Tucked within an enchanting forested valley on Kunisaki Peninsula, those heading for Monjusenji Temple have to hike up a long flight of steps before reaching the otherworldly sanctuary of its grounds. This cliffside temple is one of the oldest in Kunisaki, having been established in 648 AD. The grounds also house an ancient and sacred zelkova tree, dating back at least a millenium and a designated natural monument of Oita Prefecture.
The temple enshrines Monju Bosatsu, the Buddhist deity of wisdom and attracts worshippers who pray for success and academic achievement. Visitors can partaking of “wisdom water” from the small spring behind the main hall will supposedly receive intelligence for their trouble. At an impressive nine meters high, the temple’s pagoda (Houkyouinto) is said to be the largest in Japan and offers views over the gorgeous Seto Inland Sea.
Those wishing to have a truly immersive experience can book ahead to stay a night within the complex. Visitors are given the opportunity to participate in the temple’s intimate daily ceremonies and dine on shojin ryori—a vegetarian meal prepared in Buddhist temples. You will be served seasonal dishes comprising fresh mountain vegetables and rice grown by the temple’s priests.
Following early-morning zazen meditation, an enthralling fire ritual known as ‘goma-taki’ takes place. While monks recite mystical chants, wooden votive plaques are burned over a sacred flame which is believed to destroy negative energy and grant wishes. This captivating spectacle, in the hills overlooking a remote valley, takes you worlds away from the hectic rush of urban life.
Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Entrance is free.
Overnight accommodation, two meals, and participation in the temple’s ceremonies costs 18,000 yen (at Myotokuan).
Address: 2432 Kunisakimachi Daionji, Kunisaki-machi, Kunisaki City, Oita Prefecture
Airport: Oita Airport
40 minutes by car from Oita Airport.