For many who visit Yoshino, the main attractions are, apart from the thousands of cherry blossoms in the spring, are Kinpusen-ji and Yoshimizu Shrine. Sadly, another historically significant site at Yoshino is left unfrequented by many: Nyoirin-ji Temple [如意輪寺]. The resting place of none other than Go-daigo, Nyoirin-ji Temple sounds like it would draw scores of people, but getting around Yoshino is fairly confusing. Not to worry though; today we will be sure to give you to find this somewhat hidden temple.
Getting to Nyoirin-ji Temple
Nyoirin-ji Temple is roughly a 40-50 minute walk from Kinpusen-ji. (To see how to get to Yoshino, see our Kinpusen-ji post!) If you don’t want to walk, bus service is available from the major spots in Yoshino. Take a bus bound for Okusenbon and get off at Nyoirin-ji-guchi bus stop. However, bus service might not available in winter and sakura season.
After you reach Nyoirin-ji-guchi bus stop, it will be another 20 minutes or so. When you get off the bus, go through the tunnel and follow the road. There is nowhere you can turn so just follow the road, and head for the temple’s pagoda when you see it.
On the way, be sure to keep an eye out for koya maki, Japanese umbrella pine trees. The unusual characteristic of these trees is that the branches twist and turn a lot. The trees also seem to be indigenous of only this area.
There is also a small trail called sasayaki no komichi which connects Kintetsu Yoshino Station and Nyoirin-ji. If you use this trail, it takes only 35 minutes from the station to the temple.
Nyoirin-ji: Temple Grounds
Nyoirin-ji originated in the 10th century, but only became popular after Emperor Go-daigo came to Yoshino. In 1336, he decreed Nyoirin-ji as the temple to pray for peace for the Southern Court. Though this is not a big temple, it certainly played a big role in Go-daigo’s government.
Shortly upon entering the temple you will see the small hondo. Given the temple’s name, its main deity is probably Nyoirin Kannon, though the main deity is usually sealed inside the temple.
Another famous person featured in this temple is Kusunoki Masatsura, the son of Kusunoki Masashige. After Masashige died, in order to avenge his father, Masatsura went to Shijonawate in Osaka to fight the Northern Court. Just before heading to battle, Masatsura went to see the emperor of the Southern Court and to pray for his peace at Nyoirin-ji.
The Grave of Emperor Go-daigo
The biggest historic spot in this temple is the grave of Emperor Go-daigo. To reach his grave, walk up the stairs near the hondo. Don’t worry, the stairs aren’t that long.
Emperor Go-daigo opened his Southern Court in Yoshino because political tensions forced him out of Kyoto.
He always longed to one day return to Kyoto, but alas, it was not to be. It is not coincidence then that his grave faces the direction Kyoto. His final poem clearly states his desire for his former home:
「玉骨は たとひ南山の苔に埋むるとも 魂魄は常に北闕の天を望まんと思う」
“Even though I will be part of the moss of Yoshino, my soul is always longing for the skies of Kyoto”
1024 Yoshinoyama, Yoshino, Yoshino District, Nara Prefecture
9AM – 4PM (7AM-5PM in Sakura Season)