The serene, beautiful Wakaura Tenmangu Shrine in Japan

Wakaura Tenmangu Shrine offers an excellent view over Wakayama Bay.

Wakaura Tenmangu Shrine offers an excellent view over Wakayama Bay.

Wakaura Tenmangu Shrine is one of those Japanese Shinto shrines that has a great atmosphere.

Located on a wooded hillside it offers an excellent view over Wakayama Bay and the cityscape of Wakauranishi district of Wakayama.

The Shrine was founded in the 10th century and the main building dates from 1605. It is decorated with wood carvings of cranes, turtles, phoenix and kirin.

It is surrounded by dense forest studded with plum and cherry trees turning a gorgeous pink during the spring blossom season.

On a hot summer day there are usually no other tourists or worshippers so you can likely have the place to yourself. It is very peaceful.

Leading up to the shrine is sixty or so steps.

There must be sixty or so steps which are old, steep and uneven so a certain amount of effort is needed to reach the shrine but you will be rewarded with a great view and the tranquil surroundings of the shrine.

There is a handrail on the steps to help you. There is also a longer but gentler path you can take if the steps are too much for you.

The entrance to Wakaura Tenmangu Shrine.

Once inside the entrance gate you face the main shrine building. In front of it are some display racks on which worshippers have hung their prayer plaques (ema) inscribed with the wishes and prayers they would like answered.

The scholar and poet Sugawara no Michizane (845-903), revered in Shinto as the god of learning, is honoured here which is why this ancient shrine is popular with students (and their parents) praying for success in their examinations.

Worshippers hang prayer plaques (ema) inscribed with the wishes and prayers they would like answered.

The shrine is open daily and is free of charge but there are charges for the ema and other services or religious souvenirs.

Nearby is the Kishu Toshogu Shrine. You have to descend one flight of steps, walk a short distance and climb another steep flight of steps. Never mind, it is good exercise and well worth the effort.

This article first appeared in Malaysia Traveller.