This beautiful detour, hidden in plain sight, serves as a beautiful example of how Japan always rewards explorers.

On a recent trip through Japan’s northeastern Tohoku region, we found ourselves driving through the town of Otsuhchi in Iwate Prefecture. As we pulled over near the city’s waterfront to step out of the car and stretch our legs, our eyes settled on a picturesque island poking out from the waters of the bay.

The more we looked at the inviting trees and colorful structures sticking out from the rocky terrain, the more we felt the island calling for us. Like we said, we were traveling by car, not boat, bur luckily it turns out that you can walk to this island.

There’s a long breakwater connecting the island, called Horaijima, with the mainland. So we decided to extend our rest stop by strolling out along the narrow walkway, with the warm sun shining down on us and a gentle sea breeze blowing through our hair.

Once we made it across to the island, we could see that one of the splashes of bright red we’d seen from across the bay was actually a torii gate, marking the entrance to a Shinto shrine.

While no one lives on the Horaijima, Shinto’s belief about the divinity of nature means that sometimes shrines are set up even n places that don’t see many worshipers passing by. Beyond the gate stands a green building that at first looks like a compact house, but is really a shrine dedicate to the goddess Benten.

Benten is best known as the deity of music, but also holds divinity over water. Because of that, you’ll often find Benten shrines, like this one, built on islands. Sure enough, there’s a statue of Benten enshrined at Horaijima’s shrine, placed there in hopes that she’ll bestow her protection upon local fisherman while they’re on the sea.

Meanwhile, the island also has a more secular means of keeping ships safe, as next to the torii stands a bright red lighthouse.

Aside from the natural fauna, the torii, shrine, and lighthouse are all you’ll find on Horaijima. But even though it only takes about 10 minutes to see them all and snap some photos, we couldn’t help but want to linger just a little longer.

Japan is filled with famous, attention-grabbing tourism destinations, like the Tokyo Skytree or Kyoto’s Kinakuji/Golden Pavilion. Those marque attrations are definitely worth checking out, but the other thing that makes Japan such a wonderful place to travel is the opportunity to find those little packets of beautiful natural scenery and simple yet deeply meaningful ways tradition is woven into modern life. It might take a little searching, but just about every corner of Japan has its own version of Otsuchi’s Horaijima, and it’s our sincere hope that you get the chance to find some of our own.

Shrine information
Horaijima Benten Shrine / 蓬莱島弁天神社
Address: Iwate-ken, Kamihei-gun, Otsuchi-cho, Akahama 2-4

Photos ©SoraNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]