At the foot of Mount Aso lies the entrance to another world
About an hour’s drive from Kumamoto IC is a shrine tucked quietly away in the mountains.
You might be wondering if there could really be a shrine in a place like this.
Known on the internet as the entrance to another mysterious world, this place is growing
in popularity as somewhere that looks as though it's lost between two worlds.
You can tell this is a mysterious place just by looking at the pictures.
The imagination runs wild, wondering what kind of world lies at the top of these steps…
A power spot used as the setting for an anime
Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu shrine is located in Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture.
The fantastic scenery was used as the setting for the animated movie,
Into the Forest of Fireflies' Light (Hotarubi no Mori e).
The story follows a human girl who meets and spends time with a mysterious young man,
and the spiritual atmosphere of this shrine captures the movie’s view of the world perfectly.
While many people think about going to Aso, they aren’t sure what’s actually there.
It’s true that despite being famous for its wonderful nature, there are few tourist destinations.
However, there are a surprising number of secret power spots and attractions!
Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine is one of these little-known places which is a definite must see,
especially if you enjoy power spots, superb views, photography, or even ruins!
Introducing Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine
Located in the town of Takamori in Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture, the shrine was built in 1722.
This is one of the four major Kumanoimasu shrines in Takamori, and this particular one enshrines
the gods who gave birth to the land of Japan, Izanagi Nomikoto and Izanami Mikoto.
Known locally as 'Gongen-san', this cherished shrine is said bring good fortune in marriage and
A mysterious approach full of photo opportunities
The shrine stands quietly in the forest, surrounded by spectacular views.
Let’s introduce the best photo spots, starting from the entrance.
First of all, when coming from
the direction of Kumamoto IC, head past the shrine entrance and you'll find a free parking lot about
100m down the road on the left.
The shrine will be on the right before the car park, so be careful not to miss it.
This is the first torii gate as seen from the roadside.
As you climb the steps from the road and head through the torii gate, you'll feel
a complete change in atmosphere and the surrounding air.
It feels a little like being lost in Totoro's forest!
From here, continue climbing up the stone steps—there are more than 250 to go.
Along the way, there are areas which are a little unstable due to the tree roots growing underneath,
so make sure to wear something comfortable like sneakers. The uphill ascent is gentle for a while.
There are occasional steps, but the path is paved so it’s easy to walk.
This densely grown forest of trees has a dim and dark atmosphere, even on sunny days.
There are also rows of moss-covered lanterns, and almost everywhere you look is green.
The deeper you go, the more it feels like you're moving further away from this world.
After about 5 minutes of walking, you'll see a great number of steps ahead. This is the first photo spot!
Just look at this fantastical sight.
The light filters through the trees as though something is about to come down from the sky.
It's truly mesmerizing.
This is a beautiful place even on a normal day, but when there's a misty morning or the weather changes
to rain or snow, the atmosphere is all the more remarkable.
It only takes about 15 minutes to get to the main hall, and it's like this all the way there so your photos will
look great no matter where you take them.
Keep climbing and you'll come to a second torii gate.
You can see the main shrine behind it, and this is another good photo opportunity.
Here you can take a striking picture of the long stone steps together with the torii gate.
And of course, looking back down gives you another interesting angle.
After climbing the steps, head over and visit the main shrine.
This is where the gods who
gave birth to the land of Japan, Izanagi Nomikoto and Izanami Mikoto, are enshrined, and
a visit here is said to bring good fortune in marriage and business prosperity.
The sacred rock, Ugetoiwa
Don’t stop with just a visit to the shrine—there are still plenty of things to see round the back.
Looking over from the main shrine, you'll see a giant rock towards the top right which features
a natural hole through the middle. This rock is known as 'Ugetoiwa'.
You can get to it by climbing the path just to the right of the main shrine, and it takes about 10 minutes.
A lot of people seem to turn back once they get to the main shrine, but this rock is a truly spectacular
sight, so make sure to pay it a visit.
The hole of this wind cave spans more than 10m in all directions. It’s so remarkable that it almost seems
Tateiwatatsu no Mikoto was the grandson of Japan’s first emperor, and is the deity of Aso shrine.
Legend has it that his servant, Kihachi Hoshi, kicked the rock open and created this wind cave.
If you walk through it, it’s said that it will bring you success and victory.
Make sure to touch the rock before heading home and ensure your own success!
The constant breeze feels nice and refreshing as you walk through.
There's also a small cave at the end
of the path, but this leads to a dead end.
So, that's the Kamishikimi Kumanoimasu Shrine in Kumamoto Prefecture.
It's a bit of a way out from Aso city, so many people might not know about it.
If you ever head to Kumamoto Prefecture, then please make sure to pay a visit.