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Toronto, Ontario, Freelance Copywriter,
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Zeniarai Benten Shrine

If you are going to have a travel journal – you might as well talk about your favourite places in the world, even if you haven’t been there in a while. The Zeniarai Benten Shrine in Kamakura, Japan is one of those places. It is a Shinto shrine built into the side of a mountain a short jaunt from the famous Daibutsu.

It was part of a school field trip I took in 8th grade and I have travelled back many times since to show its beauty to everyone and anyone willing to go. I went back in high school to show my friends; then again in University to tour my brother and his then girlfriend, and once again my last week in Japan where I prayed to the kami to keep me safe as I ventured from their watchful eye and back to Canada.

Legend has it that this shrine was constructed by Minamoto Yoritomo himself after he heard a calling urging him to use the river waters of Kamakura to offer prayers to god so that people would find faith and be at peace.

Overtime, the water at the shrine became famous for washing money and to achieve financial success. And although it seems shallow that I would choose a shrine dedicated to financial well being as my favourite, once you have visited this place, you too will understand.

It’s a hike through the forest to get there and you will be convinced you're on the wrong path until you walk through a small cave and under a giant torii gate. As you walk through the gate there are a series of paths and bridges over the flowing rivers full of fish, water flowers and coins. The smell of burning incense takes over and you are immediately immersed in a natural Shinto fog.

The cave where you wash your money is located over the series of bridges. The object of worship for the shrine is the statue of a serpent with a human head – he hides deep inside the cave unseen to visitors. The cave is constantly full of locals and tourists alike washing their coins and bills in the water that rushes through the cave, praying to the serpent for good fortune, wealth and happiness.

Admission is free but quickly the wallet comes out as you find yourself purchasing any charm to bring this place home with you. I still have a prayer box with two turtles that the local priest blessed with a flick of fire for good luck. I purchased it over 15 years ago and I am convinced the two little turtles continue to keep me safe.

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