An ancient structure with beautiful ocean views.
You’ll have to be dedicated to visit this shrine, but it’s worth it. Nakatsumiya Shrine is located on Oshima, the largest island in Fukuoka Prefecture, 11 kilometers off Kyushu’s coast. The sunny island is home to just 700 people and makes for a great day-trip.
Amanogawa and the Tanabata legend
Although it’s sister shrine, Okitsumiya, is completely closed off to visitors, Nakatsumiya boasts beautiful ocean views while still being accessible to the public. Together with Hetsumiya and Okitsumiya, this shrine makes up the Munakata Taisha UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The shrine is a mid-sized wooden structure surrounded by lush forest, with two iconic red Shinto lamps. Many visitors to the shrine pay their respects at the nearby Amanogawa, a stream representing the Milky Way in the Japanese Tanabata legend. Two lovers, Hikoboshi (the star Altair) and Orihime (the star Vega), were separated on opposite sides of the Milky Way. Only once a year on July 7th, when the stars are closest, the lovers meet, which is the date of Japan’s Tanabata Festival.
In addition to Nakatsumiya, several more remote shrines are dotted around Oshima.
About thirty minutes on foot from Nakatsumiya is a shrine that faces Okinoshima. It is a sacred and forbidden island home to the third Munakata Taisha shrine, Okitsumiya. Since the island is off-limits to visitors, worshippers can visit a replica shrine on Oshima to make offerings or pray to the Okitsumiya Shrine goddess.