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Udo Jingu Shrine

A historic cliffside shrine deeply intertwined with Japan’s mythological history — the fertility blessings of this holy site draw in thousands of couples each year.

Depending how much you know about Japan’s native Shinto religion, you might be surprised to learn that the country has a religious mythology as rich as the Greeks and Romans, but which — unlike its European counterparts — has run pretty much unbroken from ancient times to the present day!

Udo Jingu Shrine is a fantastic place to discover the roots of that mythology, as it’s dedicated to the divine father of the (most likely fictitious) first emperor of Japan. Some stories say that this cave was actually the birthplace of the Emperor Jimmu himself, and that he… suckled on some rocks which resembled breasts for milk. Okay, Japanese mythology is often categorically weird — it has that in common with the Greeks and Romans.

Because of this, the shrine is closely associated with all things pregnancy and procreation. Couples looking to have children often visit here to wish for the best, and it's said that drinking the water dripping from the aforementioned rocks will speed things along (although nowadays most people are just satisfied to say some silent prayers).

Even if you’re not in the market for a newborn, the shrine is worth a visit for its lovely scenery alone. It has quite the dramatic location, integrated into a cliffside cave with lovely views out towards the ocean. On the terrace outside, you’ll see vendors selling small ceramic balls.

The challenge is to throw these little pebbles from the terrace into a small hole in a rock below. There aren’t any carnival prizes on offer, but a successful throw is said to bring a blessing of good luck from the gods, which is surely better than a giant stuffed animal, no?

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