Details of Motonosumi Inari Shrine

More than just the stunning 123 gates

By Tristan Scholze   Nov 7, 2018 - 3 min read

Green leaves, red torii, blue sea. But wait, there’s more.

Donor plaques line the inside of the torii
Donor plaques line the inside of the torii

This is one of Japan’s newer shrines, dating back only to the 1950s. Legend has it that a divine white fox heralded a message that could be (very) loosely interpreted as something like, If you build it, they will come.

Explore the angles of the weaving gates
Explore the angles of the weaving gates

Sure, the 123 red gates look cool and the offertory box placed upon the top of one gate a few meters off the ground is fun in a gimmicky kind of way. Do get your selfies in front of the big front gate. But the fox was indeed wise, and those who take their time here will discover why.

The gates twist down to the sea
The gates twist down to the sea

This place has natural appeal. The twisting trail through the gates is special. The fox advised this place in particular. Once you’re here, and you’ve relished the gates, you may just begin to look around. This is a place where connection to Nature is easy.

Rainbow cliffs meet the clear blue Sea of Japan
Rainbow cliffs meet the clear blue Sea of Japan

There’s a rocky outcrop on the coast with fantastic colors of swirling mineral deposits and geological treasures. Cliffs mark the edge of the land; they drop down into the Sea of Japan, which is particularly clear and beautiful here. Listen for the blowhole where the rocks meet the sea—also known as The Spouting Palace of the Dragon King. On rough days, the waves funnel through a hidden cave and spray spectacularly up into the air.

Extend an offering to the sky; the donation box is at the top of this ga
Extend an offering to the sky; the donation box is at the top of this ga

In a sense, the coins flying into the offertory box further up the mountain echo the blowhole metaphorically. As the sea leaves its realm and reaches into the sky, so the box calls your attention away from ground level upward and asks you to extend your offering far outside of yourself in connection to the environment.

Dragonflies, butterflies, and other beautiful animals abound here
Dragonflies, butterflies, and other beautiful animals abound here

Then there are the even smaller details of a summer’s day: wildflowers, butterflies, dragonflies, and the smell of salty sea air. Around you, hawks glide on the air currents and windmills greet the breezes on the nearby coast. It’s no Iowan cornfield.

Hawks (Black kites, aka Milvus migrans) patrol the beach
Hawks (Black kites, aka Milvus migrans) patrol the beach

元ノ隅稲成神社Motonosumi Inari JinjaMotonosumi Inari Shrine

龍宮の潮吹—Ryuuguu no Shiofuki—The Spouting Palace of the Dragon King (blowhole)

Rocky, forested coastline with mountains and windmills surround the shrine
Rocky, forested coastline with mountains and windmills surround the shrine

Getting there

17-minute taxi or drive from Nagato-Furuichi Station, near Nagato City in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Parking 500 yen for the day.

Japan Travel Partner

Join the discussion

Elizabeth Scally a week ago
Your photos and perspective make it look even more enticing.
Tristan Scholze Author 2 days ago
Thank you! It was actually more interesting than I thought it would be.
Kim B a week ago
My husband's coin ended up on top of the torii gate instead of in that box! Extra lucky, maybe?!
Tristan Scholze Author 2 days ago
No kidding? I actually did the exact same thing. I didn't have time that day to ask the monks if that meant anything. In this case, perhaps we just decide for ourselves what it means . . .
Sleiman Azizi a week ago
I enjoyed reading this. Thanks.
Tristan Scholze Author 2 days ago
Thank you for the kind words!