Shrine Hunting in the Inaka
March 2022. While restrictions and guidance are easing, it can be difficult to justify going to the next big city over. I wrestle with my desire to see Japan by doing what I can and making the best of it. Once every weekend or two, I hop into the car to go “shrine hunting” and shoot driving videos that I set music to, upload to YouTube, and send them to my friends to share Japan as best I can.
This willingness to do something is paying off. At one local shrine, I met the caretaker and he introduced himself to me after helping an obaa-san wrangle her loose dog. He opened up the main shrine for me to look into; I think he was tickled pink he and the shrine had a visitor. I plan to revisit to snap photos on a warmer, clearer day and hopefully ask him some questions in my broken, baby Japanese.
Another shrine I visited is up a hill from a playground. I spotted this one with a fellow ALT as we were driving up to see a nature park heaped with boulders after a good snowfall. I made a note of it to check it out later. I went on a snowy-turned-rainy, absolutely, ugly, stay-inside day, but my Midwest-Southern American bred stubbornness forbade me from not going. I drove to the playground, climbed up the stairs, and found a little shrine tucked up and away in a little wood grove. One particular drive wound up with me seeing an observatory and discovering a temple atop a mountain with a gorgeous and clear view for what seems like forever.
I know not everyone has the same situation, resources, or drives as I do. Even so, it never hurts to try doing something small, especially if it helps get out of a crappy frame of mind. Shrines and temples help with that (at least for me). They are typically quiet and lonesome, so I can just wander and look to my heart’s content. It’s small, but it scratches the itch to see Japan.
P.S. Still going to visit Akihabara. Gotta mark that off the nerd pilgrimage list one of these days. Maybe when it’s a little easier to justify traveling to Tokyo. Might even make a great urban shrine hunt of the trip.
Written by Jacky “the Nerd” Killian