Mizuko Jizo Bosatsu (Photo: gethiroshima)
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Ushita Kannon-temple & Pet Cemetery

Interesting, beautiful place at foot of Ushita-yama

At the base of Ushita-yama, there is an interesting Buddhist temple and pet cemetery that is easily integrated into a short hike from Hiroshima station. This temple is easy to see from anywhere along the Futaba mountain ridge as there is a large, golden Kannon statue standing prominently at the foot of the Ushita-waseda area of the mountain.

There are many types of Kannon statues used in Buddhism in Japan. This particular Mizuko Kuyo Kannon figure here in Ushita is devoted to helping the souls of lost children find their way and its use dates back to the 14th or 15th century AD. At the base of the statue and in her arms, you can see the babies. Below the statue, there are also many Mizuko-jizo bosatsu statues with their red bibs who are said to also play the same guardian role for children who have died too young. According to the belief, children who die too young did not have enough time to build up kharma, so these guardian statues are erected in hopes that they do not become angry, hungry spirits. If a child is lost in any way, including abortion, families can pray to these statues for their protection and to ease their remorse or sadness.

Below the golden Kannon statue, there are many beautiful flowers and small, well-maintained plots in the pet cemetery. If you follow the path around past the golden Kannon, you will also find a very modest building where people pay to leave their pet's ashes, pictures and momentos, so that they can come back to pay their respects. It is very touching and reminds me that at this moment in Japanese history, there are in fact more pets than children and they are often beloved family members. If you have a pet that has passed away, you can contact the Ushita-yama pet cemetery for cremation, ceremony and to buy a space for your pet.

Following the path up behind the golden Kannon, it leads up and out of the temple grounds to the Ushita-Waseda residential area. The path ends under giant arms in the gesture of prayer. There are signs asking that you not go on this part of the temple property after 6pm for safety reasons. However, the official opening times of this site are 9:30 to 7 pm everyday. We were also a bit afraid of the barking dogs near the main Kannon statue, but when we waited at the bottom of the steps for a while, a groundskeeper came out and held the dogs away from us so we could pass. I did notice that they were securely tied up when we passed.

If you can visit this area in good weather, there are a few pleasant hikes you can do in this mountain range area. If you start from behind the Big Wave (Higashi-ku sports center), which is next to the "Ushita-Big-Wave" astram (monorail) stop, you can walk up to the peak of "Ushita-yama" and then continue along until you see the sign for Ushita-waseda 牛田早稲田. If you follow signs down from here, you will go down just to the right of this temple area.

For a longer hike, and if you prefer to come from the Hiroshima Shinkansen side of the station, start with the Peace Pagoda hike. Head up through the Tosho-gu shrine, on to the views from the Peace pagoda, continue on to the Futaba-yama peak if you are willing to do a bit of a climb. Then carry on along the ridge to the left and follow the signs down to Ushita-waseda (same as above). However, if you want an easier time, follow the streets down to the town of Ushita from the Peace pagoda hike and finding this temple from here is much easier on the legs.

Getting there

If you want to pass on the hiking and go straight to this temple, take the #6 bus from the main exit of Hiroshima station, or in front of Tokyu hands department store to "Ushita waseda" and get off at either the San Belmo stop in Ushita-Asahi (when the bus turns around), or the Yours supermarket stop at Ushita-higashi 1-chome (ic-chome).

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