmed its probable existence.

Posters with illustrations of this reconstruction can be found throughout the region; they show an archaic shrine, embedded in a mystical scenery. The message of such pictures is clear: The main shrine of Izumo was in antiquity not only the tallest building of Japan – but it was also always stressed that this building was higher than the Todaiji in Nara.

The colossal size of Izumo shrine was quite literally also its downfall as it collapsed on its own weight multiple times in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Up to the Meiji Era, Izumo Taisha was called Kizuki Grand Shrine.

During the Kamakura period, around 1200, the main structure was reduced in size. Then in 1744, the shrine was reconstructed to the present size of 24 meters high and 11 meters square at its base. In the 18th and 19th centuries, as travel became more common in Japan, the shrine became a central place of pilgrimage.

Since the shrine spirit was settled in the inner shrine in 1744, it has been relocated three times for renovation, using a traditional ceremony. The relocations took place in 1809, 1881, and 1953. From 1871 through 1946, the Izumo-taisha was officially designated one of the Kanpei-taisha, meaning that it stood in the first rank of government supported shrines.

In April 2008, the spirit was moved to temporary housing in the front shrine of Izumo-taisha in preparation for the Heisei-period renovations. Izumo-taisha’s inner shrine was opened to the public for the first time in 60 years in the summer of 2008. On completion of the renovations, Ōkuninushi was returned to the inner shrine in a ceremony attended by over 8,000 people, held on May 11, 2013.

Inner area of Izumo Taisha

Let me quickly share a map of the grounds so its simpler for you to follow. The red rectangular text blurb is where the temizuya is.


When you go through the fourth copper Torii, you will see the Haiden, where visitors in general pray. The Haiden (prayer hall) will be the first visiting point for most people. It was re-built in 1959 after the end of the Second World War. The prayer hall holds an impressive three-ton Shimenawa, made of rice straw. A Saisen-bako (money offering box) lies in front of the gate.

I have heard that throwing a coin into the Shimenawa will bring luck, if the coin gets stuck in it. However, I didn’t observe anyone doing it so I too reclused myself from doing it.

Although it is usual to bow twice, clap twice, pray, then bow once more at Shinto shrines, the practice at Izumo-taisha is to bow twice, clap four times, pray, and bow once more.

The Haiden is often directly connected with the Honden. In the case of Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, the Haiden is standing on its own. In its role as a prayer hall, it is used to pray to the kami of the shrine and also host a variety of ceremonies.


Just beyond the Haiden, you will find the Honden, or main shrine, where a statue of Okuninushi resides. Okuninushi is worshiped at the shrine as the deity of nation-building, but, more popularly, also as the deity of ‘en‘, or the ties that bind us to each other.

The main shrine is enclosed inside the Yatsuashi-mon gate, with only a portion of its roof visible from outside. The Yatsuashi-mon is an eight-columned gate, the front of which is occupied with another Saisen-bako. The main shrine was built using one of Japan’s oldest shrine architectural styles, the Taisha-dzuki method, and is recognized as a Japanese National Treasure. This area is surrounded by two sets of Mizugaki (fence).

I was not allowed entry to the inner-shrine precinct. From what I gather, it can be only entered by priests and Miko. An exception is the New Year when during Hatsumode, the Saisen-bako is moved closer to the Honden and visitors can step through the gate.

Standing in front of the Honden, I bowed and then clapped my hands four times, instead of the two that is the standard ritual at Japanese shrines. Clapping twice is believed to get the attention of the gods, but since Okinunishi is the deity of relationships, at Izumo Taisha you need to add a couple of claps for your significant other.

Worshipers are not permitted inside the Honden except on special occasions.

We walked around the sprawling complex. Long rectangular buildings with shuttered entrances lined either side of the Honden. In front of the small structures, you can see hundreds if not thousands of omikuji tied to the trees and makeshift wooden panels. If you are a souvenir collector, you can buy amulets created from a hinoki cypress tree that used to support the shrine.

If you’d like to, you can also purchase an ema at the shrine here. The small wooden plaques are a way to write down your prayers or wishes, and by leaving them at the shrine, the gods are believed to be able to receive them. It’s always interesting to have a look and see what people are wishing for at different shrines.


According to an age-old myth, it is said that various gods gathered together at Izumo in the 10th month of the old Japanese lunar calendar. October is thus referred to as Kannazuki, or the “month of no gods” throughout most of Japan. During this time, Okuninushi, is said to summon all earthly deities to decide the fate of all people for the year ahead. For this reason, this month in Shimane Prefecture alone is known as Kamiarizuki – the “month of the gods.”

The row of wooden structures you see below called Jukyusha, are the said to the rooms where the various deities gather and stay during their visit to the shrine.

As we made our way towards the back area, we found ourselves in front of the Shōkokan.


The Shōkokan consists of two floors. The first floor is the reception office for Kaguraden. The second floor consists of a museum for important items. Unfortunately it was closed at the time of our visit.

Some items in the museum are items designated as national treasure and important cultural assets, like jewelry, household articles, paintings, swords, and musical instruments.

Considered most important in Shōkokan are a set of Japan’s oldest wooden pestle and an igniting board and a small boat that was hollowed out of a piece of wood. The small boat was believed to have come from the upper stream of the Yoshino River, through the Seto Inland Sea, and to the Inasa Beach near Izumo-taisha.

Soga-no Yashiro

A few paces beside the Shōkokan, you can find the Soga-no Yashiro shrine, standing exactly behind the main hall, almost enveloped by the forest at the base of Mt. Yakumo. This shrine is dedicated to Susanoo.

On the right side of the shrine, you will find a tray filled with sand. According to Shinto practice, many shrines in the Shikoku and Chūgoku regions, called Izumo yashiki, were purified with small quantities of sand taken from under the floor of this shrine.

If you take some of Soga no Yashiro’s sand with you and place it around your house, it will protect your home.

In front of Soga-no Yashiro you will find a bunch of rabbit idols. According to legend, Okuninushi once saved a rabbit, which is why you will find many cute rabbit statues at Izumo Taisha.

From Soga-no Yashiro, we completed a full circle of the walkway surrounding the main hall. From there we slowly made our way towards the Kagura Hall, which is one of the most photographed shrine on the complex.

Kagura Hall

Izumo-taisha’s Kagura-den was first built in 1776 by the Senge family, as a grand hall for the performance of traditional rituals. It was rebuilt in 1981 to commemorate the centennial of the foundation of the Izumo Oyashiro-kyo order.

The written sign inside Kagura-den is not made with ink, but it’s in fact embroidery. You will see the cross-stitch style if you look closely. There is also a stained glass with pictures of clouds in the shape of Izumo Taisha.

The Kagura-den features the largest shimenawa (sacred straw rope) in Japan. The rope is one of the most easily recognized and distinctive features of Izumo-taisha. The shimenawa is 13.5 meters long and weighs 4.4 tons, making it one of the biggest in Japan. You are sure to be surprised at the sheer scale of this straw rope hanging a few feet above your head.

A few feet away from the Kagura-den you can see a huge Japanese flag swaying in the wind.

After fully exploring the area we walked down to capture the stunning sunset at the Inasahama beach where in a few months the gods would be greeted again for the first day of “Kamiarizuki.”

The sun was just setting behind a veil of violet-hued clouds, and the wide beach was empty save for a few local teenagers and a couple busy with their pre-wedding photo shoot. As the daylight sunk bank into the horizon, we walked back to Izumo Taisha. The road devoid of any streetlights gets pretty dark and we did have some difficulty walking back to the shrine.

Once we reached the shrine, we found ourselves all alone on the massive grounds. A lone guard, neatly dressed in his “royal blue” attire, was standing guard on the premises. I politely asked him if I could use my tripod on the shrine grounds. In a very simple gesture of touching the index finger with his thumb, he gestured that it was okay. I took a couple of pictures of the Haiden, and then walked briskly to the Yatsuashi-mon gate.

Yatsuashi-mon at night

It was a bit eerie around on the grounds with not a soul in sight, but it was also easy on me as I took some lovely night shots of the gate without any photobombs getting in the way.

Kagura-den at Night

Lastly, I captured some shots of the Kagura hall which was looking immersive in the beautiful blue night. Once I had my fill of night shots, we made our way towards the bus stop.

On the way, the Okinunishi’s statue was sitting beautifully illuminated in the night. While the area is mostly unexplored by foreigners, it’s very popular with the Japanese, many of whom arrange to spend summer vacations in this region known for the relatively unspoiled, rugged beauty of its countryside and the relaxed pace and cultural riches of its towns.

Once we reached the iron torii at the edge of the shrine grounds we waited for the next bus, sitting on a roadside bench in front of a lively Starbucks.

Izumo Grand Shrine is one of the most recognized shrines in Japan, and attracts more than 2 million visitors every year. This historic temple is such a valued landmark, that you’ll see some of its architectural elements copied and utilized on the exterior entrances of various restaurants, bars, and shops in the city.

It’s recommended that the best time to visit is in the month of October when a large festival takes place to commemorate the meeting of Japan’s deities within the city of Izumo. If you can’t make the October festivals, you can still take part in a special tradition called shiokumi that is held on the first of every month. In the early morning, you take water from the sea with a special bamboo container. Then, you walk to Izumo Taisha stopping at all the shrines along the way.

Thanks for reading! If you liked my story, please add a comment below or follow my travels as I visit the only original castle remaining in the San’in region – Matsue Castle.

When was Izumo Taisha built?

Unknown. The first written records compiled around 950 CE describes the shrine as the highest building in the region.

What is the Kojiki?

Kojiki is Japan’s oldest book, which was presented to the Emperor of Japan in 712 CE. It is said that a group of government officials of the Imperial court led by Oono Asomi Yasumaro compiled the book based on traditional folklore. The original copy no longer exists, but several manuscripts have been passed down over the ages. Most historical events, myths, and legends from the beginning of the Japanese civilization up to the era of Japan’s first empress, Empress Suiko in the early 7th century, are presumed to be recorded here.

What is the Nihon Shoki?

Nihon Shoki is Japan’s oldest official history, established in the Nara period in the 8th century. It was compiled by a group led by Prince Toneri of the Imperial family and was completed in the year 720 CE. It writes about events of early Japanese mythology up to the era of Emperor Jito to the end of the 7th century.

How to pray at Izumo Taisha?

Bow twice deeply with hands placed around your knees, then clap four times, praying silently, and finally bow once again for the last time. Worshipers may recite this short prayer while praying :
“Saki-Mitama, Kushi-Mitama, Mamori-Tamae, Sakihae-Tamae”

Admission Fees


Open Timings

Always open

Admission cost for Treasure Hall

Yen 300

Treasure Hall timings

8:30 to 16:30

Hinomisaki Shrine

After spending a beautiful breezy morning at the Hinomisaki lighthouse, we walked down to the Hinomisaki Shrine, which is just about 15 minutes away. It was pretty easy following the markers leading towards the shrine.

Hinomisaki Shrine was built in honor of two deities with a prominent presence in Japanese mythology: Amaterasu, the goddess of the Sun, and Susano, the god of storms and the sea. The temple is believed to bring luck in business & travelling.

The weather had greatly improved and the dark grey clouds had scattered away. At the entrance of the shrine grounds a white stone Torii welcomed us into the temple grounds.

As you pass the Torii, you can find a large embossed carving on the side of the path. It depicts the Me-kari shinji, a religious rite of seaweed (wakame) harvesting. Izumo Province is delimited by the mountains of Chūgoku in the south and the Shimane peninsula in the north. In the lowland areas of the central plains, the large-scale opening up of rice-farming land was moving forward in conjunction with the reclamation of lakes and marshes. The mekari rite is performed on the fifth day of the first month of the lunar calendar at Hinomisaki Shrine.

Local fishermen offer their harvests, other than wakame, which are presented to the gods with other food offerings. Wakame can be harvested only after this rite is completed.

Nishengu Shrine Gate

As you keep walking along the cemented path, you will reach the vermilion colored Nishen-gu gate. It looks like most shrine entrance gates but its style is based on based on Gongen-zukuri, a traditional shrine architectural style.

Just beside the Nishen-gu Gate, you will find the chozuya, a purification place, where visitors can purify themselves before visiting the main place of worship. Now, there is a procedure to undergo the purification: pick up the ladle with your right hand and pour water over your left hand, then switch it to your left hand to wash your right hand.

Note: Do not drink water directly from the ladle, spit into the fountain, or return water from the ladle back into the fountain!

Follow it by pouring some water on your cupped hands, then rinse out your mouth with the water in your hands and spit it out beside the fountain. Finally hold the ladle upside down over the ground to let the remaining water trickle down rinsing out the handle.

The purification part is only optional and you can choose not to undergo it if you feel. Once you walk into the main temple premises, you will see two smaller shrines near the gate on either shrines. I am not sure to whom those were dedicated to.

Brief History of Hinomisaki Shrine

What Shimane prefecture lacks in size and population, it makes up for in scenery and ancient mythology. Izumo-taisha, in the middle of the prefecture, is said to be Japan’s oldest Shinto shrine, where stories that delve into the creation of the Japanese archipelago have been passed down over centuries.

Encircled by a grove of old pine trees, the vermilion-lacquered Hinomisaki is an ancient Shinto shrine standing on Cape Hino. Though not as popular as Izumo-Taisha, its name is recorded as the “Misa Gisha” in the ancient text of the “Izumo no Kuni Fudoki.” Hinomisaki Shrine is in fact the collective term for two shrines—the Hishizumi no Miya, dedicated to the goddess Amaterasu-omikami and the Kami no Miya, dedicated to the god Susano-no-mikoto.

Izumo Fudoki was a collection of books created as a result of Imperial edict in 713 CE, ordering each province to gather detailed information of its region.

The current Hinomisaki shrine was built by the Matsue domain at the order of Iemitsu Tokugawa, the third shogun of the Edo Shogunate. The current main shrine was started by Tadaka Kyogoku, who was the lord of the Matsue domain at the time, in 1634. It was completed in 1644 under the supervision of Matsudaira Naomasa.

A grandchild of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, Matsudaira Naomasa is remembered for his valor in the Battle of Osaka (1615) at the young age of 14. The empowerment of Naomasa as the lord of the Matsue domain marked the start of the longest reign a single-family held at Matsue Castle, spanning 10 generations (1638-1871).

In years when he was resident in Izumo, he would frequently tour the province under the pretext of visiting the grand shrine of Izumo Taisha and Hinomisaki Shrine, practicing falconry, and making forays into the innermost reaches of Izumo. On such occasions, he would often stay with wealthy local farmers, using their private residences as a headquarters for his own retinue.

Hishizumi no Miya

As I mentioned before, Hinomisaki Shrine was built in honor of two deities with a prominent presence in Japanese mythology: Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun, and Susanoo, the god of storms and the sea. The Hishizumi no Miya hall is dedicated to the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, considered Shinto’s most important kami.

Initially, Amaterasu Omikami was enshrined on the Kyojima Island (Fumishima) just off the coast of Kiyoenohama, about 200 meters from this place.

At the time Hinomisaki Shrine was built, the area was a prosperous seaport, and the local lord commissioned the shrine to stand guard over the coast and protect the area’s trade. The vermilion-lacquered shrine pavilions were based on Gongen-zukuri, a traditional shrine architectural style. Being a valuable architectural work of the early Edo Period, the shrine is designated as a nationally important cultural property.

Gongen-zukuri is the name of a complex Shinto shrine structure in which the haiden, or worship hall, and the honden, or main sanctuary, are interconnected under the same roof in the shape of an H.

The shrines with white walls and wooden cuts, and the pillars and cross-cuts painted in red are the Gongen structure that both the upper shrine and the main shrine are connected to, leaving the glamorous image of the Momoyama period.

On the roof of the shrine, the symbols of the three gods “Souboutsuson”, “Amaterasu Omikami” and “Tsukiyomison” are engraved. The engraving in the center which consists of three circles, may look like simple geometric shapes, but actually they represent the sun goddess Amaterasu, the moon god Tsukuyomi, and the sea god Susano.

You can also find a depiction of the “Three Wise Monkeys,” which originated in Japan and have become a familiar motif in cultures the world over.

Kamino miya Honden

The Kami no Miya hall is dedicated to Susano-no-mikoto. The grains of sand from within the grounds of Hinomisaki-jinja are much in demand for Land Breaking ceremonies. For a very long time, the sand is thought to have protective properties so is a very popular charm among worshipers.

Shrine protecting the night

The Hinomisaki shrine is related to the famous Ise Jingu in Mie Prefecture in a spiritual way. Ise Shrine in the east where the sun rises, and Hinomisaki Shrine in the west where the sun sets. The shrine (more specifically, the Hishizumi no Miya), famously protects Japan’s night, as opposed to Ise Jingu shrine, which protects Japan’s day.

Because the shrine was intentionally built to face the west in the direction of the setting sun, Hinomisaki Shrine has been seen as the guardian of the night once the day sets in Japan.

Every August 7th, a special shrine sunset festival is held. The festival is open to all visitors.

This is a much more compact shrine than Izumo Taisha Grand Shrine, with a different atmosphere. It is designated as an important cultural property of the country as a valuable shrine structure including all structures inside the complex including stone structures. It is well worth visiting both.

Thanks for reading! Leave me a comment if you liked my journal or follow my story as I hurry towards Izumo Taisha to capture the most revered of all shrines in Japan

What are the shrine visiting hours?

8:30a.m. – 4:30p.m.

Admission Fees


Who built Hinomisaki Shrine?

The current shrine was started by Tadaka Kyogoku, who was the lord of the Matsue domain at the time, in 1634 CE, but it was completed by Naomasa Matsudaira in 1644 CE.

How to reach Hinomisaki Shrine?

Get off at the end of the bus bound for Hinomisaki from JR Izumo Station. 1 minute walk from the bus stop.

An evening at Kiyosu Castle

Today we explore one of the hidden gems of Japanese heritage located just about 6 km northwest of Nagoya. I am talking about Kiyosu Castle 清須城, a small castle with a long history, that the ruthless warlord Oda Nobunaga once called home.

Kiyosu Castle

The stories of Kiyosu Castle is smeared in blood. No surprises there as it played an important role in Nobunaga’s initiative for the unification of Japan.

After a violent takeover, with the assassination of Oda Nobutomo, the then clan leader of Kiyosu, Oda Nobunaga snatched the reigns of the province in 1555 CE. At that time Nagoya used to be the capital city. Following his ascent to the throne, he had Kiyosu Castle renovated and moved there, using it as his base in his war of conquest to unify the country.

During his reign, the castle town prospered as an economic and cultural center of the Owari province (western part of modern-day Aichi Prefecture) until 1610, when the capital was moved back to Nagoya.

Nagoya Station to Kiyosu

We were coming in from Nagoya, where we had spent the afternoon meandering around Nagoya Castle grounds.

The ride to Kiyosu Station didn’t take us more than 25 minutes from Nagoya Station, using the JR line. The ride is free if you are carrying JR Passes. You can also take the Meitetsu Line, but the walking time is more on that route.

Note: Meitetsu Line does not allow JR Pass.

The train dropped us off at Kiyosu station at around 3.30 pm.

From Kiyosu Station, the castle is another 20 minute leisurely walk along quiet lanes. The only sound I remember all through the walk was the sound of passing trains. Yes, the JR line runs almost parallel to the road all the way up to the castle.

Just before we arrived at castle we passed by a small park. I was pleasantly surprised to see a winter Sakura tree blooming right at the edge of the road. Generally Sakura blooms in Spring between the months of March to April. Winter Sakura, otherwise known as Fuyuzakuras (冬桜), as its name suggests, blooms in late autumn (Fuyu in Japanese translates to Winter). It is rare to see one around these parts.

Up ahead we found ourselves near the southern half of castle grounds, which is now a park, featuring a bronze statue of Oda Nobunaga in full armor, with his wife, Princess No-Hime.

Nobunaga’s statue imitates his appearance when he was about 26 years old. No-Hime’s statue standing beside his wasn’t originally built here. In the summer of 2012 due to popular consensus, it was relocated to his side.

There was still some daylight as we reached the front of the Castle. The first thing that you notice as the Castle comes into view is the lovely vermilion bridge in front of it. The cute little bridge over the Gojo river makes the castle look even more elegant.

Before you read further, I would like to clarify that the current standing castle isn’t the original structure. The original castle ruins lie exactly opposite to the current castle building. The present castle tower was reconstructed in 1989 based on the appearance and scale of the original.

The site of the actual keep now has the “Kiyosu Furusato no Yakata” a small rest area and souvenir stall on it. The shop was closed by time we reached. A bunch of girls were sitting under one of the street lights along the bridge playing some game. Their chirpy laughter was the only sound in the vicinity.

A brief history of Kiyosu Castle

Kiyosu Castle was first built around 1405 by Shiba Yoshishige, the Governor of Owari, as a major strategic defense. Owari is not a name used anymore. It used to describe the western lands of the present Aichi prefecture. In due time the castle became the seat of power for Owari.

Kiyosu Castle was the starting point for many of the historically significant samurai battles that took place in the violent Sengoku Period between 1450-1615. The major battles of Okehazama (1560), Anegawa (1570), Nagashino (1575) and Sekigahara (1600) were all launched from Kiyosu.

Oda Nobunaga and Kiyosu Castle

While talking about Kiyosu Castle, we cannot ignore the period when Oda Nobunaga reigned supreme. In 1555, after his father’s death, Oda Nobunaga enlisted the help of his uncle, Oda Nobumitsu, and together they attacked and killed Oda Nobutomo. Nobunaga then moved from Nagoya Castle to Kiyosu using it as his base for years to come.

Two years later after taking control of Kiyosu, Nobunaga’s younger brother Nobuyuki is believed to have conspired against him. Nobunaga discovered his brothers’ plot to oust him, and faked an illness to draw his brother close. When Nobuyuki came to pay his respects to his “ill” brother, Nobunaga is said to have ordered his assassination within Kiyosu Castle, eliminating his only opposition.

Kiyosu remained his base for many years. During that time, Kiyosu grew to be a vibrant city. The castle grounds once extended 1.6 kilometers east-west, and 2.8 kilometers north- south, having an outer, central and inner moat system.

By the time of his death in 1582, he controlled 30 of Japan’s 68 provinces and was the commander of the greatest samurai army in the country’s history.

Dusk at Kiyosu Castle

We walked around the castle capturing the graceful replica from different sides. The front of castle is surrounded by a rock garden.

It was nearing evening. The castle grounds were being closed. Currently a museum resides inside the castle. If you want to explore the castle grounds or visit the museum, you have to be here before 4.15 pm. We walked over to the bridge and waited for the magic hour as I refer to the sunset time when the skies light up like a dream.

The street lights over the bridge were gradually turning on one by one. The group of girls had probably gone back their homes. The area was totally deserted and it wasn’t even 5pm. If you have traveled much in Japan, it’s a fairly regular occurrence. It doesn’t even feel strange anymore. So, I set up my tripod over the bridge to catch the lovely castle in the shimmering light.

Within minutes hues of blue and purple surrounded the castle.

The rot of Kiyosu Castle

After numerous upheavals in the Sengoku Period, Tokugawa Ieyasu emerged victorious and laid the foundations Edo Government. In 1609, for better running of the government, he ordered the rebuilding of the castle at Nagoya.

In the same year the old tower of Kiyosu Castle was dismantled and the materials were used for the construction of the northwest yagura of the Nagoya castle. You can still witness that tower in Nagoya Castle, which has survived in its original form until today, being known as the Kiyosu Yagura. Once the construction at Nagoya Castle was finished, Kiyosu Castle was formally abandoned.

Kiyosu Castle Today

The current Kiyosu Castle was reconstructed in concrete in 1989 just across the Gojo river from where the actual castle stood. Since the original plans were lost it was built by using the model of the Inuyama castle, which is representative for the castles built in that period. The rebuilt tower, made of concrete, looks indeed like the Inuyama Castle, except for the absence of the small connected donjon and the karahafu undulated gable on the third floor.

It was getting dark and it was time for us to head back to the glistening lights of Nagoya. Kiyosu has a lovely castle and anyone interested in capturing a beautiful piece of heritage should not give it a miss. Once the capital of the powerful Owari domain, Kiyosu Castle’s influence may have waned, but its importance to history has not.

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Originally Built

1394-1427 CE

Built by

Shiba Yoshishige



Photowalk along Osanbashi Pier

Today we dropped by at one of the most photographed areas in YokohamaOsanbashi Pier(大さん橋) . The pier was originally built in 1894, but was reconstructed in 2002 as a passenger terminal. Its bold new design incorporates floor boards, with no stairs, beams or posts making it a unique experience with great views of the city.

We were in the Kanto region for a few days. The weather had been a big disappointment. We spent the early part of the day inside malls surrounding Shin-Osaka Station. We found a Book-off store nearby. Its a great place to find old series that are not in publication anymore and, I may add.. in pretty good condition.

The weather didn’t improve much over the afternoon, but Osanbashi Pier was one of the places I badly wanted to see. It is one of Yokohama’s best spots for a walk, with unobstructed views of the Minato Mirai skyline especially in the evening.

How to get to Osanbashi Pier from Shin-Yokohama

After lunch we dropped off our shopping bags back at the hotel and left for the pier. We took the Blue line from Shin-Yokohama Station and got down at Kannai Station. From there it is a 15 minute walk to the pier. JR Passes are not valid on the Blue line. It cost us 270 Yen each for the one way ride. You can also buy one-day passes for the subway.

Osanbashi Pier

Osanbashi Pier is located between Minato Mirai and Yamashita Park. Since all three attractions are connected by a pleasant waterfront promenade, Osanbashi Pier is most conveniently accessed by foot from either of the other two sites.

It was already dark by the time we reached the pier. The beautiful lights had come on and it appeared quite romantic except for the drizzle that was still trying to dampen my spirits. I was almost ready give up but Mani egged me on.

It was cold. We walked over to the pier and found us a bench. Luckily we found a vending machines alongside and grabbed us some very welcome warm coffee. The drizzle eventually went away by the time we finished our coffee

Yokohama Night Skyline

I set up my tripod on the left side of the pier from where I was able to capture some lovely images of the Yokohama skyline.

Osanbashi pier has a unique design. Its “roof top” is a huge wood deck with steps, slopes, and benches. It is open to the public. Generally, families and couples visit there and have relaxing time with fresh sea breeze. However very few people had braved the wet weather to be at the pier.

Brief history of Osanbashi Pier

The Port of Yokohama was opened in 1859 as a direct result of the Treaty of Kanagawa, signed by Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States and the Tokugawa Shogunate of Japan. At the time, 2 wharfs were built in place of the present day Osanbashi. The wharfs were too shallow for the ships to dock, and so barges were used to carry passengers and freight to and from the ships.

In 1889, during the Meiji Era, the City of Yokohama was incorporated. The Osanbashi Pier was constructed between 1889 and 1896. Between that time and today it has been damaged many a times.

In 1923, the port was badly damaged by the Great Kanto Earthquake, and had to be rebuilt. During World War II, the port was again badly damaged, this time by air raids.

In 1964, another reconstruction of Osanbashi Passenger Terminal was undertaken to jazz it up before the Tokyo Olympics that year.

Far out one can also see the iconic red brick warehouse at the base of the Minato Mirai skyline. We would be heading there later in the evening.

After taking a few pictures, we walked over to the eastern side of the pier. The wet wood was still glistening from being wet.

As we stood admiring the wide open bay, a Royal Wing Bay Cruise ship came along making its rounds in the bay. One of the best way to feel this Bay City’s charm is by joining this cruising tour. The ship serves a variety of dishes, and follows it up with amazing views of the bay area.

Osanbashi Kokusai Kyakusen Terminal

We didn’t want to stay for long in the anticipation that the rain would be back. As we walked back we found ourselves in front of the gate of the passenger terminal. Most of this area was constructed between 1987 and 2002, to meet the modern demands of the port.

This newly reconstructed passenger terminal is named the Osanbashi Kokusai Kyakusen Terminal. It can accommodate up to four 30,000-ton class ships or two 70,000-ton class ships at the same time. The pier has a terminal building which houses checking counters for passengers, customs, immigration, souvenir shops, coffee shop, information counters and a restaurant.

Once I was done taking pictures of the Yokohama skyline, we made our way towards the dazzling lights of Minai Mirato across the Zo No Hana Park. In this park there is a new installation of a series of vertical light panels in a curved line that gradually increase in size.

On the left one can see the Yamashita Lingang Port Promenade. It is a boardwalk that connects the New Port District of Yokohama City Naka Ward directly with Yamashita Park. Yamashita park was just behind us but it was too late to head there. One really does need a full day to explore the area. Anyways, we walked briskly towards the Red Brick Warehouse.

Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse

The Red Brick Warehouse (Aka Renga Soko) is a pair of landmark buildings, with an artsy shopping center, banquet hall, and event grounds. It is located right next to the port in the Minato Mirai district of Yokohama.

The bold vibe of the Red Brick Warehouse is quite unique in nature to anything I have seen in Japan. The are two buildings running parallel to each other, with an open courtyard-like area in between. It is a good place for souvenir shopping. For those looking for a more substantial dining plan, there are also some larger, sit-down restaurants.

The two buildings were constructed in 1911 and 1913 meant to be used as customs buildings for the nearby harbor. They survived the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, requiring just some basic repair and restoration. The buildings were requisitioned by the Americans during WWII, but were returned to their original use after the war, and continued serving as customs houses until 1989.

In 2002, they were repurposed into a shopping mall. Each building, as well as individual shops, operate on their own hours and holidays, so there is no universal schedule. Most shops open between 10-11:00 am and close by 7 – 8:00 pm.

Walk back to Kannai Station

It was 9 pm. We started our walk back to Kannai Station. We were tired from walking all day. On the way I got this last incredible close-up shot of the Landmark Plaza. I can certainly say that the more I roam around this area, the more angles I can get. But this would be enough for today.

Yokohama bay area is like a feast for the photographers. I would love to come back some time during the day to capture other parts of the area.

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The thrilling Tojinbo Cliffs

This day is special to me, today I can safely proclaim to be the second Indian to visit all 47 prefectures of Japan. The first Indian to explore all 47 prefectures is obviously my wife Mani san. I had been wanting to visit the cliffs since the day I witnessed the thrilling cliffs of Sandanbeki in Wakayama. My JR Pass was going to expire soon, so I made up my mind to drop in at Tojinbo today.

Tojinbo is a series of basaltic cliffs located within the Echizen-Kaga Quasi-National Park in Sakai, northern Fukui, bordering Ishikawa. Pronounced Toujinbou, the rugged, precipitous cliffs stretch for over a kilometer, and is designated as a precious natural monument.

I was a bit tired traveling more than 2000 km in the last couple of days. From Nara, it was a leisurely 40 minute ride to Kyoto. The trees on the hills along the route had started turning red with the advent of fall.

At Kyoto, I took the Thunderbird Limited Express to Fukui. Even though the Thunderbird is not a Shinkansen, the interiors are nothing less than one.

The train ride to Fukui goes along a hilly region and for most part of the journey we were traveling inside tunnels. It had started to rain strongly and I was keeping my fingers crossed hoping for a better weather at Fukui.

I reached Fukui at 1 pm. The weather here was much better. The tourist information booth had been shifted to a new place because of renovations. It took me a bit of time searching for the relocated office. Once I was there, the lady at the counter told me to catch the train to Awaraonsen Station and take a bus from there. There is another way using the Echizentetsudo-Mikuni-Awara Line to Mikuniminato Station, but it’s not a JR line. Both routes cost similar and take up almost similar time but I chose to go to Awaraonsen as it was a more preferred route.

At Awaraonsen, just outside the station is a bus ticket counter where one can purchase a round trip ticket to Tojinbo. One can save a few Yen by buying the round trip ticket that costs ‎¥1000. One way ticket to Tōjinbō costs ‎¥750 each way.

The bus for Tojinbo leaves every hour so I had to kill some time at the station. I wandered around the place but its a small town with nothing interesting around the station. There is a Seven-Eleven store inside the station premises, and that’s it.

The bus arrived at 2.40 pm. The cliffs are popular with foreigners and the bus stops are announced in English as well as Japanese.

It was about 3.30 pm by the time I reached the Tojinbo bus stop. The cliffs are at a 5 minute walk from the bus stop.

It was a breezy evening as I walked along the cobblestone path towards the cliffs. The path is lined on both sides by many omiyage (souvenir) shops and restaurants. The restaurants serve some delicious baked seafood in the restaurants. One can also enjoy the Squid Ink Ice cream, a specialty found only in the Tojinbo area.

At the end of the path, the view opens up to the wide Japan Sea. Some wooden benches are set up here so the less adventurous guests can enjoy the breathtaking scenery right from here.

My first thoughts were that it was somewhat smaller than the Sandanbeki Cliffs but more widespread. I climbed down towards one of the protruding cliffs. The rocks in Tojinbo are named from their shapes such as Sandan Rocks (three-layer rocks), Rosoku Rocks (candle rocks), Byobu Rocks (wind wall rocks), and Oike (big lake).

The rocks are easy to maneuver through. I found myself a comfortable spot at the edge of the 25-meter-tall cliff near the Oike. These magnificent andesite rocks appear like hexagonal pillars growing out of the sea.

In between a boat would come inside the lagoon called Tojinbo Oike, carrying tourists wishing to explore the magnificent rocks from the sea. Far away, I noticed the Oshima Island and the red bridge leading to the island. There is a cruise service available, which takes about 30 min to commute between Tojinbo and Oshima. Oshima is one of the biggest islands in the Echizen coast.

I spent around an hour lost in the beautiful moment from the edge of the cliff looking into the vast vividly blue-green sea. In winter one can observe a phenomenon called “Nami-no-hana,” or flowers of waves. They occur when the waves are caught in the reefs and churn into bubbles that the violent winds then fan up in to the air. I had seen those at Sendanbaki, but today the waves were at peace. Eroded by the raging waves, the sea had made inroads along the coast creating small caves.

There were so many tourists walking up and down the steep rugged cliffs, enjoying the spectacular scenery. Some were extremely adventurous, venturing to the edges. I captured this photo of a girl looking down the cliffs.

For some reason I felt something was wrong about her. She went further down towards a lonely side of the cliff and sat down at the very edge. I could tell she was crying. She sat there listening to something on her phone.

Tojinbo cliffs also have a dark side – many Japanese come here each year to end their lives by jumping off the high cliffs, throwing themselves onto the jagged rocks.

Local legend has it that Tojinbo, a Buddhist monk was pushed out off the cliff to death by his fellow monks because of misbehavior. His angry spirit didn’t leave the sea and it had always been incredibly stormy on the day of his death that falls on 5th April. Every year his spirit is soothed by the prayers of a master monk so the waves subside. It is said his ghostly spirit has been drawing many depressed souls to commit suicide from these cliffs.

I hung around beside her for about 30 min after which she, to my relief, got up and went back towards the shops area.

The sun was gradually descending by 5.30 pm. Far away a fishing boat was sailing in the glittering waters.

I went down towards the east side where a series of steps led right down to the base of the cliffs.

I felt the cold water of the Japan Sea in my hands. In monsoon the waves at Tojinbo are more dramatic. From down there, I was awed by the surreal and eerie look of the cliffs with its gigantic columnar joint of basalt.

From the base of the cliffs I took some shots of the sea with the sun gradually descending behind thick clouds.

I wanted to catch the sunset, but unfortunately my last bus back was scheduled for 6.21 pm so I had to leave before the sun actually set. The bus stop was desolate. The bus arrived on time. It was carrying a couple of passengers. On the ride back, luckily, I was able to catch a glimpse of the sunset from the bus.

I reached Awaraonsen only to find the next Thunderbird express to Kyoto was an hour away. So I caught another train and went to Fukui. I grabbed some snacks at the station and waited for the train there. In a couple of hours I was back in Nara.

Tojinbo is a beautiful place with spectacular cliffs. It’s a great place to relax and witness the sunset. I had a wonderful time hiking up the cliff. It is sad to hear about suicides though.

The shrines of Nikko

It was a sudden rush of the moment when I decided to visit the shrines of Nikko. The day before I was shuffling through some souvenirs at the Tougyoku Doll museum, when I chanced upon a set of hand painted cards of popular UNESCO sites in Japan. The box contained a set of six UNESCO sites, of which I had visited all, barring Nikko. So it was decided right then that we were going to Nikko the next day.

The “Shrines and Temples of Nikko” refer to the Toshogu and Futarasan-jinja shrines, the Rinnoji temple and the surrounding sacred forest located in Tochigi Prefecture, in the northern part of Japan’s Kanto region. These architectural and decorative masterpieces of Nikko, together with their natural surroundings, have been a sacred site for centuries.

Train ride from Takasaki to Nikko

We started out in the early morning from Takasaki. It was a dull cloudy day. We had been staying at the Tokoyo Inn in Takasaki. It’s just a 5 minute walk from the station and has good facilities.

I had been to Nikko once earlier when I visited Lake Chuzenji, so I knew it takes some time specially on the local train from Utsunomiya Station on the JR Nikko Line. I hope they would schedule some express trains in the future for tourists who generally go directly to Nikko, rather than stopping at all stations. That would save a lot of travel time.

We reached Nikko by noon. At the station the first thing we did was check with the information booth.

The lady at the counter alerted us that a huge traffic jam was underway and we would be better off on foot rather on the sightseeing bus. So we walked down the quiet streets. Along the way, we picked up a couple of ice cream cones for the road.

The city of Nikko is a cozy place with small shops and restaurants. We saw many foreign tourists also making their way towards the shrines. The city does not have many hotels and generally visitors come here on day trips and head out before dusk.

Shin-kyo Bridge

After walking for about 20 minutes we were at a beautiful arch-shaped bridge covered in vermilion lacquer and supported by stone piers. The Shinkyo Bridge acts as a gateway to the shrines and temples of Nikko.

Legend has it that once Shonin was unable to cross the strong rapids of the Daiyagawa river. So Shonin prayed to the gods and gods answered by sending two snakes which formed a bridge for him to walk across. We stayed at the bridge for some time enjoying the cool breeze across the river.

History of Nikko

From the bridge, we entered the forested area of Nikko. A series of moss-covered steps led us up the mountain towards the Tosho-gu Shrine. It had started to drizzle as we made our way uphill towards the shrine. Even though Nikko is 3 hours away, the cloud cover had followed us all the way from Takasaki

The sacred forest of Nikko dates all the way back to the 8th century. It was then that Shonin founded the Shihon-ryu-ji Temple (formerly Rinno-ji Temple). Later he also founded the Chuzenji Temple in 782 at the foothills of Mount Nantai. Shodo Shonin passed away in the year 817 and was buried in Kaizan-do Temple. Thereafter for centuries, the area with its forest and mountains became a training ground for Buddhist monks.

However it was only when the forest was chosen to house the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, the ruling warlord of Japan, that Nikko became popular. People came from all over Japan to witness the  beautifully ornate shrine.

The path to the Tosho-gu shrine is lined with giant ancient trees that reminded me of the Kumano trail in Nachi.

At certain points pilgrims had tied Ema on the bushes.

After the initial climb, the trail is easy and we were quickly at the shrine.

I was surprised by the huge crowd that had gathered at the Tosho-gu Shrine. Nikko, it seems  is very popular among foreign tourists and even though it was a Monday afternoon, there was no letting up. Many of them are like me who may not be Buddhist but still appreciate the ornate temples created by craftsmen in the late 17th Century. From that moment on, I couldn’t enjoy the place. Too much noise disturbs me. A spiritual place like Nikko can only be enjoyed in silence. But since we were here we decided to at-least witness the decorative Tosho-gu Shrine.

Tosho-gu Shrine

Tosho-gu is the main Shinto shrine in Nikko, and the entrance is through the magnificent Omote-mon gate. It was built as a shrine and mausoleum to deify Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1617), founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate that lasted over 2 centuries. As many as 450 thousand workmen and artisans labored over a period of two years to complete Toshogu.

There was a long queue for the admission tickets to the shrine. Beside the ticket booth there is a heavily decorated 5 storyed pagoda. The original pagoda dated from 1650 but burned down in 1815. The present tower is a reconstruction from 1818. The twelve Chinese zodiac signs are carved around the Pagoda’s first level.

While Mani stood in the queue to obtain the tickets, I took some shots of the Omote-mon gate.

The gate is protected by huge red Nio guardian kings on either side.

Through the Omote-mon front gate we found ourselves in front of the three San-Jinko Sacred Storehouses. The beautifully decorated storehouses with colorfully painted carvings are used to keep costumes for spring and autumn festivities. One can see a carving of elephants on the top-tier of the buildings, even though they are not indigenous animals of Japan.

To the left of the entrance is the famous Shinkyusha (meaning “Sacred Stable”), decorated with wood carvings of monkeys. The stable is Toshogu’s only unpainted structure. The only decorated carving is of the three, “Hear no evil, See no evil and Speak no evil” monkeys demonstrating the three principles of Tendai Buddhism. The stable houses a horse named Kotuku, donated by the government of New Zealand.

The “Three Monkeys”, carving below is famous throughout the world for the “see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil” poses. The carved monkeys covering their eyes, ears and mouth, respectively, were inspired by the Buddhist teaching that if we do not hear, see or speak evil, we ourselves shall be spared from evil.

To the left of the stable on can find some sacred lanterns made of stone and bronze.

Further on after a right-hand bend in the path is the Omizuya lavabo, a holy washing trough, dating from 1618. Water is siphoned from the nearby river for worshipers at the shrine to purify themselves.

A staircase leads up to the Yomei-mon gate. In front of the gate, there are two bells on either side, the roofs of which have a carved Baku on each of the four corners. The elephant-like Baku (獏) is an imaginary creature from Chinese mythology thought to prevent or devour nightmares. It has the trunk and tusks of an elephant, the eyes of a rhinoceros, the tail of a cow, and the paws of a tiger.

The Yomei-mon (meaning “Sunset Gate”) is another amazingly decorated structure with gold leaves, intricate, colorful carvings and paintings of flowers, dancers and mythical beasts and Chinese sages. Historians say about 2.5 million sheets of gold leaf were used, each gold leaf being about 4 square inches. The extensive decorations of the gate displays the artistic taste of this ruling family of Japan that lasted for two and a half centuries. The Youmeimon tower gateway is famous for its lavish decorations that include over 300 dazzling carvings of mythical beasts, such as dragons and Chinese sages. Unfortunately, the gate itself was partly covered due to the restoration underway.

We were finally inside the main area of the shrine. It was so crowded in there, we had to forego all hopes of getting inside the shrine.

During the years, the area has been subjected to many natural disasters, mainly due to earthquakes. Each time, the damaged buildings were restored faithfully, following rigorously the original plans and techniques, using the original materials whenever possible. This has enabled the site to maintain its authenticity and continue to function as a place of religious rituals drawing pilgrims from all over Japan.

Nikko is a vast area of shrines and temples that it is almost overwhelming! Outside the Toshogu shrine, we walked past many other small temples, some closed, some in ruins. The drizzle had stopped by 2 pm and we slowly started on our way back to the train station.

The Nikko shrines and temples is a perfect illustration of the architectural style of the Edo period as applied to Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples. The shrine and temple buildings, together with their natural surroundings, have for centuries constituted a sacred site and the home of architectural and decorative masterpieces. It was a satisfied feeling to have visited the shrine, although I would have loved to be in a less crowded place.

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