Explore Yamato, the birth place of Japan as a nation, guided by a licensed English-speaking guide who is knowledgeable about history and spirituality. Visit the oldest shrine and temples full of legends and tradition!
<Half Day course> JR Line Nara Station ➡Ohmiwa Shrine➡Hasedera Temple➡Kintetsu Line Nara station We will meet at the JR Nara Station. Then take the local JR train that runs only 1 or 2 "one-man" trains every hour for about 30 minutes and get off at Miwa Station. The railway runs along the Yamanobe-no-michi, said to be the oldest road of Japan, where many historical sites and monuments can be found, and you can enjoy the view of Japan's countryside with its rice fields. From Miwa Station, we will walk to the Shinto "torii" gateway of Ohmiwa Shrine after about 10 minutes. During the trip, I will tell you about the history of Japan, about Shinto, the origin and legend of Omiwa Shrine, as well as the basic manners related to worshipping Shinto gods in shrines. Please feel free to ask any questions. ●Ohmiwa Shrine It is also called “Miwa myojin”, and is said to be the oldest shrine in Japan. Miwa mountain is an object of worship and is believed to be sacred as the deity Omononushi no Kami placed his soul in it. He has been worshiped as the guardian of people’s lives in general; prosperity and development of agriculture, industries and commerce, healing and medicine, safety, safe traveling, successful marriages, as well as happiness in the world. Many legends and stories have been written and passed down many generations throughout the centuries, and many dedicated believers across the nation visit this shrine on various occasions. Plenty of rituals and prayers, annual events, marriage ceremonies in traditional styles are held here. Recently, Miwa mountain has been gaining popularity as one of the leading power energy spots in Japan. It has a waterfall, old Japanese cedars and sacred rocks called “iwakura” where "kami" (Shinto god and goddesses or elementals of nature) are said to dwell. In Sai Shrine, 5 minutes walk from the Omiwa shrine, you can drink pure spring water, which is believed to cure all kinds of diseases, and anyone can drink from the well. From the nearby observatory, you can have a great view of the Yamato area, including Yamato's three mountains, the “Hashihaka tumulus” which is said to be Japan’s oldest, and believed to be the tomb of Himiko, a legendary shaman queen of Yamato. After leaving the Omiwa Shrine, we will visit Hasedera Temple by Kintestu railway, 2 stops away from Sakurai Station. From the train station, we will walk through the old Pilgrimage routes now filled with with traditional inns and souvenir shops until we reach Niou gate, the entrance of Hasedera Temple. Along the way, we will taste the popular "kusa mochi", a traditional Japanese sweet made from mochi rice with leaves of Japanese Mugwort (yomogi), filled with sweet red bean paste. ●Hasedera Temple Surrounded by mountains in all directions, Hasedera Temple is especially popular due to its seasonal beauty. The best time of the year is in spring, when sakura (cherry blossoms) and Chinese peonies are fully blooming. Autumn is another beautiful time with many maple trees turning to stunning red. As the temples is located on the slope of mountain, we will climb up the trail to get to the main hall. Some of the many important cultural properties include the main hall and the main statue, the Eleven Faced Kannnon, or the Goddess of Mercy of 9.3 meters, said to be the largest wooden statue in Japan. The stage of the main hall is similar to that of the famous Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto, and has an amazing view! Why don’t you get a beautiful Shuin (朱印), or a seal stamp of the temple, hand written by a priest or special staff with an ink brush just in front of you. -------------------------------- <One Day Course> After finishing the half-day course, we will take another train to “Murou-guchi-Oono”, and visit Murouji Temple and Murou Ryuketsu Temple. ●Murouji Temple This temple is a Buddhist temple of Shingon school, located between Nara and Mie prefectures deep in the nature. Murouji has been called “Nyonin-Koya” (Mt Koya for women), since it has allowed women to enter, while the famous Mount Koya in Wakayama Prefecture never permitted women to visit and become nuns. You will walk up many stone steps to reach the symbolic, charming five-storey pagoda. Many old Buddhist statues are also featured in this temple. ●Murou Ryuketsu Temple It is close to Murouji Temple, but further up the mountain. This temple worships Ryujin, or Dragon god, who's in charge of water and rain. From ancient times Imperial envoys were sent to this sacred site to do special rituals and prayers for rain. You will see many tall old Japanese cedars powerfully standing in the temple grounds. You will also have access to a rocky mountain with a cave, believed to be the Dragon god's dwelling. This is a power energy spot to which not everyone has access. We will take a taxi to the train station and come back to Nara by Kintesu Railway.