Historical Structures and Art of Kizugawa
Temples and Shrines
Being part of Kyoto and in close proximity to Nara, both capitals in Japan’s history, Kizugawa City is abundant in historical structures and religious art dating as far back as the 8th century. There are approximately 120 known shrines and temples located within the borders of Kizugawa City, spread out amongst the towns Kizu, Kamo, and Yamashiro, making us second only to Kyoto City in density of historical sites. Several of them house art as ancient as the structures themselves.
Below are some of the must-see locations in Kizugawa.
Joruri-ji Temple - 浄瑠璃寺
Founded in 1047, this temple is home to one of the last examples of a Jodo garden from the Heian Period of Japanese history. Upon entering temple grounds a large pond can be seen, and in the center of it an island, symbolizing the ocean and earth in Pure Land Buddhism. To the right of the pond is the Amida Hall, a building where the kutaiji, nine Amida Nyorai statues representing the stages of Nirvana, sit. On the left is the path to a three-story pagoda, moved and reconstructed on Joruri-ji temple grounds in 1178. Nestled in a vegetation-dense area, nature lovers will particularly enjoy this temple. Visit in November to be greeted by the stunningly red atmosphere as the red leaves of the Momiji reflect off the pond.
From JR or Kintetsu Nara Station, take the bus for Joruri-ji and get off at Joruri-ji. (Approximately 25 minutes)
From JR Kamo Station, take the bus for Kamoyama no Ie (加茂山の家) and get off at Joruri-ji mae (浄瑠璃寺前). (Approximately 20 minutes)
Gansen-ji Temple - 岩船寺
Said to be founded by Emperor Shomu in 729, this temple houses numerous historical art pieces and structures from several different periods. From the Heian period are the colored statue of Fugen Bosatsu (Samantabhadra) Riding an Elephant and the seated Statue of Amida made from a single piece of wood surrounded by Shitenou (Four Heavenly Kings). The three-story pagoda was built in the Muromachi period and is opened for viewing only a few weeks a year between October and November. Underneath the pagoda’s roof are the sumioni, humorous statues supporting the rafters at each corner. Behind the pagoda, a Japanese belfry can be found where visitors can ring the bell and pray. Stop by the temple during the midsummer rainy season to catch a glimpse of the blooming hydrangeas that give the temple its nickname, “Ajisai-dera” or “The Hydrangea Temple.”
From JR or Kintetsu Nara Station, take the bus for Joruri-ji and disembark at Joruri-ji. Then ride the bus for JR Kamo (加茂駅) and get off at Gansen-ji
(Approximately 35 minutes)
From JR Kamo Station, take the bus for Kamoyama no Ie (加茂山の家) and get off at Gansen-ji (Approximately 16 minutes)
Kaijyusen-ji Temple - 海住山寺
Resting on the face of one of Kamo Town’s hills, this temple offers one of the best views in all of Kizugawa City. Reconstructed in 1208 after being burned down in 1137, Kaijyusen-ji Temple hosts two statues of the Juichimen Kannon (Eleven-Faced Goddess of Mercy) and the important cultural property, Monjyudou, a building that is thought to have been a scripture library. Although similar in features, the statues are different sizes and only one of them is available for viewing all year round. The smaller statue is open for public viewing during the autumn season. Also located on the temple grounds is one of the taller pagodas in Kizugawa City consisting of five stories and designated as a Japanese national treasure. The temple is known for holding Daikon-daki, an event where people pray for good health and partake in boiled radish with miso.
From JR Kamo Station, take the bus to Okuhata (奥畑) and get off at Kaijyusenji-guchi (海住山寺口) and walk 25 minutes
Kaniman-ji Temple - 蟹満寺
The setting of the famous folk story Kani no Ongaeshi (The Grateful Crab) from the Konjyaku Monogatarishu (Anthology of Tales from the Past), this temple honors everything crab. Estimated to be built toward the end of the 7th century, the main hall contains a National Treasure from the Asuka period, a 240cm tall, two ton Shaka Nyorai Zazou statue. While touching it is prohibited, it is the closest one can get to a National Japanese Treasure. Pay this temple a visit on April 18th and you may find yourself part of the Kanikuyou Houjyoue, a festival that memorializes the crab from the story. In this ceremony, the priests recite Buddhist sutras as fresh water crabs are released into the chozubachi (stone water basin); crab fishermen from all over Japan attend this event to pray for a big catch and a prosperous season. Crab-shaped decorations are scattered throughout the grounds of the temple. Try to find them all!
From JR Tanakura Station take the bus for Shibukawa (渋川) and get off at Kanimanji-guchi (蟹満寺口). Walk another 5 minutes to the temple
For inquiries about each site and information about more locations throughout Kizugawa City in English, please contact the Coordinator of International Relations.