When you’re visiting Hiroshima for the first time the itinerary basically sorts itself out rather easily with Miyajima, the A-Bomb dome and okonomiyaki very prominent but the more that I visit the area the more I have to seek out new and interesting places throughout the prefecture and Gensobo-ji temple is one such product of that.
A student of mine who specialises in all kinds of photo-based expeditions informed me of this quirky temple in Shimizu on the west side of Kure which I mentioned to my father-in-law and he was intrigued enough to drive us there. I was told that it was a little difficult to get to……which was something of an understatement as it was really tough to pinpoint its exact whereabouts. Even locals living in the vicinity had never really heard of it but eventually we got there thanks to the kind help of local children who led us on up through the narrow paths and alleys ascending to the temple.
We bid a farewell to our new friends at that point and continued on along the trail amidst tall bamboo trees until we reached an electric fence which we navigated our way over. There were a few of these in the temple grounds designed to keep animals away.
Once through the door you’ll be greeted by Enma Daiou (below) a.k.a. King Yama; the Judge of the Underworld. He is someone I’m aware of thanks to the ‘Cycling Tokyo’s Most Haunted Sights In One Day‘ trip I did in 2012 and he is supposedly the first entity which souls encounter after death as he determines the exact level of sinfulness.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the whole place is the big concrete Fudō-myōō statue (below) complete with his huge foot sticking out beneath the concrete wall that surrounds his body. As the main deity at this temple he has an angry facial expression to represent the strength he possesses in fighting off evil spirits in order to protect his people…or something like that!
It’s a pretty bizarre place with statues of Buddhist gods dotted all around the place amidst the greenery. One of those is Bishamonten (above); the God of warriors, a punisher of evildoers and one of the seven lucky gods in Japanese mythology and folklore.
Perhaps the strangest inclusion in the forest are the dragon kings (below) known as Ryu-ou which are gods of knowledge and defend the teachings of Buddha. This really is a temple that is different to regular ones as it’s not used for making money of any sort through funerals and so on. It is actually used as a place for training monks.
The address is 3-14 Shimizu but be aware that the car navigation system is unlikely to take you too close. We asked a fair few people in the area until we got lucky with the kids who helped us out. If you thought it was tough finding this temple then getting out of the place was on another level! My father-in-law had to pretty much do an Austin Powers-style 40 point turn to shift the car from the position in which he had parked it.
Before all of that though, we started the day off on a cool morning at Mount Norosan in Setonaikai National Park which was almost deserted. In the Meiji period (1868–1912) the Koriike pond was often frozen and the ice was cut up and sold off to make money as it was an expensive commodity back then fetching high prices each season at a time when the standard salary was 3,800 yen per year.
This was a lovely area for a relaxed walk around and we continued on up to the Kabutoiwa scenic point which offered some lovely views of the many islands contained within Japan’s Inland Sea.
The original plan was to continue on to Kure city to visit a couple of museums after Gensobo but we decided to just head back to Hiroshima city as there wouldn’t have been enough time to explore the area. Besides, we were satisfied and content with what we had done with the day and searching for it had used up a lot of our energy.
Click here to read ‘Hiroshima-ken 2015/16 Pt V: A Walking Tour Plus Other Various Bits And Pieces