prayer hall of Suwa shrine in Nagasaki, Japan; Shutterstock ID 611889566

Shutterstock / ziggy_mars


Top choice in Nagasaki

Situated on a forested hilltop and reached via multiple staircases with nearly 200 steps, this enormous shrine was established in 1625. Around the grounds are statues of komainu (protective dogs), including the kappa-komainu (water-sprite dogs), which you pray to by dribbling water onto the plates on their heads. The gankake komainu (turntable dog) was often called on by prostitutes, who prayed that storms would arrive, forcing the sailors to stay at the port another day.

The shrine comes to life each year with the dragon dance of Kunchi Matsuri, Nagasaki's most important annual festival.

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