On the first MWR tour Angela and I went on after she returned to Japan took us to Shizuoka prefecture where we learned of a strange ancient legend/myth that must have had something lost in translation.  We traveled to a picturesque black sand beach on a curved bay with a commanding view of Mt. Fuji.  Except it was cloudy, so we saw no Fuji-san, but saw posters of it looking awesome.  Along the beach were groves of coastal pines, apparently ancient, and many of them were tagged.
It was explained to us they were numbered to be either be protected from construction or have been treated against pests, not sure which one was true (our local tour guide spoke good english and was great but we had some trouble believing some of her answers to questions as they seemed THAT far fetched).  As we walked up to the beach we visited a shinto shrine and were enlightened of the local history.  We heard two legends.
The first:  At some point in the past, angels saw how beautiful the beach was and came down from the heavens to bath in the surf. They would hang their holy garments on pine tree branches before getting in the water.  At one such gathering of heavenly spirits a local fisherman happened upon the garments hanging on the trees and took some for himself.  When one angel discovered she had no clothes she was in distress as she should not return to heaven without clothes (obviously).  She came across the fisherman somehow and he made her dance for him to get her clothes back. End of story.  There are statues of a dancing angel near the beach.
Second version: The angels come down and bath, and again a fisherman steals one set of clothes except this time he hides them in his home.  The naked angel cannot return to heaven and turns to a certain local fisherman who happens to be nearby for help.  He houses her, and they promptly fall in love and get married.  They have a child and are living their life when the former angel discovers her clothes hidden in the home.  When the fisherman comes home from work she is wearing her clothes and says goodbye, returning to heaven. He is left as a single dad.  End of story. There is a statue of him holding a bit of angelic fabric and staring into the sky.
Those are the versions we heard, and everything in the area was themed around the legends of the bathing angels.  In fact a fragment of the angelic clothing is said to be enshrined in the local shrine (which reminded me of medieval catholic saint relics).  Our tour guide then informed us of a fact that I cannot believe.  We were marveling at the black, very clearly volcanic sand (you can SEE Mt. Fuji) when she comments that the sand was white until a few decades ago when the shinkansen line was built (which is no where near there) and the associated pollution (electric lines) caused the sand to turn black.  I think she was very environmentally conscious… but wrong.  If pollution had been that bad, the ancient trees would have died…
But we had a good time and enjoyed a unique cultural experience! We never know what we will experience here, so come visit where everyday is an adventure!
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