It’s a sight that must be seen to be believed: a whopping one hundred and twenty-three brilliant red shrine gates climbing up the hillside, nestled in lush greenery and overlooking the crashing white waves and clear blue ocean waters. This breathtaking scene—named one of the 31 Most Beautiful Places in Japan by CNN—awaits you in Nagato, a city by the Sea of Japan in northern Yamaguchi Prefecture that is a worthy addition to any traveler’s itinerary.
This singularly unique shrine is actually a relatively recent construction, originally built the owner of a local fishery—at the advice of a white fox, as the tale goes—some sixty years ago. The distinctive torii shrine gates were transported from a shrine in neighboring Shimane and erected over ten years beginning in 1987. Weave your way through the gates up the hill and you’ll be greeted by another eccentric touch—the shrine’s donation box is attached to the top of the highest gate, meaning you’ll need to have a strong arm and good aim if you want your coin to find a home. Succeed, and the fox god just might grant your deepest wish.
After coming down from the shrine, take a short stroll towards the ocean and feast your eyes on the marvel of nature known as the “Dragon Palace Geyser” (Ryugu no shiofuki). Here, the waves crash against a hole in the cliff, sending a pillar of water soaring up to 30 meters into the air (highest from autumn to winter) in a shape resembling the mythical serpents of legend. It’s a one-of-a-kind, off-the-beaten path destination that’s sure to make an impression on even the most seasoned traveler.
Hours: The shrine grounds are open from sunrise until sunset. (*Entry and taking photographs during the night hours is strictly prohibited.)
Address: 498 Yuyatsuo, Nagato City, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Airport: Yamaguchi Ube Airport
+81-837-26-0708 (Nagato Tourism Convention Association)
From Yamaguchi Ube Airport, take the Ube Municipal Bus 15 minutes to Ube Shinkawa Station. From there, take the JR Ube Line to Ube Station (10 minutes). Transfer to the Sanyo Mine Line to Asa Station (10 minutes) and then the Mine Line bound for Nagato-shi Station (60 minutes). The shrine is approximately a 20-minute taxi ride from the station.
Hagi Castle Town and Hagi Meirin Gakusha (Historic Schoolhouse)
Hofu Tenmangu Shrine, Mohri Garden, Suo Kokubunji Temple, Amidaji Temple
Yanai City’s White-Wall Townscape
Tsunoshima Ohashi Bridge (Great Tsunoshima Bridge)
Rurikoji Temple’s Five-Storied Pagoda
Akiyoshidai and Akiyoshido
Ube Biennale Art Walk and Sunrise at Kiwa la Beach