Stories behind the photos
On our way down from exploring the low mountains above Onomichi, we walked through a cramped neighbourhood filled with cats. The humans obviously adored the creatures. There was a cat-themed tiny bar, cats made of rocks and cat signs.
While koinobori (Japanese carp banners) are hung around Children’s Day in May, we had never seen such large versions draped within a community. Perhaps the cats were not amused.
A few of these torii gates were easily visible from the busy road so we had to pull over to check them out.
Following the path up to an almost abandoned shrine meant crouching low under the gates to avoid disturbing massive spider webs. While going up wasn’t bad, it took ages to get down as the webs were less visible. The spiders were big enough to sit comfortably on an adult hand. Would one drop and squiggle down my back when I wasn’t looking?
Old buildings are irresistible, especially those that seem to be held up only by their surroundings and determination.
This wobbly dock gently descending over the water looks as if it is held together only with love.
We purposefully booked a ryokan (small traditional hotel) in a rural community, loving the idea of being isolated. We didn’t realize the extent of our seclusion until the next morning when we went for a walk.
Thinking we’d be out strolling for at least an hour, we were shocked when the road ended abruptly with a wooden wall less than ten minutes later. The wall was attached to what looked like a private home. But towering above was obviously a shrine. Following a narrow, pebbled walkway behind the wall led us to a small gate and entrance to an unbelievable structure.
The shrine seemed to squat on a clump of rock directly above the sea. The oddest feature was a sloped deck or walkway surrounding the main shrine building. We took off our shoes, as per the signs, and gingerly crawled on our hands and knees around the side of the shrine to the section facing the sea. I was terrified one of us would tumble over the edge! I begged Hitoshi to not stand up as the pretend railing around the deck only came up to our knees.
The view in this photo was directly below the inner part of the shrine that was open and facing the sea. And what was inside the shrine? Set after set of large, stuffed breasts! It wasn’t until this point that we discovered that the shrine was dedicated to breastfeeding and fertility.
Beyond the main shrine building was a much smaller shrine. It could only be reached by timing our descent down these stairs with the crashing waves. While a shrine is normally serene, we were giggling and screaming, jumping and hopping down the crumbling stairs and finally sprinting down the path to avoid the crashing seawater.
Have you been completely surprised by a new experience? What happened?