The Gem of Lake Hamana

Lake Hamana will always have a special place in my heart. There are so many countless things to do and see that I never get bored of this place. I have returned here every year, finding a new restaurant or a new art festival to inspire me all over again.

Today, however, I want to focus on a quaint shrine that’s off the beaten track. I bring to you Inohanako Jinja. The name comes from the Japanese word, Inoshishi, meaning boar, and Hana, meaning nose. Apparently, one of the rocks looks like a boar’s nose but I can’t be certain as to which one. Most likely it’s this one? What do you think?

The path to the shrine is hard to find and, in truth, my husband and I went the wrong way, finding ourselves lost in the woods. We had to turn around until we found a narrow staircase down to an equally narrow sidewalk. We’re greeted at the end by a simple stone tori gate.

We give a proper bow before entering of course and are met by a bright red bridge. Inohanako Jinja is not glamorous, plated in gold, or richly decorated in intricate architecture. It holds a more natural beauty to it. The shrine is small, tucked away among the rocks, and canopied by a leaning pine tree.

It’s exactly how you would imagine a traditional Japanese shrine to be. It’s a respectful union of nature and mankind. I wish I lived near such a place so that I might go there after work to simply unwind.

And thanks to the current pandemic, we found ourselves completely alone. So, as you can imagine, it was incredibly peaceful.

We climbed up among the rocks and sat there for at least thirty minutes. We watched crabs skitter by. We collected seashells that washed up onto the beach. There’s also a salty tinge in the air from the brackish salt lake.

I hope someday you can visit Inohana Lake. It’s a worthy gem to take in!


Also, if you find yourself hungry after visiting the shrine, there’s an amazing family owned restaurant just down the road. It’s called Cafe Oliba and they have freshly baked focaccia bread with imported olive oils to accent the flavor.

If you’re feeling adventurous they even have olive tea and olive lattes. The latte was actually quite delicious after I added some sugar to tamper down it’s bitterness. The tea was too strong for my liking, I’m afraid.

I’m Aspen Kumagai, an American living in Japan. Over four years ago, I made the craziest and best decision of my life. I hopped on a plane to chase my dreams and met the love of my life. Now I spend my days traveling across Japan, searching for my next favorite dish, and desperately trying to read the Japanese directions on the back of my face cleanser. Thank god for google translate.

Whether in the kitchen or on a mountaintop, I’m here to inspire you with home-cooked recipes, travel tips, and lifestyle hacks. I share my adventures (and my many mistakes) about living in a foreign country.

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