Kosanji Temple & Miraishin no Oka, Setoda Town, Onomichi City, Hiroshima Prefecture
(BGM: "Amma Endru" by K. J. Yesudas)
Mother's Day is approaching! :-)
Usually I'd be depressed about it. The best I seem to do for my Mom every year is a free internet chat session. She deserves WAY more. Like, WAY!
But this year, I'm a daughter with a mission!
Ever since she told me she's thinking about visiting me out here again, I've been on the lookout for extraordinary, unusual places to show her. You know, the kind of sights that would make a woman go "WOW!" Hubby hinted that he'd show me something completely new this Golden Week, and I was stoked at the prospect of a rip-roaring feature for her itinerary!
"So, where are we going today?" I asked the Hubby. Perhaps day camping at our local park? Or a picnic on the beach? Hiking in the mountains just down the road? We had many free options to choose from.
"Setoda," he said flatly.
Setoda? My heart skipped a beat. The last time we traveled to Setoda, we didn't do more than beach comb and eat a package of convenience store soba noodles. There were some famous places I asked him to take us, but he showed zero interest in them. So I was surprised when Hubby said we'd be going there again for our Golden Week day trip.
|A sweet motherly pilgrim jizo softens the hellish entrance to the "Cave of 1,000 Buddhas"|
While waiting in our car at Sunami Port to board the blaring pink ferry to Setoda, we talked with a retired pensioner couple crossing the country in their makeshift minivan camper. Arms folded, the driver with a dapper comb-over beamed with pride as we complimented him on his craftsmanship. His ruddy-cheeked wife shared with us stories of how they'd traveled everywhere from Hokkaido to Kyushu in comfort, utilizing hot springs and coin laundries for their basic washing needs. I noticed my husband's eyes glittering like they do when he's hungry. Were we looking at our future? We were used to close quarters, so the idea wasn't that far-fetched.
|Hmm. We could do that! :-)|
|The Yassa Mossa ferry from Sunami, Mihara to Setoda Port.|
|Mother and child enjoying their cruise to Ikuchi Island.|
耕三寺 Kosanji Temple
|The crazy-colorful gates to Kosanji Temple.|
|A strikingly elaborate Avalokitesvara (bodhisattva of compassion).|
|Wait a minute! The Phoenix Hall of Byodo-In is in Uji, Kyoto, not some remote island in Hiroshima!|
|Nikko's Yomeimon Gate? Nope! Kosanji Temple in Setoda!|
|Ceiling dragon reminiscent of Kyoto's Kennin-ji.|
|Nara? Tokyo? Nope! Still Hiroshima!|
We arrived on the island just before 2pm and only had a few more hours before the grounds closed, so sadly, we had to cut a few buildings from the day's itinerary. Reuniting in front of the pagoda, Hubby and I collected our thoughts with a drink in the wisteria courtyard and set out again following the signs up the hill to the legendary Miraishin no Oka (Hill of Hope), a fantasy land of shimmering white marble.
|Wisteria adds a needed splash of living, natural color to a building near the Phoenix Hall.|
未来心の丘 Miraishin no Oka, Hill of Hope
|Kosanji, the only Japanese temple with its own Italian restaurant. It even serves wine, a Buddhist no-no! (Gasp!)|
|Fragrant jasmine perfumes the base of the Hill of Hope.|
|The front view of Cafe Cuore, serving pizza and other fine Italian fare.|
|Monolithic sculptures in solid marble by artist Kuetani Kazuto atop Miraishin no Oka.|
|View of the Seto Inland Sea from the Tower of Light.|
|Friends taking in the view together under the famous "Tower of Light."|
Resigned to the fact that I may never know the answers to such questions, I followed Hubby back down towards the temple before the sun reflecting off of all that marble had a chance to burn my unprotected skin. As I started making my way towards the main gate, Hubby noticed a small pagoda to his left.
"It says there's a sort of hell valley over there." He'd found it! It was here all along!
"Are you interested?" I asked him.
"Nope," he answered curtly.
"Well, I am," I said. "I'll be right back. Meet me at the wisteria."
I knew he'd feel strange if he passed up this opportunity for weirdness, and grinned as he positioned himself ahead of me like the great Protector he is, leading me into the cave.
千仏洞地獄峡, Senbutsudou, Cave of a Thousand Buddhas/Hell Valley
Completed in 1969 and taking nine whole years to construct, this artificial ferroconcrete cave plunges 15 meters down and stretches out 350 meters underneath the upper Kosanji temple complex. The rough, porous stone lining the walls and ceiling of the cave is actual igneous rock brought in from Mt. Fuji and recently active Mt. Asama volcanoes. Right away there's a feeling of mystery as the temperature suddenly drops and the sound of running water echoes throughout the descending tunnel.
|Flung by a demon into a lake of fire; not quite the way I'd wanna go...|
A few more corner turns and the tunnel opened up into a series of stone lanterns and stairs. The sound of running water grew undeniably louder as we approached the first of three tiny concrete bridges. Following the waterfall up with our eyes, lo and behold, hundreds of bodhisattvas sat tucked into each available crevice of the cave, spiraling all the way up to the ceiling. The effect was dizzying!
The cave spiraled up and down again, opening to two more grottoes of stone, water and light, each more splendid than the last. It was here at the final grotto where I lost my footing and clutched a chunk of lava rock, scraping up my ring finger into a bloody pulp. Hell had given me a warning to take with me back to the land of the living. (The obvious message: imported lava rock is quite jagged, so try not to touch it!) Unfortunately, no merciful bodhisattva appeared to magically heal my bleeding finger. I guess they don't work that way.
|The walls bite, so be careful!|
|Just in case you forgot, here's a really huge statue to remind you.|
Taking one last look around this incredible collection of replicas, I couldn't help but wonder if the founder of Kosanji was a happy man. All this lavishness and expense; were all his efforts a labor of love, sorrow or guilt? Too bad his mother never got the chance to see this astounding memorial built in her honor while she was alive. But what a treasure for posterity! My own mother taught me that money can't buy love and she's absolutely right.
But it can certainly buy a good day trip! I think we found a winner!
(Happy Mother's Day, Mom!) :-)
Kosanji Temple Information:
Open Hours: 9:00am to 4:30pm.
Holidays: (Open 365 days a year).
(By Car): From Sunami Port in Mihara City, you can drive your car onto the ferry bound for Setoda Port, a 25-minute trip down the Seto Inland Sea. (Automobile and passenger fees apply). Otherwise you can access Setoda Town by the Shimanami Kaido from either Onomichi City in Hiroshima (via Innoshima Island) or Imabari in Shikoku (toll road fees may apply).
(On Foot): It's a 15-minute walk from Setoda Ferry Terminal to Kosanji Temple.
Parking: Free parking available in designated spots around the temple complex.
Address: 553-2 Setoda, Setoda-cho, Onomichi-shi, Hiroshima Ken, 722-2411
Admission Fee: 1,200 yen for adults: includes access to Miraishin no Oka, Senbutsudo Cave, Choseikaku (Kanemoto's mother's summer home not featured in this blog), the Kosanji Museum (across the highway from the temple) and all buildings and structures within the Kosanji complex unless otherwise indicated.
Available Facilities: Public restrooms, drink machines, Italian cafe, temple museum, art gallery, Buddhist paraphernalia available for giving alms.
Insider's Tip: Don't touch the cave walls. Seriously.
Copyright 2014 Genkilee, Gen. All rights reserved. No part of this blog (written or photo content) may be reproduced or reprinted without the expressed permission of the author.