Kotohiragu Shrine in Kagawa Prefecture is famous for its long flight of stairs and is revered as the head shrine of the Konpira shrines of Japan. The faithful have visited this place of worship for 1000 years. This shrine, also known as “Konpira-san", welcomes man's best friend because of those long flights of stairs.
The first approach takes you up 785 steps, and further on, there are another 1368 steps to the rear shrine. Two big gates, Omon and Asahisha, on the way are sights to see. Omon was donated by Matsudaira Yorishige who was the first feudal lord in Takamatsu City. The other, Asahisha, is registered as one of Japan’s Important Cultural Properties.
Going to the Kotohiragu Shrine grew in popularity until it became as great a destination as the Ise Shrine pilgrimage in the mid Edo period. The Kotohiragu Shrine was established in the early 11th century and was called Kotohira Shrine at that time. In time, the name changed on the order of separation Buddhism and Shintoism in the Meiji period.
These long staircases will tire you out. But on climbing the steps, you will be able to see the breathtaking view. But not everyone can make the trip. It's long been common for dogs to be sent up to the shrine instead of their owners since it takes a lot of effort to climb up. The dogs receive the fortune for their owners. That's why today, you can see cute dog statues and purchase dog souvenirs within the shrine's grounds.
When I visited, I saw some dogs climbing with their humans. Dogs are usually prohibited from entry at many shrines but at this shrine they are welcomed.
Nearby sites of interest are Marukame Castle, the extant castle tower, in Marukame City, and Takamatsu castle ruins and Tamamo Park in Takamatsu City. While you are there, you can have some tasty Sanuki udon, a local noodle specialty.
Find out more about Konpirasan (Kotohira-gu).