Near Hotaka station in the farming countryside of Azumino, about half an hour by train from Matsumoto, Hotaka shrine is an impressive, spacious shinto shrine, with a number of interesting features to enjoy as you stroll around the grounds.
There seems to be a distinct nautical theme, even though the shrine is about as far from the ocean as it's possible to be in Japan. There are statues of seafarers, one riding some mythical animal through the waves, and carvings in wood and stone of ocean scenes, boats and turtles being tossed around by unfriendly waves.
The shrine is surrounded by peaceful forest, and there are also a couple of imposing torii gates and impressive wooden halls for visitors to admire. You'll also see elegant metal sculptures in the shape of origami cranes, these near a carp pond, where it's very relaxing to watch the fish glide serenely through the milky water.
The shrine is just a couple of minutes' walk down the main road, heading away from Hotaka station on the infrequent JR Oito line.
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I came to Japan from Manchester, England in summer 2003, and have travelled a lot since then, around Japan and in Asia. When I`m not working I write satire at www.iothern.blogspot.com and perform stand-up comedy in and around Tokyo. Check my youtube channel `CunningPunster` for a taste.