location: Niiza, Saitama, Japan
nearest station: Shiki station
My trip to Heirin-ji was my first real adventure in Japan. It was already the 3rd of week of November, and I figured that I needed to go someplace where I could see and take pictures of autumn leaves. Niiza was actually near from where I was staying (Wako-shi), but I was hesitant to go because I have not tried riding the bus and train here in Japan by myself. But since winter is fast approaching and I was afraid that I might lose the chance to take pictures of the glorious autumn colors, I decided to face my fear and just go. After walking for what felt like 5 km or so (I wasn’t sure which train station was the nearest), I finally saw the lush forests that surround the Temple, and the long line of people at the entrance. 🙂
Surrounded by lush Musashino forest , the Heirin-ji temple grounds is preserved as a national monument. This Zen Buddhist temple is said to have been originally built in 1375 in Iwatsuki, Saitama but was destroyed in 1590 by an attack in the area. It was rebuilt in the 1600’s and transferred to its current location.
Today, the main attraction of the temple is its lush maple areas that fires up the place in autumn. During this time, hordes of people – professional photographers and local tourists alike- flock the temple to witness this majestic display of autumn colors.
The two-storied Sanmon gate, which is the first thing that you see as you enter the grounds, was built during the Edo period, along with the Hando main hall.
On the left side of the temple grounds is a small Shrine called Hansobo. As in other shrines, after cleansing your hands and mouth with water, clap twice, bow, hit the gong, and bow again. As an added prayer offering, drop a coin in the wooden box, clap twice and bow.
The main prayer hall is quite exquisite with a white facade and sprawling garden in front of it.
In the midst of the woods is a village of tombstones of the Matsudaira feudal family.
Walking around the area is actually quite relaxing amidst the crowd. On a bright sunny day, the drone of monks chanting in prayer, the serenity of the forest, and the cultural and historical importance of the structures provide a great and relaxing day with friends and family.