As I took the train up the east coast of the Izu Peninsula towards Atami a few months ago I noticed a giant statue high up in the forest in the distance. My subsequent research told me that it was called Usami Kannon-ji temple and I set my sights on one day hiking up to it. I had to be patient though as on follow-up trips to Izu there just wasn’t time for me to go off and explore the area.
The Japanese Golden Week holiday finally gave me the chance to check it out and it was a very early start. I felt so awake on waking at about 5:30am that I thought I’d go to Usami station and just walk up to the temple using the main road which winds its way up there taking about 50 minutes.
Not for the first time on this trip, the wisteria flowers were on show and in bloom beneath the 50-meter high sitting statue of the kannon which was constructed 35 years ago. Across the car park from the purple flowers was a huge boat which I guess is now used as a restaurant or is completely closed down!
The path which leads one up to the kannon is lined with hundreds and thousands of statues and it really does make for an impressive sight.
Due to my visit to Yugawara on the first day of the holiday I was familiar with the statues of the Seven Lucky Gods.
The kannon was built to pray for global peace and like most other statues it has a claim to fame with this one reportedly being Japan’s largest sitting kannon statue. The views looking down on the rest of the temple, Usami and across the ocean were wonderful.
I’d had the whole place to myself whilst there and it seemed too good to be true. Indeed it was because as I was leaving I came across the owner who didn’t respond too cheerily to my ohayo gozaimasu (good morning). He gave me the X sign with his arms which Japanese often do to foreigners for simplicity of rejection or refusal. I bowed, said sorry and that I had made a mistake but he kept on muttering sh*t under his breath so I reiterated my earlier sentiments with more intensity in my eyes. He seemed stunned that I had got in when there was no signs, gates, ropes, cones etc blocking my way at any time. I just assumed such a place was open early AM rather than just at 8:30. Oh well, I had finished by 8:10am and had the place to myself! His overreaction did mean I left the place in a slightly bad mood when ten minutes earlier I was so happy.
Anyway, job done but that wasn’t actually my first attempt as on the way back from our journey to the centre of the Izu Penisnula a couple of days before, I tried to walk to this place (47 minutes) using the directions given by Google Maps and all was going very well for the first half an hour or so as I made my way up from the station to the woods. However, after a while the trail just disappeared and many trees had fallen. I continued up for a while longer but it seemed like landslides in the past had made the area too dangerous to use. If I had been wearing my hiking boots I’d have continued on upwards but I was wearing some brand new trainers which I didn’t want to ruin too much. On top of that, ‘The Forest‘ (2016) movie was still fairly fresh in my mind so I chose not to go on as it was getting late in the afternoon and I didn’t want to have to descend in darker conditions.
Prior to that failed attempt I took a slight detour to see this interesting-looking building (below) which was once nicknamed Monster Hospital. The layout concept is supposedly based on part of a dragon face with the mouth part represented by some window! I’m not really convinced though! It was reported to have been inspired by Gunkanjima (Battleship Island) and used to be a house and hospital but is now just an unused home.
Click here to read ‘Ayashii Shonen Shojo Museum (Mysterious Boys and Girls Museum)’
Click here to read ‘Down To The Southern Tip Of The Izu Peninsula’
Click here to read ‘Journey To The Centre Of The Izu Peninsula’