Four or five years ago, standing alone in front of the clear, gently bubbling waters of Kiyomasa no Ido, a natural spring secreted in woodland at the far end of the Meiji Shrine's iris garden, I strained to detect any sound, but even the noise from car horns was smothered and muted by the grove. If I had to elect the single-most tranquil spot in Tokyo, this would have been it.

Returning a few months later, I met a long line of visitors, corralled behind red plastic bollards, the type found at the edges of road construction sites. Two uniformed guards, barking instructions through bullhorns, inveighed people to be orderly as they approached the tiny pool of water. It transpired that a few weeks before this second visit, a TV celebrity had discovered the well, declaring it a "power spot." An easily persuaded public had responded by turning out in force, tearing up the site's last shreds of silence.

Mercifully, there are manifold alternatives to the media's spiritual flavors of the month. Exploring the Shima Peninsula and its dense, green interior, stumbling upon sacred rituals and ceremonies, watching Japanese supplicants at prayer or making offerings in tiny forest shrines, add to the sensation of being connected in some mysterious fashion to a similar, but vastly larger, spiritual power grid.