In the hills just above where I was diving in Izu, there is a shrine.
Situated in a natural cul-de-sac carved in the mountainous terrain, the shrine isn't particularly famous (at least I don't think it is), and it's certainly not ostentatious. Far from it.
It's nestled among lush vegetation, ranging from soft fuzzy moss encrusting the rocks to towering cypress trees that have probably seen the better part of a century or two.
Fresh water trickles gently down from higher ground, and rays of sunlight pierce through the canopy to produce dramatic lighting.
The air is crisp, alive and clean. It's an amazing place.
The name of the shrine is the Hachimangu Kinomiya Jinja (八幡宮来宮神社), quite a mouthful even in Japanese. Shinohara-san brought me to this place one afternoon when we took a bit of time off to look around.
I'm not a particularly spiritual or religious person per se, but it was impossible not to be moved. Perhaps it was the preponderance of trees. Maybe it was the cool spring breeze. Or it could have been moody lighting.
Whatever it was, as soon as I stepped into the grounds, I felt rejuvenated, uplifted...energised and recharged. It just felt like there was a benevolent guardian watching over the area...warding off anything remotely negative.
Yes, I sound loopy, but the shrine really left a strong impression...so much so that I went back again later...to sit, listen, watch, feel and just be.