Note: this post was re-posted from my old website, originally published in March 2017.
Lies in the outskirt of Sendai, Jogi-Nyorai (定義如来) is a temple people tend to overlook because of its distance from the city. While those who live in Sendai might have known about it, the fact that it is not really well advertised in Sendai’s travel guide for foreign travelers compared to other attractions contributes to its reclusion.
I, however, have been to Jogi-Nyorai many times in the past — once even with a bicycle, a trip that took me about 3 hours one way. The first time I went to Jogi was when I was bored to death during my university’s days. I wanted a quick getaway and I found Jogi as the best destination.
Before I start, you could try watching this very short video of Jogi I created a few years back to get the feeling of this wonderful place.
In a gist, Jogi-Nyorai is a complex of Buddhist temples located about an hour’s drive from Sendai. This place is accessible by bus, which I will share the information at the bottom of this post. The story said that this very temple complex was named after the event of the Genpei War between Taira and Minamoto, clans from Japan’s classical Heian period.
A man called Taira-no-Sadayoshi was entrusted with a holy painting known as Amida-Nyorai. In the aftermath of the war where Taira clan was utterly destroyed by their enemy Minamoto, this Sadayoshi guy decided to change his name to Jogi to start a new life and built a temple on top of a mountain to house the said painting. Now, do you see where the name Jogi Nyorai comes from?
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When you arrive in the temple complex via the main entrance, the first thing you would probably see is the narrow street leading to the big gate of Nishihouji temple, in which there is a mausoleum where the Sadayoshi guy is said to be laid to rest called Sadayoshi-do. Lined up along the street, there are plenty of shops selling food or souvenirs such as kokeshi. All of the food sold here looks delicious, but perhaps the most famous dish around this part is the triangular deep-fried tofu (Abura-age) made from bean curd. One could say that a visit to Jōgi Nyorai is not complete without trying this bountiful slab of scrumptious tofu.
Behind the mausoleum lies ‘The Emperor’s Hill’ where two zelkova trees were planted to memorialize the untimely death of Emperor Antoku. As time went by these trees were believed to bring happy marriage if people pray there. Going down the hill you would find choumeisui or holy water near a red wooden bridge. It is just a normal bamboo fountain, but I like the simplicity of it.
The main temple of this complex itself is located a bit far in the back. Called Gokurakuzan Saihoji temple, this is where the holy painting mentioned above is housed. It features a wide courtyard where an intricate statue of Guan Yin stands between two large stone lanterns in front of the main hall. The statue of Guan Yin here is known as a spot to bless your children with luck and health, hence many families would often visit here with children and leave gifts in the form of children toys.
If you go farther to the right of the main temple you would come across the symbol of Jogi Nyorai, the magnificent five-story pagoda. This is the very view that defines your visit to the temple. In spring and summer, the pagoda would be surrounded by blooming flowers and greenery, in autumn leaves changing colors and in winter the serene appearance of snow. My favorite is the winter scene with a blue sky. It was just marvelous!
How to go: Take Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Sendai Station (90 minutes to 120 minutes approx depending on the Shinkansen). From Sendai station bus pool, take bus no 845 to Jogi from platform 10, then get off at the last stop (¥1140, around 1 hour).