Rain-Shrine Street

At the far end of Fountain Street, just before the turnoff down to around the school, the road rises up towards Shrine Street - a gently curving path up a little mountain. On most days, it's a quiet lonely walk - the bus only goes up it on Saturdays - but on festival days, it's the heart of the city.

Shrine Street



A tin-roof, creaking in the wind.

It's one of the old-style wooden bus stops. There's just two vending machines outside - one for iced coffee, another for pear drink, ginger ale, other sorts of old-fashioned soft drinks. The benches inside are well-maintained. The ads inside are very old.

The Climb

The island out before you, the climb ahead.

Three bends, scaling up the mountain face. Under the road, steep hillside overgrown with fragrant white wildflowers at first, followed by rocky, tree-choked cliffs. The march up to shrine street goes up this climbing road - you can drive up it, of course, and certainly on saturdays there are cars slowly trundling up the way for purification ceremonies in the morning - but shrinekeepers and day-trippers generally walk up it.

Halfway along the way, there's a little rain-shelter with a statue of a monk inside, offering a bench to stop and take a break. One of the elder shrinekeepers, Maza Muza - a driftin, in fact - visits daily to clean up any snack wrappers that end up in it.

How are there always snack wrappers in it?

Fortune Way

Paper rustling in the wind. Sizzling coals.

On festival days, Fortune Way is turned over as a festival street. Even on off days, there's little souvenir stalls, and there's often a traditional drumming troupe using the space to practice, or something like that, something to see. A great white cherry tree watches over it.

You can get a fortune here in exchange for an offering - it's always the young, cheery shrine-keepers put in charge of it, handing over little slips of paper to all comers with a cheery smile. It's massively crowded before examinations and the new year, for that reason. If you get a bad one, it's said that you could tie it around a branch of the cherry tree to leave the luck behind, but — Well, to protect the tree, people just tie it to a little wire cage around its trunk, instead. It's covered and covered in white paper.

Mission Shrine

The scent of somewhat stiff breakfast cakes. In the morning, hymns.

A little shrine to the Divine Being, established by missionaries - it's about two-hundred years ago, dating back to before Princess Innua, but not as old as the mountain shrine. It's still called "The Mission Shrine", even though it's kept by the same keepers. Marriages are often performed here. A carved wooden window over the entryway, known as "Divinity Taming Chaos", is considered to be one of the country's thirteen treasures.

The Sacristy of Princess Innua

The whistle of a kettle. The hum of air conditioning. The scent of old wood.

The domicile the Princess Innua was believed to have used in her exile. Though it is maintained as a historic and holy residence, it is only occasionally opened up for tours: for most of the year, it's used as a residence by the shrinekeepers. It has a pleasant little garden. It was remodelled about twenty years ago: maintaining the place as a museum meant it had to be climate controlled, and of course, it needed a telephone line, and…

…There was a little bit of a fight over it, but in the end, the people living there ended up with an electric kitchen, television, all those things. But everything's twenty years out of date, so they're still on dial-up. Apprentices argue - what's worse, having to walk up the hill every day, or living in the Sacristy?

Shrine of the Holy Mountain

Fires visible from the base of the mountain. Inside, even the mice hold their breath.

In its courtyard, braziers that never extinguish.
The sight of its wide steps, watched over by the statues of the moonbirds, world-famous.
Shrinegoers can offer their prayers in the front room - the royal family and members of the government in the second room - only shrine-keepers in the third.
The fourth chamber is never entered.

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