In the afternoon on my first full day in Itoshima my Airbnb host drove me up in the mountains to visit Raizansennyoji Taihioin, a major Buddhist temple in the Itoshima region. Because the temple was built on the slopes of Mt Raizan it is also known as Raizan Temple and hereafter I will refer to it by that name (honestly just because it’s a lot easier to type Raizan Temple than Raizansennyoji Taihioin). It is believed that this temple was founded about a thousand years ago by a Buddhist monk who came to Japan from India. One of the first things you’ll notice when visiting Raizan Temple is the large Japanese maple tree that is about 400 years old. Japanese maple trees are similar to Canadian maple trees but produce smaller leaves than their Canadian cousins, and it seems the branches of Japanese maples tend to extend further out from their trunks. (The leaves also look a bit different)
A covered staircase connects the lower area of the temple to the upper area. Hundreds of statues of Buddhist monks run up along the slope of the mountain and as far as I can tell each one in unique. At the top of the stairs there’s a small bell that you can ring for good luck. I underestimated how much noise it would make and rung it a little too hard.
The buildings in the upper part of Raizan Temple have some interesting rooms but the main attraction is a large wooden Buddhist statue that is said to have 1,000 arms. The statue is only revealed during times of prayer and my Airbnb host and I got to sit in the room with one of the temple monks and see the statue while the monk recited his prayers. Photography of the statue is strictly prohibited so unfortunately I can’t show you what it looks like. I can’t confirm if the statue actually does have 1,000 arms but it definitely has at least several hundred arms and there’s a small eye carved into the palm of each of the statue’s hands.
Once the prayer time was over my Airbnb host and I came back down to visit more of the lower temple area before leaving. Visiting Raizan Temple wasn’t part of my original plan for Itoshima but I was very thankful that my Airbnb host had volunteered to drive me out to it.