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Yaotomi Shrine, Takeshima Island

An isolated walk at night

Whilst there is no shortage of shrines to visit whilst in Japan, the Yaotomi Shrine is more unique than others. The shrine itself is housed on Takeshima Island – a small island off Mikawa Bay in Gamagori, Aichi prefecture. The island is connected to land by a 387 metre bridge. Once crossing, you can head straight to the top to visit the Yaotomi Shrine or you can take a path trail up and around the rock face to enter the shrine from the back.

The walk is a mix of isolation, beauty and steep edges. Very little has been done to modernise the small island - which is just 620 metres around. Only very few hand barriers have been installed on the walls. The jagged rocks and natural landscape has been unchanged, which means it's not a walk recommended for those not steady on their feet or somewhat scared of heights, but it gives an amazing view of the sea and Mikawa Bay as you walk around.

You can visit the island and shrine at any time. At night the bridge lights the way to the island and the shrine has a few lights scattered around the area. It was night that I decided to visit and it let me see that it was a beautiful isolated place. When arriving, one family was walking off of the island and back across the bridge. Once I made it across I was the only one there. The path scaling to the top was unlit, making it an intense walk up. The air was still and silent – it was truly a place to be at peace and be alone with your thoughts, which is exactly the aura you would want whilst at a shrine. Many shrines inland are busy with tourists, making it hard to be at one with your thoughts to give prayer to the shrine. However, here it was completely still, as if it was an island just for you whilst walking around it.

The lights to the bridge and island shut off late at night, meaning you'll be walking in the pitch black if you make a midnight excursion, but you can still have a safe night visit whilst it's still dark. Walking around the island and temple at night does mean you miss the 238 species of plants that cultivate themselves, but for a place to be at one with your thoughts, you'd be hard pressed to find anywhere better and quieter in the whole of Japan.

The island is a 15 minute walk by foot from Gamagori Station – a stop on the JR Tokaido Line and a 40 minute journey from Nagoya.

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