Giving Thanks for the Mammaries at Japan's Best Breast Shrine

Karube Jinja is a small Shinto shrine located near the town of Soja in Japan's Okayama prefecture, said to be a 3-minute taxi ride or 10-minute walk from the local JR station.

Karube Jinja began as a non-specific shrine catering to the spiritual needs of the local populace, but its focus changed in the late 17th century when visitors noticed that a certain Weeping Cherry tree at the shrine seemed to be “weeping” more than one would normally expect.

The association was quickly made that women desiring to express more milk to feed their babies should make a pilgrimage to the shrine, in the hope that the resident deities would help boost their production.

As word of Karube Jinja spread, visitors began to arrive in greater frequency and from further away. Women would craft small votive amulets and plaques, often featuring a pair of breasts, along with an inscribed prayer for assistance in their particular need. The shrine has a hall in which many of these plaques are displayed. These days, it's not necessary to craft one's own breast plaque – another breast shrine near Hiroshima sells votive amulets (below, left) on-site for 500 yen, or about $6.25 each.

Though the Weeping Cherry tree that was Karube Jinja's ancient claim to fame died around 1940, part of its trunk is preserved in its original location.

Long before the tree's passing, however, Karube Jinja had firmly established itself in the minds of the people as THE place to visit for anyone suffering any type of breast-related problem. For example, a woman who had suffered from breast cancer might visit the shrine with the hope that her illness would not recur.

Karube Jinja has been featured on Japanese TV travelogue programs and bloggers have recorded visits to the shrine and its environs, helping to maintain its distinct variety of fame into the modern age.

The town of Soja lists Karube Jinja among its local places of interest, and the nearby Kibiji (???) Hospitality House offers travelers a comfortable spot for rest and relaxation... you can even buy breast-related souvenirs at their gift shop. (via B-Spot and Arakawas)