Kotohira City, Kotohira, Japan
Kompirasan Kotohira Reviews
Worth the 785 step climb May 08, 2013
Kompirasan is the main shrine of multiple Kompira shrines found around Japan that are dedicated to sailors and seafaring. It is located on the wooded slope of Mount Zozu in Kotohira. Kompirasan is a mixture between Shinto shrine and Buddhist temple. It was declared a shrine in the beginning of the Meiji Period during government efforts to separate the two religions.
It takes a bit of effort to approach the shrine. To reach the very top you need to climb 1368 steps. The approach begins amongst a touristy shopping arcade filled with souvenir shops, food stalls and restaurants. From there it is a 785 step climb (about 45 minutes) past a number of shrine buildings and museums to the main hall of the shrine. The museum was closed when we were there, so I don´t know what it contained. There were beautiful Sakura trees blooming along the path. On the way, there was a statue of a dog. It represents the dogs that where sent there by their owners who could not afford to travel to the temple themselves. The dogs would carry money and a message to the goddess. When someone along their way saw the dogs, they would feed and take care of them, and take some money out of the bag for the care.
Half the way up to the main temple there are a couple of horses. These represents the horses which were the messengers to the Sea Goddess. I have seen statue of horses in various shrines in Japan, but these horses are real. To have live horses proves how wealthy this shrine is.
Seamen, shipbuilders and fishermen come to the shrine to get the blessing of the sea goddess. Particularly shipbuilders go there to get their ships blessed. Since they, of obvious reasons, can not bring the ships the the shrine, they bring plates and pictures of ships, battleships and even space rockets. The crew come to the Kompirasan to seek protection of the shrine. This can be seen in the Ema Hall, next to the shrine. In the same hall there is a boat on display. It looked like a sailing boat without the mast. This boat was powered by solar energi and crossed the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Ecuador and back 21 years ago.
Next to the main hall is a viewpoint overlooking Kotohira Town. By the time we reached the main shrin it was dark, but it was still a good veiw of the town.
To reach the inner shrine there was another 583 steps on a paved forested path. It was late and dark and my friend said that the top shrine was small and with trees all around, so new view. We therefore decided to return back down the hill.
The start of the long approach to Kompirasan is a 10 to 15 minute walk from JR Kotohira Station. If you are unable (or unwilling) to make the climb, you can hire a palanquin (5300 yen one way or 6500 yen round trip) up to the main hall or take a bus.
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