- Folk legends of the mysterious “Tengu,” still handed down
- Giant Cryptomeria trees, more than 300 years-old
- Temple life: zazen meditation, sutras and vegetarian meals
Giant Cryptomeria trees, more than 300 years-old
Here you stand, dwarfed by rows of towering 300-year-old evergreen trees which line the side of a crystal-clear stream. Surrounded by cool, crisp, fresh air. A mysterious, silent world where you are free from the noise and distractions of everyday life.
A passageway protected by guardian deities leads you through the trees to a faded, red wooden gate.
The sermon hall can be seen in the background on the other side of the gate as you slowly walk one step at a time up a flight of stairs leading to the main entrance of the sanctuary.
Mysterious Tengu Legend
The Tengu legend of this temple has been told in the strange story called “Hokuetsu Kidan” since Edo period. There’re some stories that Tengu helped building the temple by carrying huge rocks, and another story is that Tengu brought the monks who worked hard to Gion (Kyoto) for a short sightseeing trip. It seems that actually there’s a cedar on that Tengu used to take a nap. It would be an extraordinary experience to feel this mystic atmosphere.
Temple life: zazen meditation, sutras and vegetarian meals
The historic Jiko Temple, along with Koun Temple, Shugetsu Temple and Untoan, was one of four Soto sect halls used for meditation during ancient times in Echigo. Located at the base of a mountain named “Hakusan” (approximately 1,000 meters), it served as a center for worship. The Nanbokucho period, around 1403, marked its change from the Tendai sect of Buddhism to the Soto sect.
The trees of Jiko Temple, estimated to be between 300-500 years old, have been designated as a natural monument by Niigata Prefecture. Often referred to as “Japanese Cedar” trees, cryptomerias can grow to 70 meters tall (270 feet). The walk through the trees is approximately 500 meters long, allowing for you to get a true sense of the long history the area holds. In addition, the “Hakusan Orochi” (large serpent) and “Tengu” (long-nosed goblin) legends add to the sense of mystery.
If you make a reservation, you can experience zazen medition, sutra writing, and the vegetarian cuisine of the Buddhist monks.
I visited this peaceful get-away during the first week of April. The shrine was covered slightly with snow, and no one else was around me. The air was chilly…making me feel as if I was in a refrigerator….without any disturbing sounds. It felt as though my heart was being purified. I had been planning to experience Zazen during this trip, but I changed my mind because it was too cold for me. I’ve decided to do it when I go for a photo shoot later this fall.
The old, moss-capped cedar walk to the shrine is one of the best parts. Walking through the tree-lined path, listening to the sound of the stream just beside me was what I loved the most.
I was able to experience a pure “Wabi-Sabi” world.
Hiruno870 Gosen city, Niigata
9:00am – 4:30pm (April through October), 9:00am – 4:00pm (November through March)
Both zazen and sutra writing; with traditional vegetarian meal = (4,000yen)
Choice of zazen or sutra writing; with traditional vegetarian meal = (3,000yen)
Both zazen and sutra writing = (1,500yen)
Choice of zazen or sutra writing = (1,000yen)
※ The traditional meals are only available for parties of five or more guests. Please confirm meal reservations at least 10 days in advance.
Ban-etsuSaisen Gosen Station→Bus 10minutes→ Kyu-Muramatsu Station → Taxi 15minutes
Ban-etsu Expressway Yasuda IC about 30 minutes