Mitaki-Dera

Good morning everyone,

It was a gorgeous day yesterday and today will be the same. Enjoy it now! Tomorrow won't be nearly as nice, it'll start sunny and then turn cloudy...in fact, after today, the next 4 days will be cloudy/rainy. It'll be warm though...the coolest day of the week will be Sunday at 17C. The rest of the week will see highs in the low 20s.

It’s amazing how often I meet people who have lived in Hiroshima all their lives who have never visited Mitaki-dera Temple. I counted myself among them, till yesterday. I went for a run and because my next race is a bit hilly, I figured I'd run up Mitaki-yama for training. When I got to the entrance of the Mitaki-temple, I gave up.
 mitaki-dera-3.jpg
It was so peaceful and...hmmm...it's tough to put a finger on it, but there was a sense of tranquility there that I'd never felt before in Hiroshima. I felt like running in there would disturb the peacefulness of the setting, so I just walked around the grounds for about half an hour. It was amazing! You can bet, I'll be going back there whenever I feel like life in Hiroshima is getting me down. It’s one of Hiroshima’s hidden gems and a place to which I intend to return to time and time again whenever I'm in need of a bit of peace and quiet in beautiful surroundings.

The Shingon Buddhist temple dates back to 809, and is located in a steep, heavily forested valley on the side of Mt Mitaki and takes its name from the three waterfalls within its grounds-apparently, but I found way more than three. It is most well-known, perhaps, for the Tahōtō two-storied pagoda, said to date back to the Muromachi period (1392-1573), relocated from a shrine in Wakayama Prefecture in 1951; a donation to help assuage the souls of those lost in the A-bombing. The pagoda is designated as a Prefectural Cultural Property and the wooden Amitabha Buddha inside the pagoda has been designated a National Cultural Property.

mitaki-dera pagoda


The real charm of Mitaki, however, is in its atmosphere. As you make your way through the temple complex, up the moss-covered stone steps, you pass hundreds of buddhist images and jizō statues in their bright red caps and bibs, each with its own unique countenance and expression. As you might expect in a place named after its waterfalls, this place is very green, and as you get closer to the far reaches of the grounds the trees become more and more magnificent. The place feels almost enchanted.

mitaki-dera-statues.jpg

All the stone, moss and streams means that Mitaki is probably a beautiful place to visit even in the rain. In fact, I'm going to try and visit on a rainy day, as it'll be quiet. The approach to the temple, up the road that runs from the train station to the temple entrance is lined with cherry trees, and the park below is a popular hanami spot during the cherry blossom viewing season. Apparently autumn, is when Mitaki really comes into its own. The leaves are said to blaze red and photographers burn through many many gigabytes of memory cards during the November autumn leaf-viewing season.

mitaki-dera autumn

The mountain on which the temple sits is known variously as Mitaki-yama, Uematsu-yama and Soko-yama. The latter two names come from the fact that the samurai tea master responsible for the design of Shukkei-en Garden in central Hiroshima, Ueda Soko, planted a pine tree on the summit to enhance the natural backdrop of his garden and tea houses.

The hiking trail over the mountain is a popular one and is accessible all year round. The trail (marked “Course B”) starts from just inside the temple gate and immediately after passing the Tahōtō pagoda. It’s a fairly steep climb of about 1100m to the 356m high summit, but the views are worth it. The trail to the left (with the city view behind you) takes you along the ridge and drops you at the top end of the temple complex after a bewitching descent through a beautiful bamboo forest. I definitely want to try this trail someday. Hey! I know! Why don't we make it a school trip instead of the same old picnic/bbq party?

There is also a rustic tea house called Kutenan within the temple grounds which has tables inside and outside and serves simple Japanese food and some delicious Japanese desserts. Sound good? I'm looking forward to trying it some day!

Anyway, if you have time, you should go and check out one of Hiroshima's best kept secrets!

Have a great day!

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