Udo Jingu, one of three rare descending Shinto shrines

Translated by Aki Sugawara

While gazing at the Pacific I walk through a cave, eventually reaching the vivid vermilion shrine. For my wishes to be granted, I throw undama (stones with the kanji character for “luck”) towards the kameishi, or turtle-shaped rock overlooking the foamy waters. For many that's the highlight of Udo Shrine, but getting there is just as much an adventure.

Walking the Mt. Udo worship path called Hacchozaka is not a leisurely stroll, but an arduous trek.

From Fukei harbor to the shrine’s gates is about haccho, or 800 meters (about 2600 feet) of stone stair steps, and during summer gobs of sweat pour down your head as you press forward.

Climb, descend, climb again


Hacchozaka was built in the Enryaku era between 782 and 806 AD, with nuns purportedly carrying giant stones atop their heads to build the pathway. Considering I was getting winded just climbing the steps, that’s quite a feat.


To rehydrate I was drinking mango-flavored Skal of Love, a favorite of Miyazaki locals.


The number of people dwindle as I climb higher and higher, giving me time to appreciate the scenery surrounding the stairs.


You can treat it as a brutal core workout by charging up the steps, or gradually make the ascent, stopping by teahouse alongside the path.


Gradually as the crowd thins further you can only hear the sound of your heavy breathing and heart thumping--looking up and wondering when you’ll see a break in foliage to catch sight of the vivid Pacific.


A warning of wild monkeys that may appear during your hike.


Finally, walking down to the Descending Shrine


Known affectionately as Udo-san, it’s at the tip of a headland facing the Sea of Hyuga.

It was a long jaunt, and lastly we come to the shrine that has you climbing down the steps—it’s a rarity considering almost all shrines have you going up stairs, to where it’s called Nihonsandai Kudarimiya, or one of the three great descending shrines.

Known for its strong waves crashing on the rocky shores, the area is a picturesque blend of reds, whites and blues.


Aside from the shrine, there’s Ochichi-iwa, named after a rock outcropping that looks like a breast (complete with an areola), and a spiritual rock called Kameishi. In the past, people would throw money at the rock, but given its precarious location (and the temptation to climb down to pick up coins) people instead buy the aforementioned undama lock stones to throw instead.

Trekking shrine worship. It’s an activity you don’t experience every day.


Udo Shrine

Address: 3232 Miyaura, Nichinan-shi, Miyazaki 887-0101
Hours:6:00am - 7:00pm(April - Sept; 7:00am - 6:00pm(Oct - March)

Special thanks to Nichinan City
Welcome to Nichinan: the town in motion
10 popular spots in Japan's "gateway to the tropics"
Once upon a time, Miyazaki Prefecture was a popular honeymoon destination. Beginning in the 1960s, scores of couples made it their place to visit f...
One social media post, one ton of citrus sold--Nichinan's sweet lemons
When thinking of food that goes viral, you tend to imagine the colurful, lavish or outlandish--like a Unicorn Frappucino. A social media initiative...
For the best seafood when traveling, head to the local fish market
In Nichinan city of Miyazaki Prefecture--famous for its pole-caught katsuo (bonito)--there are any number of spots where you can find great seafood...
5 charming points of Nichinan City
We go to all kinds of locales for our work, and sometimes we’re surprised how much more there is to explore—often leaving us with a sense of “we sh...
Take Eat Easy. Diner with local Miyazaki flair
There's a bar in Obi, the heart of Nichinan city in Miyazaki prefecture where people involved in regional and traditional housing revitalization pr...
Forest bathing, now moss therapy--the lush woods of Inohae
Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku may envision having a hot-tub in the woods, but it's a relatively new concept birthed in Japan in the '80s. Inohae ...
Yuzu-flavored beer offers a taste of Nichinan microbrew
In recent years microbreweries have spread throughout Japan, thanks in part to the Japanese government easing brewing laws in 1994, with people no ...
Eating the best chicken I've ever had at Sumibiyaki Sankuu
The person who showed me around Nichinan (a small city on the coast of Miyazaki Prefecture, Kyushu) told me two intimidating details about the rest...
120-year-old abandoned school in Japan turns into eclectic marketplace
Drive down south on Route 220 from Miyazaki city, and while traversing next to the glittering Nichinan beaches you’ll encounter (the former) Ushio ...
Traditional cooking, Edo-era lodging in a preserved castletown
"Good morning!" said a lively group of grade-school students, even bowing their heads towards me as we walked by. It's an unexpectedly polite gestu...
Obi, a castle town where tradition, modernity and art meet
Standing at the batter’s box overlooking the field, I see stone walls of an old feudal-era castle on the other side, along with a historic-looking ...
Man drops out of college, now run his own strawberry farm at 25
When thinking of farmers, typically you’d imagine someone older, weathered from long days spent baking in the sun, and with a stiff, salt-and-peppe...
The Japanese fortune-telling that uses mold to predict your future
Whether 2017 was a fantastic year or not, we’re all likely curious about our fortunes for 2018. While I'm an editor/writer, I also have a deep inte...
Hooked on a fisherman’s meal at a bonito angler’s district
Eating bonito isn’t commonplace stateside, except for maybe the flakes used as a garnish. In Japan it’s not uncommon to have the fish seared or raw...
Aburatsu hostel doubles as a sports bar, hangout spot
Hostels are typically an option born out of thrift and adventure--a place to connect with like-minded backpackers, and saving on lodgings to maximi...
Embrace the fat: Guide to eating wagyu and yakiniku BBQ in Japan
BBQ grilling is nothing new, especially if you’ve experienced Korean BBQ restaurants abroad. But yakiniku (translated literally as cooked meat) wit...
How travel evolves with tech: Interview with Airbnb’s design head, Alex Schleifer
With sharing economies become more prevalent with technology, when it comes to travel probably none is more influential than Airbnb, which has disr...
Tourists spots for foreigners that are too obscure for Japanese
TripAdvisor, one of the most major review aggregators for travelers, has recently announced its rankings for the most popular tourist sites in Japa...
JAPAN LOCAL's guide to Shibuya, Tokyo
On the surface Shibuya is a neon-bathed urban hub, with swarms of high-schoolers and business people flocking to mega department stores, multi-stor...
Abandoned factories in Sado look fit for a Bond villain lair
Sado Island is one of the hidden tourist gem spots in Japan that is unknown even to most Japanese. While having a rich history that includes being ...