Hirose-taisha is a Shinto shrine that worships the God Inari, one of some 32,000 spread throughout Japan. The most famous being the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto.
Crossing this bridge will cleanse away all sins and filth of the devotee, before approaching the gods. The bridge is shaped to resemble a rainbow, since it is connected to the terrestrial world of humans and the celestial world of gods.
After descending from the bridge, you enter a grove of trees and are greeted by this Sessha, or auxiliary shrine. Looking to your left at this junction, you will see . . . .
. . . . the distinct vermilion-colored Torii, heralding the entrance to the main complex. This is a Ryobu style torii, with it's four supporting legs.
Before passing through the torii, you will need to perform your ceremonial purification rite at the Chozuya before proceeding.
As you enter the inner complex you will see all the familiar structures associated with a shinto shrine. To the left, in the above image, engulfed by the sakura trees, is the Haiden, or hall of worship.
In the center of the courtyard is this tree surrounded by O-mikuji. After making a small offering, the devotee will be presented with one of these slips of paper where, after reading their fortune (hopefully good), is then tied to a piece-of-string.
To the left of the torii, as you enter the complex, is the Shamusho, or the shrine's administration office. Here one can purchase a range of shinto charms and texts.
In another corner is this impressive structure used for hanging your Ema, or small wooden plaques. On these, worshippers write their prayers or wishes.
Before signing-off, let me not forget to invite you to view the video of Hirosa-taisha. Enjoy.
I discovered Kouhou-ji as I was descending down the Zushidani Hiking Course - a 2.5km path that commences it's course from the base of Ikomayama (the Ikoma-sanke Hiking Course) and finishing at/near the Ishikiri Station.
The beginning of the path is a little steep but, as it is mostly constructed out of concrete steps, it shouldn't be a problem. About 500-meters down you are greeted with this sight - a concrete Torii, signifying the entrance to the complex.
Which brings me to the history of Kouhou-ji. A plaque, situated just outside the temple entrance, explains that a temple was established here during Emperor Jomei's reign (629 - 641), but the present temple was constructed in 1360. During the reign of Empress Genmei (707 - 715) a Buddhist Priest by the name of Gyoki (668 - 749) carved a Thousand Armed Kannon from a sandalwood tree which became the main Deity of the temple.
During the Eiroku Era (1558 - 1570) the temple was restored after being destroyed during the Onin War (1467 - 1477), the second such incident and, since 1916, the temple has gone through several more restorations.
The day I visited the temple it was snowing - Japan at the time was in the middle of an unstable, cold weather pattern, and the weather was acting very strange, to say the least - which added to the atmosphere of the area.
As you exit the temple grounds to continue on down the 'course - turning right as you exit the main gate - you will pass this set of Jizo statues; protector of travelers, women & children. These are a favorite of mine and I come-across them in some of the most isolated of places.
And you will come-across many more of them, as you make your way down the course.
By checking the "Map Location" link you will get an idea how isolated Jikou-ji is. If it hadn't been for this new "Google Maps" service, I would never have known there was a temple located there.
Karamon, or Main Gate.
Located just off route-10, of the Ikoma-sanke Hiking Course (map of hike), Jikou-ji is one of those gems (for want of a better description) one experiences when hiking. It's not a huge complex - in comparison to the likes of Hozan-ji - but it's location couldn't be more idyllic and serene.
Karamon and Shourou, or Bellfry.
Once entering through the main gate, the garden area is quite compact but, after a short flight of steps, you reach the upper, and more spacious area if the complex . . .
. . . . which has been well camouflaged by the surrounding forest. Up to this point I had been hiking for over five hours and I was in need of a suitable spot to take-a-break for lunch. Sitting on the decking of the temple was that perfect spot.
After my lunch-break, and a re-study of my map, I took a stroll through the grounds to check-out some of the Buddhist Icons on display. Religious Icons are a favorite interest of mine and, whenever out hiking or cycling, I am keen to view & photo such objects.
Postscript - while I was wandering through the grounds, a group of hikers suddenly appeared out of the forest then, after a quick look around, soon disappeared back into the forest (at the end of the video), which has brought me to the conclusion that there is an alternative access to Jikou-ji. This, I have to check-out so, in the coming weeks, I shall be returning.
Hozan-ji is located at the junction of routes-9 & 10 of the Ikoma-sanke Hiking Course and lies in the shadow of Mt Ikomayama so, needles-to-say, the area is very popular with hikers.
That's not to say the complex is only accessible by foot. The Kintetsu Railway Company operate a cable-car from the Ikoma Station, that goes all the way to the summit of Ikomayama. If you don't mind driving your vehicle up steep roads, there is vehicular access too.
Many years ago Ikomayama was originally an object of worship by the ancient people that lived in the area - the mountain was said to have some spiritual significance - so, in the year 655AD, a training center was opened for Buddhist Monks, by a gentleman by the name of En no Gyoja. It wasn't until 1678AD that Hozan-ji was established.
The complex requires a certain level of fitness as, once you have entered the main courtyard, there are several paths circumnavigating the complex and a path taking you up-and-through the forest along an avenue of religious icons . . . .
. . . . as seen in the above image. Each icon has a tray for devotees to make an offering. This particular path leads to the upper temple.
And, from here, you are afforded views of the surrounding forest.
As you descend you arrive at a clearing which give you views overlooking the main courtyard. From here, to your right, is this two-storied Pagoda. The track from here takes you around the outside of the main complex and returns you to the main exit.
If your next destination from here is Ikoma Sta' area, may I suggest you take the lane, directly in front of you, once you have exited the precinct. During certain holiday seasons, you are likely to find stalls selling a variety of Japanese food as-well-as souvenirs.
Words, like quaint, unusual, or eerie would be best used to describe this complex.
Maybe even dangerous; one wrong step and you will end-up in a stream.
Hows this for a place of worship? Unusual, wouldn't you say? But, it's whats situated throughout the site that intrigues me.
Judging by the presence of the two water-spouts on the premises, the Shinto practice of Misogi, or ritual purification, is carried-out here.
Information regarding Ikomahanyadakifudo-in? Absolutely none, sorry. I was hoping there would be some available on the internet, or other such sources. But there aint.
So why am I composing this blog about it, you may well ask? Quite simple really. The temple is located on a segment of the Ikoma-sanke Hiking Course that I was using, when I literally stumbled-across it. At the time I was descending from an area at the base of Mt Ikomayama, and had just entered Nara Prefecture (map of course).
Just around the corner from Ikomahanyadakifudo-in, is the much larger, and more popular, Hozan-ji Temple. So, if you are in the area, why not place this complex on your itinerary.
I visited Mitsukue-jinja while out hiking in the Shijonawate City area. The path I was on took me through to the Midori-no Bunkoen Park and onto Ikomayama. The shrine borders on the urban and rural area of the city.
From the station, where I alight my train, I had to weave my way through some very narrow lanes (if you are hiking this course, the route is well signposted), passing the entrance to Shijonawate-jinja on my way.
After ascending the flight of steps, and passing through the first of two Torii, you arrive at the Chozuya. Once performing the purification ritual, you then pass through the second Torii.
Unfortunately I don't have any information regarding Mitsukue-jinja but, a website I stumble-across hinted that it may have been constructed during the Heian Period.
It's not an enormous complex, nor does it stand out from any other of the small shrines I have frequented on my travels but, like in this image on the left, of a concrete Toro, it's quaint, and is sited in an area where there is a network of hiking tracks. If you are planning on hiking in this area, here is a link to the course I did.