Arriving at the Torii, you get your first glimpse of the main entrance to the temple. On your right is this Temizuya, where you perform your purification ritual before entering the complex. Then, once you step through the main gate, you are travelling back in time.
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.
Located at the base of Mt Shigisan (437m), Chogosonshi-ji (Map Location) was founded by Prince Shotoku (572-622), an important politician during the Asuka Period (538-710). He was the son of Emperor Yomei (518-587) and was deeply devoted to Buddhism. The history of the Main Hall is a bit vague. It is believed the main hall was reconstructed in 1592 by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, or by his son, Hideyori in 1601. The Hall was completed in 1746 but was destroyed again by fire in 1951 and rebuilt in 1958.
I arrived at the complex after a grueling hike up a path that just seemed to go on-and-on but, once I stepped onto the temple grounds, the hard graft was well worth the effort.
As I approached the complex, I was greeted by this unusual monument and, as I wondered the many walkways throughout the temple, I encountered more statues of tigers; the temple is related to the tiger of the Chinese Zodiac, which is used for calender, time and direction.
As you enter the temple complex you are greeted with many icons related to Shintoism, like the concrete Torii & Toro. This is quite common at a Buddhist Temple and is known as Chinjusha, or a Tutelary Shrine that is a patron spirit that protects a given area.
After passing through the main entrance, you then encounter this character (the yellow & black-striped figure in the foreground) and your first sight of the Hondo, or the Main Hall. The tiger, Fukutora, is the largest paper-machet tiger in the world.
The Main Hall stands watch over the entire complex and is am impressive sight, regardless of the time of year. But, if the view from down here is impressive, you will be blown-away with the view from the veranda. . . . .
. . . . like in this image on the left. In the distance is another temple that makes-up Chogosonshi-ji. At this point I suggest you don't be in a hurry, spend time taking-in the scenery and the serenity of your surroundings.
Throughout the grounds are many photo-opportunities, as I was to discover. If you have the time, and energy, follow the concrete signs up the hill, behind one of the temples, to an avenue of vermilion-colored torii. It's quite a steep walk, but well worth your time.
I came here on foot, as part of a days hiking trip and, because of my itinerary, I didn't spend as much time as I wanted to. But I am already planning my return. I came here via the Kintetsu Shigisanshita Station but, if you want to take the more leisurely route, you can drive or travel by bus.
Now, the all important video. Hopefully this will go some way to convincing you to visit Chogosonshi-ji Temple.
Most of the images in this post were taken by Yours Truly. I would like to acknowledge the use of other images; Shigisan Chogosonshi-ji and Landscapememory.
It's amazing what one happens across when out hiking. Take Shimonobo Eisho-ji for example. I was hiking in the Tenri City area of Nara Prefecture recently, when the path (The Nanamagari Path) I was following, passed an interesting set of religious Icons (image below).
Stopping to take a photo, I soon noticed a track branching-off behind the set of Stone Pagodas that disappeared into a clump of trees, about 100-meters away. My curiosity pricked, I decided to check-out what was hidden amongst the forest.
After ascending the rock-paved steps, and passing under an 800-year old Japanese Cedar, was the Shimonobo Eisho-ji Temple. Not the original, obviously. The original temple was established here in the year 712AD by the Japanese Buddhist Monk known simply as Roben . Roben was the clerical founder of Todai-ji Temple in Nara City.
What really impressed me, when I discovered when Shimonobo Eishi-ji was established, was, when compared to my country (Aotearoa), this complex would have been some 900-years old when Aotearoa was first inhabited.
So, with the help of the guys at "weebly", I shall now add a slide-show of my images of -
Shimonobo Eisho-ji Temple.
Now, if my images don't give you an idea how I felt when experiencing this complex, I shall let this video do the talking.
Oops, I nearly forgot to show you where Shimonobo Eisho-ji is located. And, to do that, I shall let the guys at "Google Maps" show you.
If you are interested in experiencing this complex, and the surrounding district, this is a detailed map of the course I took.
So, until next time, this is me, "The Outdoorholic", saying kanpai.