The Viewpoint on Wakanoura Bay
Wakaura Tenmangu is a Shinto shrine in Wakayama City in the south of the Kansai region. It is one of the many shrines worshiping the popular kami Tenjin, the divinity presiding over studying and academic success. Built on the heights, the sacred grounds offer a pleasant view on the landscape of Wakanoura Bay.
Founded in the 10th century, Wakaura Tenmangu was rebuilt in 1606 by warlord Asano Yoshinaga (1576 - 1613), the province’s regent after the Battle of Sekigahara (October 1600). Of the tenmangu category, the shrine is dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane (845 - 903), an unconventional Japanese poet and important statesman of the 9th century. He was later deified as Tenjin, the popular kami of studies prayed by every pupil and student in Japan for academic success.
A ground scattered with legendary animals
The discovery of Wakaura Tenmangu starts at the foot of a large and picturesque stone stairway, the only way to reach the main esplanade located on the height of a hill. Two wooden statues of Michizane’s ox messengers, welcome the visitors who climb the rather steep steps. There is no softer slope access for wheelchairs or strollers, but another stairway with smaller steps is available on the left side of the main one.
Then the gate opens to the sacred grounds. The main hall displays vivid colors on the outside as well as in the inside. The various pavilions are ornamented with paintings and high relief sculptures, showing a crowd of animals and creatures from the Japanese myths and folklore, such as:
- Turtles, which are a symbol of longevity;
- Phoenix, and,
- Kirin, a kind of horse with a dragon head, the symbol of power and good fortune.
Most of these animal portrayals were made during the Momoyama period (1573 - 1603).
Free view on the houses roofs and up to the sea
Climbing to the shrine allows to reach a higher position over Wakayama City and especially Wakanoura Bay. It is highly recommended to have a look back as soon as passing the entrance of Wakaura Tenmangu, to enjoy the view. The large stairway unfolds like a red carpet and the residential neighborhood spreading to the edge of the water is as appeasing as pleasant. In spring 🌸 and in summer, the landscape is even more beautiful with the lush vegetation and flowers.
Down the hill the small Mitaraiike Park offers a promenade around a pond and its little vermilion bridges. The place is a good picnic spot on sunny days, given that there are not many restaurants in the surroundings.
Back on the seaside, it is possible to walk along the coast, which is principally trodden by runners and dog owners and from which there is a view on Wakaura Tenmangu shrine. Perched among the trees, the shrine seems to be watching over the area.