The other day we took the train to Chichibu in Saitama province, arriving at the Seibu-Chichibu station. Chichibu is famous for its winter festival and the pilgrimage of the 34 Buddhist temples dedicated to Kannon. Pick up a tourist leaflet/map at the station to find your way around. From the Seibu-Chichibu station it was a short walk to temple #13 and temple #15.
We got a very nice reception at the gorgeous Jigenji Temple (temple #13) where the woman taking care of the temple served us tea and some dedicated candy. This temple is dedicated to illnesses of the eye and the sutra storehouse on the right-hand side of the precinct contains a hexagonal Rindo and images of the 13 holy priests enshrined there. Turn the Rindo twice while reciting your sutras to get relieve on eye related issues.
Shorinji Temple (temple #15) is a short walk away and was built in the last year of the Meiji period and features some rare architecture.
We continued to Jorakuji Temple (temple #11) which is not very remarkable but it gives access to a tiny Shinto shrine up on the hill with an amazing series of red toriis leading up to the shrine.
We continued to the Chichibu Shrine which is beautiful and was very tranquil the day we visited. This is the scene of the 3rd largest Shinto festival every December 3. The omikuji (the random fortunes) are washed in the tiny stream running over the area of the temple complex to reveal their meaning.
From the shrine it is a 10 minute walk back to the Seibu-Chichibu station but it is worth paying attention to the architecture of the old houses on the way. Too often old shops and restaurants have made way for non-distinct and boring modern buildings, Chichibu seems to have more than average share of quaint old buildings.
On the way to Chichibu we had passed Koma station, Koma is of course the home of the Koma Shrine with its strong links to Korea as it enshrines Koma no kokishi Jakko, a Korean who settled in early Japan. Koma station, by the way, is not the best way to access the shrine as it is a few kilometre walk along a moderately busy road. The better access is via Komagawa JR station from which it is a 15 minute walk.
I did enjoy this shrine a lot, the way it was almost inserted into the mountain slope with large trees almost embracing it.
Behind the shrine was a thatched roof shed with a Korean pottery exhibition, access was free.
A few hundred meters behind the shrine, away from Komagawa station is the Shoden-in temple nested on top of a mountain. The access is quite magical with beautiful gardens in the lower areas and a fabulous gate.
Once you continue up the stairs, you discover that access is 300 yen for the inner area. After having paid, you step onto a large area over which the temple looms from the plateau above. All of a sudden it starts to look brand new and even the gardens all of a sudden are mere attempts to aspire to something profound and the view from the platform at the top was rather plain and didn’t give me the glimpses of the temple buildings I had encountered in other places.
I would certainly recommend a visit to this temple but wouldn’t visit the upper parts anymore but admire it from below.
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