Amano Iwato shrine in Takachiho, they say, stands on the very spot where Amaterasu the Sun Goddess hid herself from the world after getting upset with her brother, as narrated in one of the most popular Japanese legends. It is also here that all the other gods gathered for counsel and Ame-no Uzume performed her famous dance.
Every Shinto shrine has a holy object of worship that not only represents, but literally holds the essence of the god spirit. It’s called Goshintai and most often is a man-made object: a mirror, a sword, etc. But in some cases the Goshintai is the nature itself – there are holy mountains, holy trees and holy waterfalls. In Amano Iwato it’s a holy cave – Amaterasu’s cave.
You cannot actually go there. You can’t even see it without the special guided tour with a priest – then they take you to a spot where you can peak at it from the opposite side of the river. But there’s another cave that you can see and enter – the one where the gods’ counsel took place, and it’s absolutely amazing.
It’s about 10 minutes walk from the main shrine complex, where the river gorge widens up a bit: the place is called Amano Yasukawara. There are hundreds of small stone pyramids left by visitors – the sight of them covering all the flat surfaces around is mesmerizing. There’s a torii gate and a shrine inside the cave itself. It’s famous as a “power spot”, a place where your wishes come true.
I don’t know about wishes, but the power of the place is almost tangible to me. I’ve been to Amano Iwato twice, and I think I’ll be back again.