Oiwasan Nissekiji is a Buddhist temple of the Shingon sect, and it was founded about 1,300 years ago on the mountain of Kamiichi-machi in Toyama, Japan. Being truly off the beaten path, a visit to this beautiful temple is an experience in itself. But did you know that you can also do a special form of meditation here called ‘waterfall meditation’?
Oiwasan Nissekiji History
The temple’s founder is said to be Gyoki, whose most important project in his life was to build Todaiji Temple in Nara. Housing the great bronze statue of Buddha, this city used to be the capital of Japan. He worked as a Kanjin, a person who solicits donations for the construction of the temple.
Gyoki came to Toyama when he traveled to many places to spread Buddhism. He carved a statue out of natural rock here at the Nissekiji Temple. That was the beginning of this temple.
Oiwasan Nissekiji Main Hall
In the main hall, you will find the stone statue that was carved in 725. It is the biggest stone carved statue in Japan with a height of 2.8 meters. It is said that this big statue was carved by Gyoki within 24 hours.
The statue is Fudo Myooh or Acala, a protector of Dharma. He has a scary face and tries to persuade the people who don’t believe in Buddhism. He is the main Buddha of Mount Tsurugi, one of the highest peaks of the Tateyama Mountain Range. It was designed to be looked at from the bottom, so you will be impressed when you see him from the floor in the main hall.
Two other statues and the statue of founder Gyoki were added to the side of Fudo Myooh later.
There is a three-storied pagoda in the precinct of the temple. It was constructed in 1845, and is the oldest wooden pagoda in Toyama Prefecture. It has a traditional style with a central pillar in the middle. This technique was also applied to build Tokyo Skytree, the highest tower in the world, preventing it from collapsing in the event of an earthquake. There are no walls and you can see the inside.
The gate of the temple was constructed about 300 years ago. There are two Nio guardian statues on both sides. They are guarding the temple against evil spirits. This is one of the oldest construction in this temple.
There are waterfalls called Roppondaki literally meaning ‘six waterfalls’. Six signifies the five materials of the universe, earth, water, fire wind, and air, plus vijnana or consciousness. Additionally, it signifies the six roots of perception. It is important to purify these six senses before worshiping. So people can stand under the waterfalls and purify themselves.
We call it ‘takigyo’, an ascetic Buddhist meditation practice under the waterfalls. Everyone can try this, also foreigners. If you want to do this, you will need to register at the reception upon arrival. You can borrow a special white garment for 300 yen to experience this special way to meditate.
If you visit the temple, it is only a short walk to the Sengankei Gorge, so please don’t miss it. There is a walkway along the river. At the end of the walkway, there is a cave and you will find statues of Buddha inside. It is a nice little walk.
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Access from Toyama Station (JR): Take Toyama Chiho Railways to Kamiichimachi (上市町) station. Then transfer to the local bus to Oiwa (大岩山日石寺) stop. It takes at least one hour in total.