The trip out to Izumo Taisha was one of the best random decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I had no real reason to go but went anyway, and the place was beautiful.
Tucked against a mountain and surrounded by trees, the compound was truly breathtaking. To get to the shrine, you walk through a tunnel of trees with forest all around. Along the way there are mini shrines to which you can pay tribute. The path is pebbled and creates a dramatic effect as it leads the way to the big attraction.
When I finally reached the temple area, I was amazed at how large it was. One of the important festivals hosted by this shrine is one in honor of marriage. Apparently single people come to pray for their true love and married couples come to pray for a long, happy life together.
At the kaguraden (grand hall), there’s a shimenawa, or large sacred straw rope, that hangs from the rafters. Traditionally, this rope wards off evil spirits from entering the hall. These days it does double duty as a kind of wishing well. Patrons toss coins up and try to lodge them in the straw. If your coin gets stuck in the rope, the gods grant your wish.
I didn’t give this a try as I’m a backpacker with not much money to spare and frugal by nature. Also, I’m not willing to lose money on such an investment. It’s gonna take more than a few hundred yen to jumpstart my love life so why put in any if you can’t go in whole hog? However, I did see many other people giving it a go and some even managed to get their coins stuck.
Like many other religious places in Japan, there were also walls sake barrels, wishes tied to trees and hanging wooden placards. Everywhere you turned you found sentiments of prayer. The sheer volume of prayers impressed me and indicated how popular this shrine was. Could love be that important to everyone that people would trek this far into the countryside to pay tribute?