When I visited Okuaizu the other day, I saw lots of beautiful ‘fringed irises’. I’m not particularly knowledgeable about flowers, but I’m pretty sure I’d never seen these flowers before coming to Japan.
Seeing them in Okuaizu instantly reminded me a photograph I saw when I first moved to Fukushima Prefecture. At that time, I had been flicking through countless photographs taken in the prefecture to try and get acquainted with all the different places to visit in Fukushima. Then I saw the photo – a photo that filled me with awe and made me feel compelled to travel to the spot as soon as I could.
The photo below is the picture in question.
The sloping hills, the beautiful, unique-shaped flowers, the tall cedar trees, and the entrancing three-story pagoda just peaking through in the background – I was absolutely mesmerized. This is Kozoji Temple, in Iwaki.
When I asked my coworkers about Kozoji Temple, I was surprised to learn that many people from Fukushima have never even heard of the pagoda. It is definitely not a well-known sightseeing spot.
I vowed to myself to take photos this spring of the beautiful Fringed Irises at Kozoji Temple. But unfortunately, as with many things, I totally forgot about it, got the timing wrong, and missed out on this opportunity for the second year in a row!
I thought I’d take the time to write about this pagoda on my blog, to make sure I don’t forget next year.
About Kozoji Temple
Kozoji Temple is thought to have been established in the year 807 by a very influential Buddhist priest called Tokuitsu. This temple has a long history, including its reconstruction to its current form in 1774, and it has been selected as one of Fukushima Prefecture’s Tangible Cultural Properties.
From its establishment onwards, the temple has been considered a sacred ground dedicated to the deity of compassion. In Japanese, this deity is called ‘kannon’ 観音.
Kannon are usually represented as women, and are occasionally portrayed as holding a baby. Incidentally, the electronics brand Canon was initially called ‘Kannon’ – the brand name and logo even incorporated images of this Buddhist deity.
In Japan, there are loads of ‘Kannon Meguri’ routes that you can take to visit all of the Kannon in a certain area. Here are a few images of the different Kannon you can find in Fukushima Prefecture.
Anyway, getting back to Kozoji…
Kozoji Temple is a 15.7m tall, three-tiered Buddhist pagoda. Its style takes a lot of inspiration from Chinese architecture, and it is quite simple in design when compared to other pagoda in Japan – most of which include railings around their 2nd and 3rd levels.
If you look closely, you’ll notice that the pillars inside the pagoda have been shaved down to their current octagonal shape. It was pretty standard in the Nara Period and Muromachi Period for the pillars of temples to be cylindrical, but the Edo Period brought in this new standard.
Just noticing a little detail like the confirms that the temple is at least 500 years old.
Visiting at the Right Time
This pagoda looks absolutely beautiful when the Fringed Lilies are in full bloom. The best time to see these differs from year to year, but is likely to fall between late April and mid-May. To make sure you visit during the right time, it’s best to contact me, or Iwaki’s Tourism Association to check.
Visiting Kozoji Temple
Take the Joban Line (常磐線) from Iwaki Station or Yumoto Station to Ueda Station (植田駅). From there, the temple is a 30 minute walk (2.5km).
For information on getting to Iwaki City by public transport, see here.
Alternatively, you can reach the temple by car. Get off the Joban Expressway at Iwaki Nakoso IC Exit, then drive for another 16 minutes.
For information on travelling to Iwaki City – including info on how to get around the city – please read my travel guide here.
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