Nestled in the caves along the Nichinan coast, just south of Miyazaki city is the Udo Shrine. The sacred Shinto grotto is said to have been hollowed out by the waves of the sea goddess Toyotama-hime. Walking through these beautiful underground caverns offers a sense of peace and reflection that makes it easy to believe the legends.
The brightly colored shrine is painted in the traditional Shinto colors of orange, red and white with the main shrine lying deep within the cave. The building is intricately carved and almost glows amidst the rugged rock formations. The entrance and exit to the inner shrine can be reached from the walkways along the cliff face. These walkways, lined with Japanese lamps called toro, guide visitors along the cliffs of the shrine complex. The brightly painted orange terraces also offer a spectacular view of the ocean and surrounding cliffs along the coast.
Udo shrine is dedicated to the deified first Japanese emperor, Jimmu, and his father, who was said to have been born in the cave. While much of Emperor Jimmu’s life is considered a legend, he is revered in Japanese society. It is said that his father, Ugayafukiaezu, was the son of goddess Toyotama-hime, making the shrine closely associated with marriage, pregnancy, and childbirth. For this reason, the shrine has become a popular destination for young couples looking to start a family. The ochichi iwa, or breast stones, are especially significant to those traveling to Udo shrine as it said that the dripping water nourished Emperor Jimmu’s father. Local legend says that drinking the water from the stones blesses new marriages and aids childbirth and pregnancy. For those wanting to take home a blessing for their family and friends, the shrine also sells candy called mizuame made from the dripping stone water.
On the cliffs below the cave, visitors can find rope targets among the rocks. Here, people throw small ceramic balls called lucky balls or undama into the target circles. Landing a ball in the target center will bring the thrower good luck and Ugayafukiaezu’s blessing. There is a strict ritual to this with women throwing the balls from the right hand and men from the left hand. The undama balls can be purchased from inside the shrine.
Many newlyweds visit the shrine to have their marriages blessed by the spirit of Emperor Jimmu’s father. Until recently, these newlyweds would be greeted outside the shrine by their relatives with a Shanshan horse. The horse, often decorated with bells, would carry the bride back to her home to bring good luck to her marriage. The ritual called Udo-san mairi can still be witnessed during festivals in nearby Miyazaki and Nichinan City.
Udo shrine is roughly 40km south of Miyazaki city and is best reached by car an hour-long drive from Miyazaki. Visitors can also take a 90-minute bus ride for 1480-yen from Miyazaki station and hop off at Udo Jingu bus stop, which is about a 10-minute walk from the shrine. Admission is also free, making it great for those on a budget.
- Opening and closing gate time [Apr.-Sep.] 6:00-19:00
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- open everyday