Near my house there’s a hill that rises sharply out of the surrounding fields, and one day when my son was small, we decided to climb the hill and see if there was anything interesting there. I knew instinctively what we’d find, and when we got to the top, there it was: a small Shinto shrine for making offerings to the kami (god or natural spirit) of the hill. Shinto is the original religion of Japan, which reveres the spirits that reside in natural places like mountains, rivers and trees, and if you travel to an exotic natural location (such as the top of Mt. Fuji), you can be sure someone will have erected a shrine there. The most active volcano on the main Japanese island of Honshu is Mt. Asama, and at the top there’s a place called Onioshidashi, with gnarled lava rocks left over from a massive 1783 eruption…and sure enough, there’s a really cool shine there. Shinto shrines are among the most beautiful places to visit in Japan — my own favorite is the 1300-year-old Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island, near Hiroshima, home of the famous floating torii arch.
Shrines are found in exotic natural locations.