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Exploring Japanese Legends at Amano Iwato Shrine

Posted By on May 19, 2014

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Located just three hours drive from Fukuoka, Takachiho, in Miyazaki Prefecture, is a beautiful and spiritual area in Japan. The drive is very easy and pleasant, with many places to stop along the way.

It’s in Takachiho, that you’ll find a place called Amano Yasugawara, the site of one of Japan’s most popular legends.

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According mythology, the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu hid herself in the cave, refusing to come out, and depriving the world of light. Gods from all over the world gathered together to discuss how to bring Amaterasu back outside. They began to dance and make a lot of noise until she was curious enough to come out, thus restoring sun to the land.

To visit, you’ll first encounter Amano Iwato Shrine (天岩戸神社), which was built near the aforementioned cave. The shrine is very typical for its time period, but it’s surrounded by bamboo forests. As you hike the streets through the forest, you feel as though you’re being transported to a different place and time.

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Although you cannot go inside the cave where Amaterasu hid, you can access the observation deck to see it from afar. Once you are finished there you can go into the supposed cave where the gods all conspired together to lure her out, which is called Amano Yasugawara (天安河原).

Amano Yasugawara is only a short walk along the stream from the shrine. When you reach it, you’ll first notice its unique appearance. The surface of the cave is covered with tiny rocks balanced on top of one another. These rock piles have been made over the years by the pilgrims who visit the cave, hoping that making these formations will bring them good fortune.

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The further you go along the stream, the more rock piles you’ll find, until you are surrounded by thousands of them for as far as the eye can see.

It’s unique beauty with the natural caves and forest, along with the man-made rock piles, make this a destination you won’t want to miss. Even though it’s a little harder to get to for the casual tourist, your efforts will be well-rewarded.

Address: 1073-1 Iwato, 高千穂町 西臼杵郡 Miyazaki 882-1621, Japan

 [post by Beth]

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Beth Williams

Originally from Chicago, Beth got her first true taste of travel when she studied abroad in Japan during her final year of university. She ended up loving Asia so much, she found herself moving right back upon graduating and is currently teaching English full-time in Hong Kong. Armed with her camera and a passion for travel, she is currently on a mission to photograph the world-- proving that you can work the normal “9-5” and still find time to travel on her blog Besudesu Abroad.

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