Nature and a whole host of beautiful flowers surround the large complex of Hasedera Temple. It is the main temple of the Buzan sect of Shingon Buddhism.
You need to pay an admission fee to enter, which is 500 yen for both adults and students, and 250 yen for children and people with disabilities. Once you pass the gate…
…you will be presented with a seemingly endless staircase.
Depending on the season, you'll be able to enjoy the flowers while climbing the stairs to the temple. Apparently they have beautiful hydrangeas from the middle of June through mid-July.
I visited there in May and there were a lot of peonies. It's said that the origin of these peonies was over 1000 years ago when the wife of the Emperor of the Tang dynasty in China donated a young peony plant to Hasedera. She did this to honor a miraculous gift given to her by Kannon, a.k.a Boddhisattva, who is the Buddhist deity of mercy. What did the Tang Emperor's wife receive? The Buddhist deity of mercy mercifully gave her great beauty!
On the way to the top, there is a place called "temizuya" where you wash your hands and mouth to purify the body and mind with water before standing in front of the deity. This ritual is called "misogi" and it is done at all temples. You first scoop up water in a ladle with your right hand and pour water over your left hand. Next, switch hands and wash your right hand. Then, put some water in to your left hand from the ladle, and rinse your mouth with it. (Do not touch the ladle directly to your mouth)
After that ritual, you still have more stairs to conquer. In fact, there are exactly 399 stairs in total. It's designed like this because the 400th step represents one's first step into death, or the afterlife. The number four, which is written as shi 四, is pronounced "shi" in Japanese, and that is the same pronunciation as the word shi 死, which means death.
Once at the top of the stairs, you are presented with the temple's main attraction, a Buddha statue called the Juichimen Senju Kannon (Eleven-faced and thousand-armed Kannon). You have successfully entered the afterlife!
After completing the 399 stairs, this outstanding view is the first thing the afterlife bestows upon you, so I recommend not giving up on your way to the top. Taking a picture of the Kannon statue is prohibited, but you will be able to see it when you go there.
With most temples, the journey back is a little boring because you just go down the same way that you came up. However, Hasedera, you will take another path, which makes for a really wonderful walk full of colorful, beautiful flowers.
And red ones…
When I visited, the peony garden was in full bloom just beyond this gate.
There are a lot of large, gorgeous peonies to stick your nose in.
I thought this pink and white tree was very pretty too. What and end to a wonderful journey.
It was a very beautiful place. You have to go up a lot of stairs, but the view from the mountain top is worthwhile! I recommend this temple especially when the flowers are in bloom.
Sakurai, Nara Prefecture 633-0112