Rock faces of Buddhist monks carved to honor those lost at sea
On the shores of the Sea of japan, near the majestic Mt. Chokai, lies a serene and enigmatic place called Juroku-rakan iwa. Here, 22 Buddhist figures are carved into the rocks, their faces gazing out across the sea. These silent guardians have been watching over the ships for 150 years, serving as a memorial for lost fishermen and sailors, and offering prayers for the safety of those at sea. This article will explore the history and significance of these rock carvings, as well as the surrounding attractions and how to reach this unique site.
The Origins of Juroku-rakan iwa:
The story of Juroku-rakan iwa begins with a priest named Kankai from Fukura Kaizen-ji Temple. Deeply moved by the tragedies faced by local fishermen and sailors, he proposed the idea of creating rock carvings to honor and remember them. With the support of the community, stonemasons were hired to carve the faces of Buddhist figures into the rocks. Over the course of five years, these remarkable sculptures were created, each one with a unique expression of compassion and piety.
The Faces of Compassion and Piety:
As you stand on the sandy and stony grounds below, you can see and admire the meticulously carved figures. Each one exudes a sense of serenity and tranquility, their eyes gazing out towards the sea. The level of detail in these carvings is truly remarkable, showcasing the skill and craftsmanship of the stonemasons who brought them to life. From the weathered features of the Buddha himself to the serene expressions of the other figures, these rock faces serve as a testament to the artistry and devotion of those who created them.
Notable Sights Nearby:
While visiting Juroku-rakan iwa, there are several other attractions in the vicinity that are worth exploring. Just a five-minute walk away is Dewa Futami, a pair of twin rocks connected by a rope. Watching the sun set between these rocks is said to be a breathtaking and lucky experience, especially during the months of May and August. Another nearby attraction is Kamaiso Beach, which is only a five-minute drive from Juroku-rakan iwa. This beach is known for its small freshwater spring that bubbles up from beneath the sands. Standing in the cool spring waters is particularly refreshing during the summer months.
Sunset Gazing and an Island Hop:
Throughout the year, Juroku-rakan iwa offers one of the best locations to witness the sun setting over the Sea of Japan. However, it is during the month of July that the area truly comes alive, as the sculptures are illuminated at night. On clear days, you can even catch a glimpse of Tobishima Island on the horizon, located 40 kilometers out to sea. For those seeking adventure, Tobishima Island makes for an exciting day trip. You can explore the island on foot or by bicycle, or simply relax and enjoy some fishing in the clear waters while admiring the majestic Mt. Chokai in the distance.
How to Get There:
The best way to reach Juroku-rakan iwa is by car or taxi. The site is conveniently located just a five-minute drive from Uetsu Honsen Fukura Station, making it easily accessible for both locals and tourists alike. Whether you choose to drive yourself or hire a taxi, the journey to Juroku-rakan iwa is sure to be filled with scenic beauty, as you pass by the Sea of Japan and the awe-inspiring Mt. Chokai.
Juroku-rakan iwa stands as a testament to the resilience and spirit of the local community, who have honored and remembered their lost fishermen and sailors for over a century. These rock carvings not only serve as a memorial, but also as a symbol of hope and protection for those venturing out to sea. As you stand before these silent guardians, take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices made by those who have lost their lives at sea, and offer a prayer for the safety of all those who continue to navigate these waters. Juroku-rakan iwa is not just a site of historical and cultural significance, but also a place of peace and reflection, where the power of nature and the spirit of humanity come together in harmony.
Address And Maps Location:
Nishidate Fukura, Yuza-machi, Akumi-gun, Yamagata-ken