I love Japanese shrines/temples.
Ever since I did study abroad in Kyoto for a year back in 2007 I've been obsessed with going to Japanese shrines/temples. There's something about the feeling you get--closer to God or something? I really enjoy it, I'm not a religious person, but in Japan there's no pressure and it's more of an ancient based--do it out of respect bit, which I can jive to a lot better.
When I lived in Kyoto they were all around me, and that's part of the charm that I loved so much. Ancient temples right in the middle of hussle-bussle city life in downtown and old temples nestled among big bamboo forests and old candy shops.
Now that I live in Gunma, I have to say despite the nature all around me, temples are much more scarce. The ones that DO exist are up further in the mountains and a bit more of a pain to access. So when Ryosuke suggested we go to a really famous shrine for Golden Week I got really excited. Also, it's famous for being a 'Power Spot' which is supposed to revitalize and energize!
My dad is a big car guy and he knows a decent amount about Initial D so I knew that Mt. Haruna has quite the impact in the car world--so I was super stoked to drive on the toge (mountain pass) and see all the drift marks left from night racing as we drove up. I hope to drive up there myself one day, but due to traffic and not having been there yet Ryosuke drove. We both really enjoyed all the hair-pin curves and speeds so we were pretty revved up by the time we got to the shrine area.
The original plan was to leave at like 6something in the morning and arrive about an hour after the shrine opened...but Ryosuke is the furthest thing from a morning person, and I was still really sleepy at 4:30am so I let him sleep in and at around 6 or 7 something is when I finally decided to send bothersome texts to wake him up. We finally mobilized and got there at about 10 something in the morning.
We had already seen the mobs of people, but decided to try our luck at the parking lot which as right in front of the entrance and attached to a good sized gift shop/mom and pop restaurant. One of the workers there helped guide traffic since the spaces were limited and tight fitting, but we were able to snag a spot fairly quick.
Both of us had to use the restroom and I hadn't actually realized the rule of the place until I thought about it at that point 'Free Parking if you Buy something.' No big deal though as there were plenty of cute things that anyone would want to buy anyway, and a big theme seemed to be owls (Ryosukes' Moms' favorite collectible) so I got her some chopsticks for health and a cute stuffed ram for me (year of the Ram aw yiss)! He got his mom a coin purse which we put in the car and then set out for the mountain.
I've climbed up worse mountains for the sake of a shrine (Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto and another temple I can't remember the name of in Nagano). It was a BEAUTIFUL scene to see, so much so that I barely took any pictures past a certain point but did my best to capture beautiful scenes.
When we got to the top we were greeted by a huge line for prayer time so we waited a bit and stood together, clearly I had more on my mind because I was standing there longer.
We then got the really famous reveals fortune in water paper fortune and also another cute fortune that has a piece of tiny gold and a special character/design or if you're really lucky a 5-yen coin which is like the jackpot!
To reveal the water fortune, we had to go back down so we waited on that to explore a bit--as for the small gold attached fortune, I got a daruma! He's supposed to protect the family and will never fall even if pushed over. Ryosuke got a frog--I REALLY hope it brings money like it says.
As for the fortune itself...spoiler alert, both were the same. 末吉 which means simply, 'Ending of Fortune' or 'Half-Fortune.' (Depends what website you look at.)
Since I didn't know the water revealing one yet, for that moment I tied the one that came with the daruma to the tree in hopes of fixing my luck up a bit.
Then we took a separate route down than we did up and decided that since there was a random bench on the side of the path leading towards this giant lake (which was 7km away and we decided to go at a later date), and had the sammichs I had made. Clearly I was a novice when it came to Ryosuke's jam sammich, because I emptied the whole little carton of it in one sandwich...he died of sweet overload. Woops.
We both ate about a half of our sandwiches (mine was full of too much peanut butter) and I re-upped on my sunblock and we made the trek down and saw the most beautiful river where monks must stand under these little waterfalls and strengthen their--holiness... Either way it was magickal.
Then we found the area where we could reveal our fortunes, and once revealed you place it in the slot of the year of your animal (ram for me, monkey for Ryosuke) and spin the contraption.
We even made friends with this little old lady who sold me a nice sized coin purse (with owls on it of course) and she told us about a festival going on later in the month. The journey down was super quick, and not much left to do after that.
Despite being Golden Week it wasn't overly crowded, but it was a great idea to go early in the morning because once we got back the lines for the parking lots were insane.
Thanks for reading!