Fall has recently become a very popular season. From the cooler weather to the warm drinks, every one eagerly awaits for the leaves to change their colors. Japan is home to some amazingly scenic places to see the autumn colors, but the beautiful fall leaves are not the only part of this season that everyone waits for. For the Japanese, fall just wouldn’t be fall in Japan without aki no nanakusa [秋の七草]. These seven plants: obana (susuki), kuzu, ominaeshi, nadeshiko, asago, fujibakama, and hagi, signal the start of the fall season and are very common in Japanese poetry and literature.
One relatively small temple nestled in northwest Osaka is locally famous for its hagi flowers. Formally known as Tokoin, it is more commonly called Hagi no Tera [東光院・萩の寺].
The History of Tokoin Hagi no Tera
The history of Tokoin is quite interesting. According to the temple records, the temple used to be located near the Yodogawa River in Osaka City close to what is present day Nakatsu Station. Before cremation came to Japan, it was customary for people to simply throw dead bodies in the Yodogawa River. When the famous monk Gyoki visited this area, he dreadfully felt sad, and shortly after introduced cremation to Osaka. Gyoki also carved a Buddha statue called Yakushinyorai [薬師如来] picked hagi flowers to make an offering to the spirits of the deceased. Many years after Gyoki died the original Tokoin Temple was built to enshrine the Buddha statue he carved.In 1681 Soto Buddhist refurbished Tokoin and have run the temple ever since. Finally, in 1915 the temple moved from Nakatsu to its current location during the construction of the Hankyu Railway.
Getting to Tokoin Hagi no Tera
To reach the temple, take the Hankyu Takarazuka Line from Umeda and get off at Sone Station, which is roughly 10 minutes from Umeda. When you exit the station walk 10 minutes north and you will be at the temple in no time.
The most popular time to visit Hagi no Tera is in the middle of fall, when the “hagi” or bush clover, comes into full bloom.
Tokoin’s gate is from 1757 and was part of the temple when it was near the Yodogawa River.
Sanjyu San kwanon-do [三十三観音]
Upon entering, you will see this small building on your left known as Sanjyu San. Sanjyu San houses a statue of Yakushinyorai that was personally owned by Ieyasu, along with replica statues of all the Buddha’s enshrined in the 33 Kannon temples found in west Japan. Unfortunately, these statues are only visible to the public on certain days.
Agonashi Jizo [地蔵堂]
Next to Sanjyu san is Agonashi Jizo. While it may not seem that special, it used to be in the main building of Kawasaki Toshogu Shrine, the only shrine in Osaka that enshrined Tokugawa Ieyasu.
At the beginning of Meiji era, the remnants of the Tokugawa government were in shambles. Kawasaki Toshogu was almost completely destroyed, in-part because the people of Osaka has immense disdain for Ieyasu. However, the main part of the shrine was relocated to Tokoin before it was completely demolished.
Doryo Daigongen Do [道了大権現]
This building enshrines Doryo Daigongen. Originally a Buddhist monk, Doryo eventually became a prominent figure of the syncretic religion known as Shugendo [修験道]. Doryo was considered to be so spiritually powerful that when he died people believed he became a tengu, and was worshiped as the guardian deity of Saijyo-ji Temple in Hakone. Later, when Hideyoshi invaded Odawara Castle, Hideyoshi took this statue to Tokoin in hopes of giving Osaka a bright future.
The hondo itself is rather new, but it contains several famous bosatsu statues. The hondo also supposedly contains the statue of Buddha Gyoki carved. There is also a rare eleven faced statue of Kanzeonbosatsu, also known as Avalokitesvara in Sanskrit. The statue was allegedly owned by Emperor Go-Daigo and was later obtained by Tokoin.
Throughout the temple are many beautiful hagi bushes, so be sure to visit the temple in the early fall. Hagi, one of the iconic flowers of fall in Japan, and typically start to bloom around mid-September.
Tokuin Hagi no Tera
||1−12−7, Minamisakurazuka, Toyonaka, Osaka Prefecture,〒561-0882
|Hours of Operation||Mon-Sun
Dawn to Dusk
The changing of the leaves is always such an iconic and anticipated part of the fall season that it is easy to forget that there are other kinds of flora that change with the seasons as well. This small but unique temple has been a local favorite during the fall for many years. It may not be the biggest spot on the map, but it is one of the best places to visit to experience this often overlooked part of fall in Japan.
Coming next time,
Can you hear them crashing through the streets?
Danjiri Festivals have begun!
The adventure continues…