Years ago I mentioned to a friend that I particularly enjoyed visiting Zojoji temple in Tokyo because I always just "felt good" in that place. My friend responded, "Of course you do. It's one of Japan's best 'power spots.’” That was my first introduction to the concept of power spots -- places believed to give visitors some special energy, a spiritual force that heals or refreshes.
Power spots as a concept are often associated with "new agers," yet, if my friend is to be believed, power spots have been around much longer than that. Certain principles of geomancy (feng shui) could also be said to involve identifying places with special energy. Thus, in traditional thinking, the special energy of a power spot derives from nature. But some say that a power spot can be created by the energy of people or events associated with that place. It is even said that a negative spot, like the landfill site of Tokyo Disneyland, can become positive with the positive energy of its many happy visitors.
Of all of these theories, I find myself coming down on the side of the traditionalists, especially when it comes to power spots in Japan. But however you feel about where the power comes from, there is no denying, these are definitely "feel good" places.
Many Japanese power spots are either unique or striking geologically. The country is host to so many power spots that I can't even get an accurate count. But here are my top 10 picks.
Takachiho in Miyazaki Prefecture styles itself as "source of myth.” Indeed, it is said to be the place where the mother goddess, Amaterasu, descended to earth to found the Yamato Kingdom. Especially striking is the deep gorge, with its sheer cliff walls. Enter the gorge in a row boat and look up at the waterfall to really feel the power of the place.
Mount Fuji is Japan's tallest mountain (3,776 meters) and one of its most iconic symbols. The dormant volcano last erupted in 1707 and some scientists believe it could be about to re-awaken. Needless to say, there is an energy to be associated with this geology. Every year, through the summer months, hundreds of thousands of climbers make their way to the top, many to absorb both the power of the mountain and the power of the sunrise view.
Lake Biwa, Japan's largest lake, is believed to be one of the oldest freshwater lakes in the world. It is also one of the sites of early human habitation in Japan and has played a significant role in various events throughout Japanese history. The center of the power spot on the lake is the island of Chikubu-shima, situated in the top end. The island is believed to be the home of the goddess Benten, who always surrounds herself by water. Indeed, the lake is named because it is roughly in the shape of a biwa, the Japanese lute Benten is known to play. The island is accessible by regular excursion ferries from Hikone or Nagahama and can easily be explored as a day trip.
Akiyoshi-do in Yamaguchi Prefecture is Japan's largest karst cave. Said to be about 9 kilometers long, about 1 kilometer is open to visitors. This part consists of a number of consecutive chambers with a river running through them. While some are rather narrow, there are also three large chambers nearly 80 meters in height and 100 meters across. Where the cave is narrow, visitors walk on catwalks above the river. Stalactites, stalagmites and various pools formed by minerals dissolved and transported by the water moving through the cave make for interesting viewing and the constantly flowing water seems to carry the energy of this power spot.
- Sanctuary Cape (Kongo-saki) at the far eastern tip of Ishikawa Prefecture's Noto Peninsula is a breathtakingly beautiful spot. Arriving overland, visitors find themselves at the top of rocky cliffs, enjoying views of waves crashing into the black lava rocks below. Borrow a hard hat and walk down the steep path to enter a sea cave said to be the main source of the power of this spot. On sunny days, looking out from inside the cave, the water in the cave is a vivid blue. Depending on the tides, it is also possible to visit the cave by small boat.
In addition to these power spots left largely in their natural state, there are also a number of temples and shrines, particularly those with very long histories that were most likely placed in their locations based on principles of geomancy: the identification of special energy in that place. In other words, they have been deliberately located on a power spot.
Ise Shrine in Mie Prefecture is widely regarded as the headquarters of the Shinto religion. The shrine location, at a bend in the Isuzu River, was identified around 2,000 years ago by Yamatohime-no-mikoto, an Imperial princess who spent 20 years travelling around southwestern Honshu in order to find this power spot locale. The shrine remains closely associated with the Imperial family and is said to house the original sacred mirror that is one of the three sacred objects of Shintoism. It is also host to a number of annual festivals calculated to ensure good harvests and other aspects of financial and physical health.
Itsukushima Shrine on the island of Miyajima, with its vermillion torii that stands in the sea at high tide, is another Japanese icon that has been located on a power spot. Absorb the power by wandering the pier-like walkways of the shrine, no matter the tide level.
Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya is nearly as old as Ise Shrine and ranks with it as one of the most predominant of Shinto shrines. Although this shrine has been destroyed and rebuilt many times during its history, most recently in World War II, it continues to exude its positive energy. It is perhaps best known for serving as the home of the sacred sword, Kusanagi, another of the three sacred objects.
Kunozan Toshogu on the Pacific coast near Shizuoka is another power spot that sits high above the sea. Tokugawa Ieyasu retired to this site, where he died in 1616. Ieyasu's spirit is enshrined in a series of Toshogu shrines, the most famous of which is at Nikko. But this Toshogu shrine is the original. It can only be accessed by the Nihondaira Ropeway or by ascending stairs from the coast.
- Zojoji in Tokyo's Shiba district is one of the strongest power spots in Tokyo. The temple itself was, in its heyday, a powerful learning center. Sitting as it does southwest of the Imperial Palace (once known as Edo Castle), it also played a special guardian role over Edo. With all this power, is it any wonder that many of the most powerful Tokugawas had their tombs built here? Personally, I just like to stroll the temple grounds soaking up "the vibe".
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There are a very large number of "power-spots" down here in Okinawa that are very popular with tourists from mainland.
Power spots like Glastonbury in England are often associated with alternative lifestyles (before they are overrun with the bourgeois, middle class pseudo-alternatives just interested in property prices). Such places overseas often attract Japanese tourists and residents looking for something different. The area around Byron Bay in Australia is an example familiar to me but can anyone tell me where such a place might be in Japan?
Basically power spots in Japan are unique and special places that consist of shrines and temples that enshrine Gods of the old times and hold strong wave energies. Many believe that the sacred energy can help heal the human mind and body.
No mention of Yasukuni?
…in front of starbux @ shib-scramble… the middle of the south walkway on the rainbow bridge…
Got to go to these. Easy ore-ore sagi pickings from the superstitious.
"Power spot" is just today's buzz-word, like cucumber or tomato diet, Billy's Boot Camp, and half stockings were in years past, or like trying to get something declared a World Heritage Site today. Trust me. In the town I live in the City Hall asked me to translate documents about THREE shrines in the area so that they can all be promoted as some of Japan's greatest power spots, and it's simply a guise to create tourism. I DO honestly believe there are places that fall on certain alignments that are possibly 'power spots', but these are scattered across the world, like along the lines of the pyramids in Mexico, not everywhere a stone lands if you throw it up in the air in Japan.
A description of places of natural beauty. The power stop concept is nothing more than new age mumbo jumbo.
The feeling of 'peace' or 'energy' or 'power' is a very personal thing. I found some of those feelings in Kamakura as well as in Nara while visiting Todaiji. The rock garden in Kyoto (sorry I always forget the name) is also simply wonderful.
Very few Japanese seem to have visited Shikoku, but I found it very pleasant - the shrines are great and the garden at Ritsuren is fantastic.