Centuries ago, many of the temples of the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage were very challenging to access. Often located deep within forests or high on mountains, the remoteness of these temples is part of why they were so sacred. With the construction of railroads and other modern forms transportation make getting to most Saigoku temples easy to reach. That being said, there are still few that still hard to access. One such temple is Sefukuji Temple, the fourth temple of Saigoku 33.
The History of Sefukuji Temple
Sefukuji Temple is quite old temple, even for a temple part of the Saigoku Pilgrimage. The temple’s origins seem to date back to when Buddhism was just introduced to Japan, around 6th century. According to the temple legend, monk Gyoman built the temple in hopes of curing the emperor’s illness. Gradually, temple prospered and it is said that many thousand monks practiced at Sefukuji Temple. Some of those monks including the builder of Daibutsu, Gyoki, and the founder of Shingon Buddhism, Kukai.
Unfortunately, being famous also meant being powerful. In 1581, Nobunaga set fire to Sefukuji Temple. Although Toyotomi Hideyori rebuilt the temple shortly after this, a mountain fire in 1845 burnt it down a second time, dramatically reducing the temple’s overall size. The current temple buildings were rebuilt after this fire.
After getting off the orange bus, you will be right in front of the trail to the temple. To get to Sefuku-ji, there is no choice but to walk up the mountain trail for 45 minutes, which is why this temple is known as the toughest temple in Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage. Before you start the trail, you can visit Benzaiten Shrine, which is right next to the trail.
Despite Sefukuji’s reputation as being one of the hardest to access temples of the Saigoku Pilgrimage, we didn’t think it was that hard. Besides, there were decent number of people walking up to the temple. Still, the incline up the trail is a bit steep at first, so it will get your heart rate up a little.
After walking 30 minutes or so, we arrived at Sefuku-ji. It stands near the top of the Mt. Makio (600m), from which you can enjoy a great view of many mountains including Mt, Kongo and Mt. Iwawaki. When we visited, cherry blossoms were in full bloom, so the temple grounds were so pretty.
Upon entering the temple grounds, you will see Hondo. Sefukuji is much smaller temple than many of the other Saigoku temples we’ve been to, but even still the temple had plenty of visitors. The Buddha statues at Sefukuji are open to the public, but you have to pay an additional 500 yen to go inside the hondo and look at them. These statues include the main Buddha statue of Sefuku-ji, Miroku Bosatsu (center), and the main statue for Kannon Pilgrimage, Kannnon Bosatsu (left).
Although Miroku Bosatsu is the main Buddha of Sefukuji, the reason Sefukuji Temple is part of the Saigoku Pilgrimage is because of Senju Kannon visit to the temple. According to legend, around 8th century in Sefukuji, a monk came to study for a time at Sefukuji. When the monk was ready to leave, he asked the other monks to give him some money for his journey back. However, they refused, and the monk got angry and left. Dissatisfied with the other monks’ refusal, a famous monk, Hokai, chased after him. Just as he was catching up, to Hokai’s surprise, he saw the traveling monk walking along the surface of the sea. Hokai realized that monk was an incarnation of Senju Kannon! When he returned to Sefukuji, he carved a statue of Senju Kannon to honor her visit.
Info: Sefuku-ji Temple
136 Makiosancho, Izumi, Osaka Prefecture
To get to Sefukuji Temple, take the Nankai Main Line to Izumiotsu Station. Alternatively, you could take the JR Hanwa Line to Izumi-fuchu Station, or the Semboku Kosoku Line to Izumi-chuo Station. Then, take a Nankai bus bound for Makiosan-guchi [槇尾山口]. Get off at the Makio Chugakko-mae [槇尾中学校前] bus stop and cross the street to switch to an *Orange Bus [オレンジバス]. To be honest, Orange Buses just look like vans.
After riding the bus to the last stop, Makiosan [槇尾山]. Once you reach Makiosan, it is another kilometer up the trail to the temple. You probably don’t need any gear other than a decent pair of shoes, but you will need plenty of drinks, especially because there are no vending machines near the mountain or on the temple grounds.
*Orange bus service is very infrequent, so make sure to check the service schedule on the website of Izumi City
Dec-Feb 8:00-16:00 March-Nov 8:00-17:00