There are many reasons to visit Japan’s shrines. They are, of course, religious sites, often dedicated to particular guardian gods or to receiving prayers for particular purposes. The shrine structures themselves are often of architectural interest and many are located on sites of great natural beauty, often selected based on principles of geomancy. The most ancient of shrines are also often associated with particular events in Japan’s history.
Udo Shrine, on the coast of Miyazaki south of Aoshima, ticks all of those boxes.
The gateway to Udo Shrine sits atop a seaside cliff. Photo: Vicki L Beyer
The shrine is the setting for one of Japan’s origin myths, the birth of Ugayafukiaezu, father of Japan’s mythical first emperor, Jimmu (711BC-585BC). As such, it is particularly associated with safe birth and healthy children. The shrine is also associated with protecting sailors and those who work on the water, but that is more likely related to its seaside location than its legendary origins.
The legend of Ugayafukiaezu’s birth is particularly interesting. His father was Hoori, also known as Yamasachi-hiko, a god of hunting. One day, Hoori and his brother Hoderi, also known as Umisachi-hiko, a god of fishing, decided to temporarily swap roles…