2016.2.16
Ehime

Our Recommended Power Spot in Ehime!

The only spot in Japan, the Shikoku pilgrimage trail was selected as one of 52 places to visit in 2015 by the New York Times.
With Shikoku Island becoming known globally, lately there are many international participants walking the pilgrimage trail. And since the NYT introduced it as one of the world’s safest power spots to walk, many women also tour the 88 locations along the trail.
As the newspaper used a photograph of Kaiganzan Iwaya-ji Temple (no. 45), this time we will introduce it. It’s a power spot that allows you to experience the mysteries of Mother Nature.

 

 

Shops line the path on the way up to the temple entrance. The signboard reads, “This is only just the start, for both the hill of Iwaya and life”. Just as life is long, so is the way up to the main temple… Iwaya-ji Temple is said to be the toughest spot to reach on the whole pilgrimage. From here on we will be climbing up the mountain.
The first time I visited, I tried my best to reach the top as quickly as I could, but ended up having a hard time due to trying too hard. If you take some photographs on the way up while admiring the massive trees and listening to the birds singing, you won’t be tired at all and will reach the top before you know it.
That’s why this time we will introduce some hints on how to enjoy the climb.

 

 

A little way up the slope from the entrance, you’ll come to the large main gate. Finally, we enter the mysterious forest…

The trail continues up a long staircase.
While in the distance you can hear birds singing and the sound of the river flowing, trees grow thickly in the surroundings.
When walking in natural environments, you may notice things you usually wouldn’t, remember someone who’s important to you, think about your life… Nature leads us away from our everyday lives towards a world out of the ordinary.

 


Along the route to the main temple, there are various bodhisattva statues. This is Acala (Fudō-myōō in Japanese), also known as the Immovable. The principal object of worship at Iwaya temple is present within the mountain along the way.
Acala is also said to be the incarnation of Vairocana (Dainichi Nyorai in Japanese), or to express inner determination. When a person tries to accomplish something, he or she needs determination and resolution. Looking at Acala, it feels like he would help crush any hesitation in your heart.

 

 

There are plenty of large, mysterious trees on the mountain. Almost as if it contains a spirit, green grows thickly on this big one.
Nature is alive, just as we are. And we are kept alive by nature… These are some of the thoughts that come into my mind.

 

 

Just a short distance in front of the main temple building in a corner below the place where sutras are dedicated, the “Guiding Acala” (‘Michibiraki Fudō’ in Japanese) is found behind the Kokuuzo-do. He is a bodhisattva who is said to guide you to the road you should choose when starting something new as well as when you have lost your way.
I uttered a prayer to this bodhisattva was on my second visit to Iwaya Temple. At that time, I swallowed my hesitation and made a certain decision, and now I’m traveling along the road I was supposed to.
It’s a spot I recommend visiting.

 

 

There are plenty of other highlights on the way to the main temple building, but as I cannot possibly introduce them all, do go and see them with your own eyes.
After climbing the long staircase and hill road, I finally reach the main temple building.

 



Built under a rock in 1920, the main temple building has been designated as an important cultural property by the Japanese government.

This is anazenjo, the water service area.
Within the 20-meter high cave, there’s a shrine dedicated to the granting bodhisattva, Jizo (the Japanese guardian deity for children, and ancestor worship) as well as a stone statue of Kobo Daishi (Kukai). Water flows out from below the Jizo…
It’s so dark you can’t even see your feet. It may feel a bit scary, but I recommend paying a visit inside.
The temple has plenty of highlights, but last off, I give you this one.

 

 

I know I’m repeating myself, but this is Kaiganzan Iwaya-ji Temple.
Don’t you think it’s a bit strange that the name of a mountain with a height of 700m above sea level includes the word “Kaigan”, which means “seashore” in Japanese? As you can see from the above photograph, the temple stands on a rocky mountain with strangely shaped ridges. It is said that Kukai carved both a wooden and a stone Acala bodhisattva statue. The wooden one he enshrined as the main object of worship in the temple he built, and the stone one he enshrined in the cavern in the inner sanctuary as a hibutsu (a Buddhist image usually hidden from the public), making the whole mountain into an object of worship.
Quietly standing almost as if embedded within the midst of the enormous rock, the temple is a prototype of sacred grounds in the mountains.
The reason why this rocky mountain contains the word for seashore in its name is because it was born when magma and stones gathered in the sea and then rose out of it around 40 million years ago.
It’s a place where the sea and the mountains became one – the ultimate power spot.
While the temple offers different sights according to the season, I personally recommend going to see it back dropped by autumn foliage.
Head over for a visit at least once in your lifetime.

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Kaiganzan Iwaya-ji Temple (45th Temple of the Pilgrimage)
Location: 1468 Nanatori, Kumakogen-cho, Kamiukena district, Ehime prefecture
Tel: 0892-57-0417
Parking: Available
http://www.88shikokuhenro.jp/ehime/45iwayaji/index.html (Japanese)

Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Maki Ohashi

 

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