Thursday, March 12, 2009

Udo-Jingu Shrine, Miyazaki, Kyushu, Japan

Steps descending to the Udo-Jingu shrine, near Miyazaki, Kuyshu Japan is the final picture in the banner.

According to legend it was here in a cave that Emperor Jimmu was born. The mythic founder of Japan, he is said to be a direct descendent of the sea goddess Amateratsu.

A Shinto shrine was built into this very cave, carved into a cliff overlooking the Nichinan coast of the Pacific Ocean. To reach it, visitors first pass through a welcoming gate, enormous red torii, then climb down the stone steps, rounded and slick from eons of ocean spray and footsteps.

To the left of the steps are fantastic rock formations that look like boiled and melted concrete. On the right down a sheer cliff, ocean waves crash as they froth and shatter against rounded rocks. The boulders  represent the breasts of Jimmu’s mother. For this reason, expectant mothers come here to pray for easy birth, while newlyweds pray for a happy marriage.

The top of one of these rocks is crowned with a knotted rope encircling a depression in its center. Visitors toss lucky stones (undama) into the center. It is said that if the stone lands in the center, your wish will come true. To make it tougher, men must toss with their left hand; women with their right, according to the sign, posted in English and Japanese.

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