One of japan‘s most important Buddhist mountain temples is Mt. Minobu. Located in Minamikoma-gun, Yamanashi-ken, this sacred site holds great significance for devotees of Nichiren Buddhism. Founded by Nichiren in 1274, Mt. Minobu has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries.
The main temple at Mt. Minobu is called Minobusan Kuonji Temple. Established in 1274, it serves as the resting place of Nichiren himself. The temple is known for its magnificent painting of a five-toed Japanese dragon, which adorns the ceiling of the main hall. The dragon is a symbol of power and protection in Japanese culture, and its presence adds to the spiritual atmosphere of the temple.
One of the highlights of visiting Mt. Minobu is the Oeshiki Festival, which takes place on the second weekend in October. This festival commemorates the passing of Nichiren and features illuminated floats and leather-fringed matoi poles. The festival is a vibrant celebration of Nichiren’s teachings and attracts visitors from all over Japan.
To reach Mt. Minobu, there are two main transportation options. The first is to take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line to Shizuoka Station, then transfer to the JR Tokaido Main Line for Fuji Station. From there, you can board the northbound JR Minobu Line to Minobu Station. The second option is to take an express train from Shinjuku Station to Kofu Station, then transfer to the Minobu Line for JR Minobu Station. Both routes take approximately three hours.
Once you arrive at Minobu Station, you have the option to take a taxi or a bus to Minobusan Kuonji Temple. The taxi ride costs around 2,000 yen, while the bus fare is only about 280 yen. The choice of transportation depends on your budget and preference.
One of the most striking features of Mt. Minobu is the staircase to enlightenment, known as bodai-tei. This series of 287 stone steps is a challenging climb, but the reward is worth it. At the top of the steps, you will be greeted by the sight of Minobusan Kuonji’s five-tiered red pagoda. The pagoda is a symbol of the Buddhist faith and is considered a sacred structure.
During cherry blossom season in mid-April, Mt. Minobu becomes even more enchanting. The 400-year-old weeping cherry tree in front of the main temple attracts visitors from far and wide. The delicate pink blossoms create a picturesque scene, and many people come to admire the beauty of nature.
Another unique event that takes place at Mt. Minobu is the Oeshiki Festival. This festival occurs in early October and is a spectacle to behold. Participants spin matoi, which are long poles with leather strips attached to the top, in a frenzy of movement. The spinning of the matoi is a form of prayer and devotion to Nichiren and his teachings. The festival is a lively and colorful celebration that showcases the rich traditions of Nichiren Buddhism.
For those who prefer a more active experience, hiking to the summit of Mt. Minobu is highly recommended. While there is a ropeway available, many visitors choose to embark on the 2.5-hour hike through the cedar forests. Along the way, you will encounter ancient graves and smaller temples. The narrow road behind Kuonji Temple leads to the top of the mountain, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
Weather permitting, the summit of Mt. Minobu offers a breathtaking view of Mt. Fuji. The iconic volcano rises majestically behind the mountain ranges, creating a picturesque backdrop. From the summit, you can also see the Fuji River as it winds its way to the Pacific Ocean. There is a spacious rest and observation area at the top, allowing visitors to take in the beauty of the natural surroundings.
As you make your way up the mountain, you will come across several smaller temples that are worth visiting. The first temple, known as Pomegranate Temple, is named after the pomegranate tree that grows on its grounds. The pomegranate is a symbol of fertility in Japan, and visitors often leave small wooden plaques with prayers for healthy children. The second temple is filled with a thousand tiny golden Buddha statues, creating a serene and peaceful atmosphere.
If you’re lucky, you may encounter pilgrims dressed in white robes as they ascend and descend the mountain. These pilgrims chant “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo,” a chant for enlightenment, as they make their way to Minobusan Kuonji Temple. Witnessing their devotion and dedication to their faith is a humbling experience.
In conclusion, a visit to Mt. Minobu is a spiritual journey that refreshes the soul and rejuvenates the senses. The rich history and cultural significance of this sacred site make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Buddhism or Japanese culture. Whether you choose to climb the staircase to enlightenment, attend the Oeshiki Festival, or simply take in the breathtaking views, Mt. Minobu offers a unique and memorable experience. So, plan your trip to Mt. Minobu and embark on a pilgrimage to one of Japan’s most important Buddhist mountain temples.
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