I didn’t plan to make a visit to Yakuo-ji Temple during my trip to Iwaki, but the entrance the temple ground really caught my eye and enticed me in.
After I had driven past it for a few metres, I couldn’t stop myself from turning the car around and going back to explore.
The path that leads to the temple is in a residential area, sandwiched between two old houses. Two lines of cherry blossom trees lined the way to the base of the staircase, from which a steep incline led me to the main temple area.
Walking alone through the lines of trees and up the steps, shaded from the hot sun, and stepping closer and closer into the unknown gave the temple a mysterious atmosphere, and kind of made me think of the starting scene of ‘Spirited Away’, when Chihiro walks through the tunnel.
At the top of the staircase opened up a wide, flat area, tucked away and hidden from the small village below by walls of tall bamboo trees.
The area next to the bamboo grove appears to contain a structure that used to be used as a bell tower. You can see the large piece of wood which would have been used to strike it bell. Perhaps the bell was damaged in previous years. It’s absence made the area even more intriguing!
The area by the temple was very calm and quiet, which made a big change from the busy Ogawa Suwa Shrine, which I had visited hours previously.
After researching about the temple later, I found that this temple had been home to one of Iwaki’s three most well-known healing Buddhist monks. The temple grounds used to be filled with a number of buildings, and it was quite well-known in its day, but its destruction after the Boshin War meant that the reconstruction that stands here today is the only idea we have of what it used to look like.
From the top of the staircase, the view down onto the cherry trees was really beautiful.
From close up, they were even more breathtaking!
See the map below for the locations of hanami spots in Iwaki City