Udo Jingu Shrine
Udo Jingu Shrine is a truly unique, one of a kind shrine and a sight not to be missed when visiting Miyazaki. The shrine grounds are located on the Nichinan Coastline nestled within a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Once you arrive at Udo Jingu Shrine, it is not immediately apparent where the main shrine building is located. The shrine is in a unique location and all you need to do is keep following the main path. Along this path, you will first pass through the Shin-Mon which translates to the god gate. This is the first gate along the path leading to the main shrine and signals that you are entering the realm of the gods. It is proper etiquette to bow once when passing through this gate as you are stepping into a realm which belongs to the gods. Continue along the main path and you will reach the Sakura-Mon, a larger beautiful red gate which adorns the entrance to the path leading down to the main shrine building. Continue along this path and you will find yourself at the top of some stairs where you will get your first sight of the main shrine building.
Yes, Udo Jingu Shrine is located inside a cave. The cave is located down a cliff face which drops into the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean. It is extremely rare for shrines to be located inside of a cave and this is the most famous of these shrines in Japan. As the cave can only be accessed by stairs wheelchair access can be difficult.
The Shrine building is painted a beautiful red color which creates an amazing contrast with the gray backdrop of the cave. Before heading into the cave and paying your respects, you will notice many people throwing clay balls off of the cliff face. These clay balls are called Undama or Luck Balls and can be purchased to the left of the stairs leading down to this area. Men must throw the balls one at a time with their left hand and woman with their right hand. If you look down into the sea from the cliff face, you will see a rock with a circular rope laid on top of it. This rock is called Kameishi or Turtle Rock and you want to throw your balls into the pool of water located within the roped off area. Make a wish before you throw each ball and if your ball lands in the pool, your wish is said to come true.
Now that you have tested your fortune, it is time to pay your respects at the Udo Jingu Shrine. Praying at Udo Jingu is said to bring you good fortune in childbirth, a happy marriage, matchmaking and safety at sea. When paying your respects here, you can sometimes see rituals taking place inside the main building. Continue towards the left and you will find a path which will take you further into the cave circling around the shrine building. Inside this cave, you will first find the Nade-Usagi or patting rabbit. The servant to the gods at Udo Jingu Shrine is a rabbit and patting this rabbit is said to bring you good fortune and cure illnesses.
Further along this path, you will find 2 rocks called Ochichi-Iwa which translates to breast rock. These rocks are said to be the breasts of Toyotama-Hime, the daughter of the god of the sea who removed her breasts and stuck them to the cave wall after giving birth here. She did this because when she was giving birth, she instructed her husband Yamasachi-Hiko not to look as she would have to return to her former non-human form. However, despite her instructions, Yamasachi-Hiko looked upon her during childbirth which forced her to return home to her father after delivering her children. She removed her breasts and stuck them to the cave wall so that her children would grow strong and remember her love for them. At the shrine, they take the water which drips from these rocks and make a candy called Ochichi-Ame which is said to bring good fortune in pregnancy and improve the production of breast milk. After passing the Ochichi-Iwa, you will find yourself back at the entrance to the cave.
Udo Jingu Shrine is not only a beautiful and rare sight to behold but a sacred place of enormous importance in the mythology of Japan. One of the children who was born to Toyotama-Hime became the father of Emperor Jinmu, the first Emperor of Japan and the current royal family is believed to be descendants of his family. Experiencing the natural beauty and historical significance of this location is quintessential when visiting Miyazaki.
Some photos used in this article were taken at an earlier date.