Kokuzo Shrine is included in the Engishiki, a book written back in the Heian period over a thousand years ago. This makes it one of the oldest shrines in the Aso region. With its quiet atmosphere and peaceful surroundings, it stands in stark contrast to the vibrant and bustling Aso Shrine only 6 km away. Far fewer people venture to Kokuzo Shrine. At the time of my visit, I encountered only a couple of other travelers.
One of the points of interest here is the remains of the great sugi of Teno: a huge polished trunk of a famous old growth cryptomeria tree that died in 1991 during a typhoon. This national monument was said to be 2000 years old.
The ancient tree trunk is surely impressive; but I enjoyed just being there, walking under the canopy of trees that are very much alive. The shrine buildings themselves are simple and not particularly old, but you can feel the age of this place. It’s in the air.
The shrine is located just off Route 213 in Teno. There are signs once you get close.