Coming across this Shinto shrine in Soja Okayama by chance you might think you’ve stumbled into a cartoon eye factory. However, this is Karube Shrine, also known as Oppai Jinja or Boobs Shrine.
In this age of rising incidences of breast cancer, a shrine devoted to spiritually protecting everyone’s favorite body part makes sense. But how did the Boobs Shrine come to be over 300 years ago?
Shinto shrines in Japan are all said to enshrine a certain deity or deities. As such if you have a specific thing to pray for like business, school, or romance then there is a certain shrine you should go to for the best results.
Boobs Shrine houses five Shinto gods, yet none of them have anything to do with women’s breasts.
A long time ago, there was a weeping cherry tree – like a cross between a weeping willow and a cherry tree – on the shrine grounds. The tree was named Tarachine Sakura (Hanging Breast Root Cherry Tree) by the local people.
The people also believed that the God of Milk existed in this area. Perhaps it was because of the flowers of the tree during cherry blossom season resembled a fountain of milk. It’s impossible to know now because unfortunately around 1940 the tree died off leaving only a stump that can be seen today.
For a long time the God of Milk was only known to the local people around Soja knew of it. However, Tensai Takeshi No Genki Ga Deru Terebi!!, a variety program from the 80s and 90s, featured Karube Shrine during a segment on unusual temples and shrines.
Since then Boobs Shrine has gotten nationwide recognition and women with breast concerns all over the nation have come to pray for their health.
Shinto Shrines use ema (eh-ma) to make wishes to the gods. An ema is a small wooden board with the worshipper’s wish written on it which is ceremoniously offered to the shrine’s god(s) and hung up.
The God of Milk is not an official Shinto god but ema are often made anyway. A representative from the Soja-Kibiji Chamber of Commerce explains:
“To be precise, the God of Milk isn’t enshrined here. Also, matters involving protection of the breasts are not included in the things typically prayed for here. However, as there were said to be many cases of positive effects of praying here it gained a reputation which attracted many believers. From there the reputation spread to people worried and suffering across the country.”
The wishes to the God of Milk include women with medical issues such as breast cancer and expecting mothers hoping for childbirth and breast-feeding free of complications. As such the ema offered to this god are decorated with a pair of hand-made mammaries – made from either fabric or clay.
And since the God of Milk isn’t an official god of the temple the offering doesn’t have to be done in the traditional way. In fact, the Soja-Kibiji Chamber of Commerce has also set up a long-distance offering kit.
For around 2,000 yen (US$21), you can buy an ema pre-fitted with a pair of boobs delivered to your home. You can write your wish and send it back to the Chamber of Commerce who will offer it up to the God of Milk for you.
These kits are also useful for locals to who just can’t make the time to craft some breasts of their own, and it comes with a sporty teat shaped charm you can keep with you at all times.
In the end we hope everyone puts their faith in medical science rather than the God of Milk when facing serious health issues with their breasts. However, Boobs Shrine can be a fun place to get some extra superstitious protection for your cans if you’re looking for something to do.
In fact, my nipples have been chafing something awful these days. I might just take a jaunt down there for some spiritual healing myself.
▼ From the outside you’d never guess it was full of breasts.