Date: 22nd November 2018
In my recent Japan trip, I travelled back from Shikoku to the main island of Honshu via the Onaruto Bridge which connects Tokushima and Awaji Island, and the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge which connects Awaji Island and Kobe. The main purpose of traveling this route is to explore Awajishima / Awaji Island (淡路島), one of the largest island among the Seto Inland Sea’s islands. Of course, there are other ways to access Awaji Island (cheaper ones indeed, the toll rate on Akashi Kaikyo Bridge is no joke) which I will list at the end of this post.
Awajishima which is part of Hyogo Prefecture has a deep connection to kuniumi, the birth of Japan according to Japanese mythology; being the first island among the 8 large islands created by Izanagi and Izanami. We will explore more on that in my future post on Izanagi Shrine, but for now lets look at my first stop for the day – the Senzan Senkoji Temple.
Senkoji (千光寺) was said to be built in year 901 on top of Mount Senzan, a mountain which was said to be the first mountain created when Awajishima was created by Izanagi and Izanami. The name “Senzan” itself meant “first mountain”, tying-in to this myth. The mountain is also known as Awaji’s Fuji by the residents of the island.
From the car park, I first passed a number of wooden shops which looked abandoned, going up a staircase. Though there was a clear absence of humans, I was sure someone was around as the stairs were cleared of fallen leaves. Though the appearance of spiders here suggests otherwise.
Another stairway leads to an observation deck which is said to provide a good view of the island, known as Sumoto Hakkei, the 8 Sceneries of Sumoto. Overgrown trees were obstructing the view though. I moved on to the next flight of stairs to the main area of the temple with a growing sense of eeriness.
The main object of worship in Senkoji is the Senjukannon, the thousand-armed Goddess of Mercy. Interestingly, there are statues of wild boars in this temple which is related to the origin of this temple when a hunter was led by a wild boar said to be the manifestation of the Senjukannon to the site of this temple leading to the opening of Senkoji.
Senkoji is also the first temple of the Thirteen Buddhas of Awajishima (淡路島十三仏霊場) dedicated to the Thirteen Buddhas, a grouping of Buddhist deities in which Senkoji is dedicated to Fudo Myo-o or Acala, one of the Five Wisdom Kings. There are many other areas in Japan grouping temples worshipping the Thirteen Buddhas including Hokkaido, Kyoto and Osaka.
I was expecting to see more visitors in this temple due to it being a pilgrimage site, but I was all alone on this day. Too early maybe?
Just below the top of the mountain is Iwato Jinja which enshrines Amaterasu, the sun goddess in the Japanese mythology who was born when Izanagi washed his left eye in the process of purifying himself after entering Yomi, the land of the dead in search of Izanami after her death.
Opens all year-round
There are no trains whatsoever on Awaji Island, so if you are opting for public transportation, a bus or boat would be the best way to reach this island.
- From the Kansai Region, you can take the Awaji Kotsu Bus from Kobe or Osaka for a 1.5 to 2 hours ride @ 1,850 / 2,350 yen.
- From Kansai International Airport (KIX), you can take the airport bus to Sumoto for 2 hours @ 3,100 yen.
- From the Shikoku Region, an infrequent bus (4 times a day) operates from Tokushima to Sumoto for 1.5 hours @ 1,650 yen.
- The only boat route is from Akashi in Kobe to Iwaya for only 15 minutes @ 500 yen. Departures are very frequent. Link here.
From Sumoto Bus Terminal, take a taxi up to the temple for 15 minutes. If you driving, use the mapcode 210 370 509*82 or telephone no. +81 799-22-0281.