Kinshoku-ji Temple was founded by Jikakutaishi, who was the third head priest of Hiei-zan Enryaku-ji Temple. It is said he followed a vision received in a dream and discovered a pine tree in which the spirit resided. He built the temple from the tree and placed a statue of Bishamonten there.
In 1235, more than three hundred years later, Shinran renovated the temple and installed Amida statue. According to a legend, during the renovation of the temple, a heavenly maiden descended on the temple and offered the brocade woven with lotus threads to the statue. Upon hearing the story, the imperial Court gave the temple a name, “Tenjingohou Kinshoku-no-ji”, roughly translated as a brocade temple protected by the heavenly gods, thus, the temple became known as Kinshoku-ji.
In the vast precinct of the temple stands the Amida-dou building in which the main Buddhism statue is enshrined and is designated as a Shiga prefecture important cultural asset. Other notable buildings are Goei-dou where Shinran’s portrait is kept, a treasure storage, a study room, a lecture hall and a bell tower.
Despite the fact the temple was destroyed by fires on numerous occasions, Miyagoden, made from a part of the imperial palace given by Emperor Higashiyama, survived and is intact today along with many valuable artifacts kept inside. One of such artifacts is the portrait of Shinran who just finished writing his masterpiece, “Kenjoudo Kyougyoushoumonrui”. The portrait reveals his profound sense of satisfaction.
Akeno Kannondo Hall in Yanagisawa Akeno in Numazu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, is a hall housing Juichimen Kanzeon (Kannon with 11 faces). The hall and the Kanzeon statue are designated as tangible cultural properties of the city.
It is said that the hall was originally one of the structures composing a temple founded by Priest Gyoki in 732. The principal object of worship, the statue of Juichimen Kanzeon, is said to have been carved by Gyoki himself in the manner called “Itto-Sanrei (three bows for one carving).” The temple was known as the 13th temple of Suruga Ikkoku 30 Holy Places and the 15th Holy Place of Yokomichi Pilgrimage. Presently, the hall is administered by Kodaiji Temple, a temple of the Shingon sect, in the same town.
The present hall is said to have been reconstructed in 1637 under the supervision of Hidari Jingoro, a sculptor and carpenter in the Edo period. The picture of a dragon is drawn on the ceiling in Chinese style, while the front wall has a picture of a heavenly maiden.
In the precinct are the Kaya tree (Torreya nucifera (Linn.) Sieb. et Zucc), 9 m in circumference at the height of eye and the Nagi tree (Podocarpus nagi Zoll. et Moritzi), 3.72 m in circumference at the height of eye, both of which are designated natural monuments of the city.
Tofukuji Temple in Nishiizu Town in Shizuoka Prefecture is a temple of the Rinzai sect. The principal object of worship is Amida Nyorai. It was founded during the Tenpuku era (1233-1234) and originally called Tenpukuji Temple. It was relocated, however, to the present place during the Kagen era (1303-1305) and renamed Tofukuji Temple.
The temple is famous for the frescos of 500 Rakan (Buddha’s disciples) painted on the ceiling of the main hall. The frescos were painted by Toshimitsu Tamura, a Buddhist painter of the Taisho period (1912-1926), who was known as a deep drinker. It is said that it took him 4 years and 8 months to finish the work.
With the dragon in the center, the heavenly maiden at every corner and 500 Rakan surrounding them, this pictorial diagram of the heavenly world is really magnificent. The plastered ceiling and walls give the three dimensional effect to the marvelously colorful paintings.
Hagoromo (Heavenly Robe) Falls in Tenninkyo Gorge in Taisetsu mountains is one of the representative waterfalls in Hokkaido. It is selected as one of Japan’s 100 Fine Waterfalls. With a height of 270 m, it is Japan’s 3rd highest waterfall.
The water trickles down the rock surface in seven stages. Its delicate and elegant flow indeed reminds us of a celestial maiden dancing with her heavenly robe streaming in the water. The waterfall was first named “Meoto-daki (Couple Falls)” when it was first discovered in 1901. However, in the Taisho period (1912-1926), a master poet Omachi Keigetsu visited this place and was deeply impressed by its graceful shape, from which he gave it the name “Hagoromo Falls.”
If you go up the steps beside the falls, you can take a close look at the upper stages of the waterfall.
The Homei Shijuhattaki (Forty-eight) Falls is on the upstream of the Hirose River, which runs through Wakaba-ku in Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture. Water flows down the terraced rocky slopes one after another, forming a basin on every stage. The largest flow was once called “the Bomeki-no-taki Waterfall.” The origin of its name “Homei (Phoenix’s Cry)” is obscure, but there are several theories. One theory states that it was because the overlapping sounds of the waterfall sounded like a cry of a Chinese phoenix.
Off the road from National Route 48, the waterfall is surrounded with densely grown trees. As the waterfall flows at the bottom of the sheer cliffs, only the cool sound of flowing water can be heard from the hiking trail. If you want to see the whole picture of the waterfall, you have to pluck up the courage to lean forward and look down.
The upper part of the waterfall consists of several stages, each of which has a large basin. You will never get tired of looking at the water flowing from one basin down to another, creating the flow of white bubbles. There is a legend that, once upon a time, a heavenly maiden descended from the sky and danced beside the waterfall. Looking at the beautiful flow of water, you might think that it really happened.
Katte Shrine located in Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Nara Pref. is one of the eight Myojin shrines in Yoshino. It enshrines Oyama Tsumi no Kami and Konohanasakuya-hime no Mikoto. Legend has it that in 672, when Prince Oama (later enthroned as Emperor Tenmu), who had stayed in Yoshino and gathered an army to battle with the crown prince, was playing the Japanese harp in front of the hall at this temple, a heavenly maiden appeared and showed him a lucky omen.
It is also said that in 1185, when Shizuka Gozen, who parted with Minamoto no Yoshitsune in Mt. Yoshino, was caught by the pursuers, she performed elegant dance in front of the hall at this shrine to make time for her husband to escape.
The main hall was once destroyed by fire and restored in 1776, but in 2005 it was burned down again by the fire of suspicious origin. Presently, only a part of wooden structure remains and there is little possibility of the restoration of this important cultural property.
The Zo-onna mask portrays a young woman with nobility, decency and intelligence. It is used for a holy character like a heavenly maiden and goddess. The name is said to have derived from its creator, Zoami, one of Ashikaga Takauji’s cultural advisors, Doboshu. Though its face is rather small, it has the broad forehead. The small jaw creates a firm features. Different from other female masks, the both ends of the lips slightly drop downwards. This mask is used for the plays such as “Yuya” and “Eguchi.”
Mt. Asahidake located in the center of Hokkaido is the main peak of the Daisetsu mountain range. Although it is 2,290 m above sea level, the ecological conditions of the mountain is similar to those of 3,000-meter-class mountains in Honshu. This is because the mountain is located at high latitude.
Swamp plants grow in Tennyogahara Field and over 40 species of alpine plants can be seen in Sugatami-no-ike Pond and its surrounding area. The area is known as a habitat of rare species of insects such as Eversmann's Parnassian, which is a national Natural Monument and can be found only in the Daisetsu mountain range, and 6 other species of alpine butterflies as well as of wild animals such as northern pikas (Ochotona hyperborea yesoensis) and Ezo deer.
As the aerial tramway service is provided from Asahidake Hot Spring in Higashikawa-cho to Sugatami-no-ike Pond, a lot of visitors come to enjoy hiking without much difficulty.
Various flowers come into bloom in summer, which look like a huge flowerbed in the garden of grand nature. Covered with crimson foliage, it displays magnificent scenery in fall; while it looks breathtakingly beautiful when covered with white snow in winter.