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Anraku-ji Temple in Toi, Izu

Enjoy the charm of this Buddhist temple

On the west coast of the scenic Izu Peninsula, Toi is a small, quiet seaside town, overshadowed by its neighbours to the south, Matsuzaki and Dogashima. It's visited mostly for its hot springs, with tourists staying in traditional inns and more modern places such as Itoen Hotel. There's very little to see and do here: the only full-blooded tourist attraction is the old gold mine, but a walk round the town brought me to a couple of pleasant Buddhist temples, of which Anraku-ji is one.

It's a typically understated place, with unfussy wooden buildings laid out around a raked gravel garden next to a small pond. There are a couple of nice statues in the temple grounds, a Buddhist deity and an unusual one of a woman with a raised arm, and more as you walk up to the graveyard that overlooks the temple, including an unusual circular carved relief that looks like a Chinese moon gate.

However, what was most interesting for me was that, unusually, the main hall is open to casual visitors. (I did check with the friendly monk, and he said it was OK both to go in, and to take pictures.) I enjoyed the peaceful, meditative atmosphere inside, with a number of very old paintings depicting Buddhist saints and devotees, some floating in the heavenly clouds, some wandering around precariously up in the mountains. The altar was dazzlingly lavish in its decoration, and there was also an interesting side room with lots of equally blingy gold decor, though these didn't photograph well.

Getting there

The temple is on a side street off Route 136, the main road leading into Toi from the centre of the peninsula. It's about fifteen minutes' walk from the town's information office and the big flower clock. If you're not driving, there are buses roughly every hour between Shuzen-ji and Matsuzaki that stop in Toi.

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