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The priest from Fukuzenji Temple is sitting cross-legged on a cushion in front of us like a Zen-sage. He has his back to a window of the Taichoro Guesthouse as he explains the significance of the astounding view before us. We are looking out at the nearby islands of Sensuijima and Bentenjima floating in a sapphire sea. On the small eminence of Bentenjima, a two-tiered pagoda pierces the pines like an orange crown, while a tiny torii on the shore lets visitors know the island is sacred.

In 1711, the Korean envoy I-pan-on famously referred to this as “the most beautiful view in Japan.” But, continues the priest, “it’s not just a pretty view.” For centuries it also served as part of a cosmic calendar.

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