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Kankou-ji Temple, Minami Uonuma

A beautiful Zen Buddhist temple with a long history.

Kankou-ji is a beautiful little temple on the road out of Ishiuchi in Minami Uonuma. It has long been important in Zen Buddhism and the head monk to this day is much respected.

The current head monk was tending the gardens when we arrived but dashed off to don his robe and give us the grand tour. The building itself is impressive, and everywhere you look there are interesting artifacts and historical treasures. Various shogun used to stop here and there is still a reception room set up. We were shown how a Shogun would be served. An old painting of a big cat with no ears was to show that anything said here was in complete secrecy.

There was also a centuries old letter on display from a shogun promising protection to the temple. Apparently the letter lasts longer than the signs that explain it due to the natural material from which it is made.

There were weapons on the wall from the violent past when monks would be called upon to defend themselves. All were designed to prevent attackers getting close enough to use their swords. The location of the temple, on a slope with the mountains behind it, was originally chosen so would be easier to defend.

We were given a quick overview of Zen Buddhism while we sipped a cup of green tea by the pond and the climbing dragon waterfall. It was a relaxing spot in the shade of the trees. The sense of peace was disturbed when we were shown how someone who fell asleep during sitting meditation would be treated. A very sharp whack on the shoulder from the head monk's paddle. He offered to demonstrate at a much reduced power on one of us but we all declined.

It is a stunning temple with equally impressive gardens and well worth a visit. The miso paste they make on site is delicious as well.

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