One of the dreams of living in Japan is to find those hidden gems that are far from the tourist track. I’m talking about places that are exactly what you are looking for but aren’t in the guidebooks, that can only be found either with an expert local guiding the way or through deep exploration.
Last weekend we visited one of those places, the Daiyuzan Saijo-ji Temple. It’s an expansive Buddhist temple located in a thick forest in on the side of the mountains, far from any other tourist attraction or sight, and hard enough to get to that few foreigners would expend a precious vacation day to make the trek from Tokyo.
I found out about the temple while following all of the train lines in the area to see where they ended. At the end of each line, I would look up what was there – a bedroom community, a factory town, a resort. When I got to the end of the Daiyuzan, I found a factory city (Fuji Film) located in the foothills. Following the road out of town, I saw a large blocked off section with the sign for temple inside it.
The temple complex is a large, well manicured area full of buildings connected by paths, bridges, and stairs. Throughout the grounds are statues big and small, as well as many little surprises. It’s a working temple – we were able to go inside one of the buildings and watch a ceremony in progress. The sound of the chanting and bells was as mezmorising as the temple itself.