Japan is a nation home to so many strange, wonderful and unique sites. It’s also home to plenty of stunning temples, shrines and places of worship, so really it only makes sense that it’s also home to plenty of quirky, and eclectic sacred hubs. From breast-worshipping temples to money washing shrines here are some of the more out there ones.
Sitting along the jagged Nichinan coastline, a little south of Miyazaki City, is where you’ll find the semi-hidden Udo Shrine. The shrine is dedicated to Emperor the mythical first emperor of Japan. Connected by a network of steps and rocky pathways, this cave dwelling, vibrantly coloured shrine is home to some of the most incredible views in the area. It’s a popular place for those wishing to start a family, because as legend has it that drinking the water that drips from neighbouring rocks will help you get pregnant.
In the northwest of Kyoto is where you’ll find Kuginuki Jizo, or, more colloquially named, the ‘nail pulling temple’. In Japanese, the term ‘kuginuki’ means ‘nail pulling’, and the site was named after a legend that a merchant who lived near the site in the 1500s. It’s said that the man suffered terrible pains in his hands, and after praying to the god Boddhisattva Jizo, he was told he in a past life pierced an effigy of a man he hated, driving nails through his hands. As a sign of atonement, the man went and left a collection of nails and a pair of pliers by the temple grounds. Over the years that followed many people suffering from aches and pain have visited the temple themselves offering pliers and nails to the gods that reside here. As a result the walls of the site are now covered in the offerings, making for rather interesting decoration.
One of the cutest temples in all of Japan, Gotokuji Temple is the site of thousands of maneki-neko, aka the beckoning cat. A sign of good luck and fortune, the story of how this came to be goes back to the time of the Edo-period, when supposedly a cat cared for by a priest of Gotokuji Temple led one of the country’s great feudal lords to the area for safety in the midst of a wild storm. The story goes that the cat attracted the attention of the lord by waving his paw, which is why all Gotokuji kitties have the one raised hand.