Why is there a torii gate on such a steep cliff? It's a scene that anyone would consider strange.
To discover the reason, we have to go back 60 years.
In the 30th year of the Showa period (1955), a white fox appeared by the bedside of Mr. Hitoshi Okamura, a local fishing business owner. The fox asked, "Who do you think you have to thank for having come this far with fishing?" After sharing details from the past, the fox left behind a divine message: "You must hold a ceremony on this land to appease me!"
The deeply religious Mr. Okamura decided on this location as the sacred grounds for a Shinto shrine. He then had a part of the spirit divided from Shimane prefecture's famed Taikodani Inari Shrine and held the appropriate rituals. The shrine was small and humble, but miraculously the number of worshippers kept growing and thus far 123 torii gates have been donated.
And this is that shrine!
The torii gates at Motonosumi Shrine are lined up as if they are running down the steep slope that faces the great deep of the Sea of Japan.
This is unquestionably unusual, but nearby there’s a spot called "Ryugu no Shiofuki" where waves enter in a hole in the cliffs and seawater shoots up as high as 30 meters!
Though these days it might be called a power spot, it's certainly a sacred area that has been valued since ancient times.
A single torii gate stands at the place where the salty seawater shoots up from "Ryugu no Shiofuki".
From here I pass through all the 123 torii gates to say a prayer.
At the end of the trail that leads to the shrine is the last large torii gate. I pass through and just before I am about to return, I look up!
And there, about 5 meters above me on the upper part of the large torii gate there’s a box-like object. That is the offertory box.
Putting money in the offertory box at Motonosumi Shrine is said to be the most difficult in Japan, but there's no way I can leave without giving it a shot.
The most common offering in Japan is the 5-yen coin. I took aim, and gave the coin I'd been squeezing in my hand a good throw up towards the offertory box.
Throw it, pick it up, throw it, pick it up… I must have repeated this at least 10 times – it felt like it would never go in! To begin with, the box is small! And what makes it harder still are the strong ocean breezes that take my lightweight 5-yen coin off course.
It's early morning and there's no-one around. I change the coin to a heavier, silver-colored one. And finally, on my 6th attempt, the coin enters the box and I strike a victory pose (laughing).
There are around 40,000 Inari shrines in Japan represented by the characters稲荷, but only Motonosumi Shrine and one other use the characters 稲成 for Inari. It is said that the latter character derives from the word for fulfillment, and that later on various wishes will be fulfilled.
Maybe the reason the offertory box is difficult to reach is to test visitors’ determination to have their wishes fulfilled??
Oidemase! Come to Yamaguchi
Address: 498 Yuyatsuo, Nagato city, Yamaguchi prefecture
Parking: 15 vehicles (also for large vehicles)
Inquiries: 0837-23-1137 (Nagato city tourism section)
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Masashi Fujimoto
Masafumi Fujimoto Hi there! My name is Masafumi Fujimoto. Until the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, I was engaged in editing production at an advertising company in Tokyo. However, the earthquake was a turning point in my life and I headed home to Yamaguchi. When I arrived, I was extremely energized and motivated to help revitalize the region, but I had a hard time adjusting to the motivation level of the local people. Around that time I met an elderly lady who said: "It doesn't matter if all the people move away from the island; that's just the nature of things. Someday people will come back again." Lessening the tension I’d been feeling, those few words relieved me hugely, and I was able to finally adjust. Since then, I've been involved in writing and editing magazines, and working in advertisement production, as well as doing a little bit of farming. I also spend time walking around Setouchi searching for the many, many voices out there.
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