Hear the Weeping Dragon at Kai-Zenkoji, Yamanashi

Date: 24th June 2018

It was a cloudy day on my first day in Japan for the summer trip. I immediately thought that I needed to brace myself for the rainy season in Japan. Turned out the rainy season in the Kanto-Koshin region this year was the shortest ever recorded?

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Hydrangea blooming – signs of the rainy season

Since it rained earlier, I cancelled my plan to hike Ougiyama and decided to travel around Kofu instead. My first stop for the day was the Kai-Zenkoji (甲斐善光寺), built in 1565 by none other than Takeda Shingen, a famous daimyo of the Kai Province which is today’s Yamanashi Prefecture. You will probably hear / see / read a lot about Takeda Shingen when traveling in Yamanashi Prefecture. I will write more about him in my post on the Takeda Shingen shrine.

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Sanmon
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Approach to the hondo (main hall)

You have probably heard of the more famous Zenkoji temple in Nagano Prefecture. Well, in 1558, Takeda Shingen moved all the Buddhist treasures and statues, including the main statue Amida Nyorai to Kai Province, in fear that it would be destroyed in the heights of the Battles of Kawanakajima (present day Nagano prefecture). Nagano’s Zenkoji temple was indeed very much involved in this battle between Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin, as the temple was famously used as the base camp for Uesugi.

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Hondo from afar

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Kai-Zenkoji was however burnt down in 1754 and the current structures were reconstructed in 1796. The hondo or the main hall is 27m tall and 49m long, making it the largest wooden structure in Eastern Japan.

 

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The main feature of this temple is the dragon painting on the ceiling of the main hall which really awed me. It is said that if you clap your hands by standing on a certain place (don’t worry, they have marked it, so it’s easy), you will hear the sound of a weeping dragon.

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The main statue of worship is not open to the public and is only visible every 7 years. The last was in 2017 so I guess the next is in 2024.

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My favorite part of Kai-Zenkoji was however the Kaidan Meguri, located at the back of the main hall. Shaped in the character of 心 (kokoro) which is heart / spirit, the route is entirely pitch black with the goal of finding a lock to the storage room which keeps the hidden main statue. The lock is on the left side of the wall. I love this kind of experience, so it was a real plus for me.

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Pond garden outside the main hall

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More hydrangeas

Info

Opening hours: 09:00 – 17:00 (last admission 16:30)

No closing days

Admission fee: 500 yen

Official website

Access

Kai-Zenkoji is located 11 mins, 900m on foot from Zenkoji station on the JR Minobu line or 14 mins, 1.1km on foot from Sakaori station on the JR Chuo Main Line.

From Kofu Station:

  • To Zenkoji Station on the JR Minobu Line – 5 minutes, 2 stops, 140 yen
  • To Sakaori Station on the JR Chuo Main Line – 3 minutes, non-stop, 140 yen
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Author: Jennifer

Hi! I am Jennifer. I enjoy planning my own travels and love traveling in Japan - for the history, nature, temples, and the food! Read more for travel guides of places I have visited.

10 thoughts

  1. Very interesting Jennifer. I’ve been through the dark tunnel at Zenkoji. I hadn’t realised there was another Temple with such a strong connection, and another chance to take a journey of discovery in the pitch dark! You mention this was your first day in Japan for your summer trip. Given your great knowledge about Japan I was assuming that you lived there. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I missed Erin-ji but would definitely visit when I return to Kofu. By the way I always thought I was following your blog, so it was kind of weird when I saw that I wasn’t. Anyways I’m following now!

      Like

  2. Gah, I need to stop reading your blog!!! Every time I do I end up adding MORE things to my already endless list of places to go! I’m actually in the Kawaguchiko area until tomorrow, so I’ll probably stop by Kofu on my way back to Nagano 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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