Thanks to our friends at the local Japanese conversation club, today we visit Shinpukuji Temple. The temple is one of the oldest established temples in Japan, built in the late sixth century. The main temple houses a sacred fountain revered for its medicinal, and sometimes miraculous, properties.
The surrounding bamboo forests contain exceptional bamboo shoots for use in cooking. Our main objective today is to try out this famous local delicacy. But first a little exploration of the temple vicinity is in order.
First we make our way through some of the nearby bamboo forests and pass by other parts to the temple.
Making our way through a small group of houses and other facilities, we notice quite a lot of large spider webs with equally large spiders.
At one of the temple gates a large guardian statue greets us and reminds us to be on our best behavior.
We climb a long set of stone steps up to the main temple and our bamboo meal.
Along the way we see several Ojizousama statues, the guardian of children, in particular children who died before their parents. The tradition of dressing them in clothing may have started with grieving parents dressing the statues with their child’s clothing in hopes of safe passage in the afterlife. People also leave small denominations of coins as offerings.
We head into a large hall for a taste of bamboo cooking. The meal is pretty substantial and includes various bamboo-shoot recipes, tempura, rice, and miso soup. It is delicious and all served on bamboo plates and bowls.
After our meal we head over to the main temple. Unfortunately, no pictures allowed for this part. There we learn about the temple background and see the sacred fountain. I say see, but in reality you are looking at the ornate enclosure surrounding the fountain.
To enter the inner area of the temple, you pass through the right doorway or left doorway depending on your zodiac symbol. In this location the Buddhist priest explains the legend of the fountain and sings a mantra. Afterwards you can pray to your zodiac proxy and they will relay the wish to the main deity. It is a fascinating process that I had not experienced before.
After visiting the main temple, our last stop leads us to the bonsai tree gardens.
The garden houses many beautiful trees, including several that are hundreds of years old. It amazes me that so many generations have cared for and nurtured those bonsai.
Recently the temple purchased a special bonsai, but currently it is traveling on a road show across Japan.
The small museum underneath the gardens contains several interesting items and artifacts.
And now we say good-bye to Shinpukuji Temple. If you get the chance, don’t pass up the opportunity to visit. The bamboo is plentiful, and the temple grounds are fun to explore.