exploring the niches of Japan


This is a gorgeous little shrine in my neighborhood, and I walked by it for almost a full year without investigating. Finally, I took the time to swerve off my usual path and check it out. Weatherwise, it was a sweltering pile of misery kind of night, but the shrine had such an aura of calm and peace around it (despite the cicadas shrieking) that I stayed much longer than I originally thought I was going to.

It reminded me of 2008, when I studied abroad in Kobe. I stayed part of the time with a host family in Tarumi, and near their local train station was a shrine similar to this. During my time studying, the shrine was partially under construction, and it was a little out of the way, so hardly anyone visited it. Some days after class, I’d push through the gate and lie on the porch built onto the shrine and look up at the sky through the tree branches. The crew would work somewhere unseen nearby while I tore pieces off my melon bread and stretched in what always looked to me like painted beams of sunlight.

It was a beautiful spot. I used to think it was rare and lucky to find such a private spot, but the longer I live in Japan, the more I realize there are a lot of little niches like that that go overlooked because they’re off the beaten path.

Once, I happened to change my usual route through Osaka Station and I found an entire floor empty except for a teenaged couple sitting against the marble wall fast asleep with their heads stacked one on top of the other, holding hands on the ground between them.

I like searching out niches. ♥


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