Japan is famous for its majestic and exquisite Buddhist and Shinto architecture. The two main religions in Japan have gifted the country with hundreds of thousands of amazing temple and shrines, drawing millions of tourists from all over the world to see these beautiful places of worship.
Situated on the slopes of Tateyama, Kanzanji Temple is one such temple; but it is a temple like none other. Where other temples attract visitors with their architecture, viewing the actual temple building probably wouldn't count amongst the top things you can do here. No, Kanzanji Temple is famed for its enchantingly expansive grounds on Tateyama, a 16-meter tall Kannon Bodhisattva statue and the Ana-Daishi cave, all of which can be found on a short hike starting right beside the temple building.
'Ana-Daishi', literally the 'Master in the Cave', is the first spot you will find as you follow well-placed red flags along the hiking route. This is where it all started, when the famous Kobo-Daishi supposedly founded Kanzanji Temple in the 9th Century by creating a shrine within a cave on Tateyama. Visitors can enter the cave, which is pitch-dark save for a few candles illuminating the chamber within. It is said that prayers to Ana-Daishi are helpful for those with eyesight issues.
Moving on from the cave, red flags continue to lead visitors up to the enormous 16-meter tall statue of the Kannon Bodhisattva. Kannon is the goddess of compassion, a central figure in the Buddhist pantheon. Legend has it that a young couple committed suicide here on Tateyama, and the statue was built in response, reflecting the people's hopes that Kannon will bless future generations and prevent further tragedies. This certainly seems to be the case, for the gigantic statue can be seen from all of the region around Kanzanji.
The red flags end at this point, and most worshipers make their way back down the hill having completed their pilgrimage to the two important deities enshrined here in Kanzanji Temple. However, if you are feeling up to it, I highly recommend taking a hike of the entire Tateyama. At 50m high, Tateyama is not a difficult hike, yet it provides stunning views of the entire Lake Hamana and even possibly Mt. Fuji.
While the real attraction here are the above-mentioned spots, the temple itself welcomes visitors for meditation and prayer sessions. Of course, there is also the usual fortune-telling, and temple shop where you can purchase amulets for protection. Kanzanji also has a small shrine dedicated to the Enmusubi Jizo, or deity of marriage; and judging from the number of votive tablets, the shrine is well-visited by many people looking for some divine blessings in their relationships.
Tateyama is a 42 minutes bus ride on the local Entetsu bus No.30 from JR Hamamatsu Station. Alighting at the bus stop 'Ginko-mae', Kanzanji Temple is a 5-minute walk down a long and unbending street, so straight that you can see the Kanzanji Temple's entrance tori even from the bus stop.