The Temple that Faces North – Kitamuki Kannon, Bessho Onsen

Date: 30th June 2018

On the way back from Anrakuji, I stopped by Kitamuki Kannon (北向観音), a Tendai sect. temple established back in year 825 by the monk Ennin, or Jikaku Daishi, who was the third abbot at the famous Enryakuji in Kyoto.



The current temple was reconstructed in 1721 after the various fires from the time it was first built.



The temple lives up to its name “Kitamuki” being “Facing North”, which is unusual as temples usually face south. Thus, the temple actually directly faces the Buddha statue of Zenkoji in Nagano. Also, the Yakuyoke Kannon here is said to fulfill wishes for this life, while Zenko-ji is said to fulfill wishes for the next life. Thus, some believe that if you only visit one of these temples, it is considered an incomplete shrine visit. So, I guess I have now completed my Zenkoji visit back in 2016?



Also, if you walk to the right of this temple there is a 1200 year-old tree, the Aizenkatsura tree, which is said to be a manifestation of Avalokiteśvara. The tree is considered a power spot to bring people together, thus making Kitamuki Kannon a popular spot for lovers as well.

The Aizen Katsura Tree


As I mentioned in my Anrakuji post, Bessho Onsen was pretty quiet on this day despite being a Saturday. Even though the approach towards Kitamuki Kannon was lined with souvenir shops, the atmosphere was nothing like that.




Admission fee: Free

Opening hours:

Mar-Apr: 06:30-16:30
May-Sep: 06:00-17:00
Oct-Nov: 06:30-16:30
Dec-Feb: 07:00-16:00

Closing Days: None

Official website


Kitamuki Kannon is a 10-minutes, 700m walk from Bessho Onsen Station. You will probably past by this temple on the way to Anrakuji (about 400m away) if you are walking from the station.

Getting to Bessho Onsen Station: From Ueda Station, take the Ueda Dentetsu Bessho Line (30 minutes, 590 yen), train departs roughly every 40 minutes. IC card cannot be used.

Getting to Ueda Station:

  • From Nagano Station:
    • Take JR Shinonoi Line, 35-45 minutes, 770 yen
    • If you have the JR pass, you can take the bullet train, Hokuriku Shinkansen, 12 minutes. The time difference from the JR Shinonoi option is not that much, so there is probably not a need to splurge 2,940 yen if you do not have a JR pass.
  • From Tokyo Station: Hokuriku Shinkansen, 1 hour 30+ minutes, 6,670 yen




2 thoughts on “The Temple that Faces North – Kitamuki Kannon, Bessho Onsen

  1. Pingback: Gates to the Netherworld, or is it Paradise? Osorezan and Bodai-ji Temple – Japan's Wonders

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