Seizan-so was rebuilt and is now open to the public as a National Historic Landmark and park. We stopped just long enough to determine that the trees were past their autumn prime there as well.
Not far from Seizan-so is a sign for a temple and as it was just a kilometer or two off our route, K decided see what it was. That turned out to be a good call, for what we found was not only beautiful, but of great interest to me as its history connects to the subject of my next post - a discovery I made in Kashima City that goes back 1400 years.
The temple is called Satake-ji and is listed as a National Important Cultural Property. In 1177, a local warlord, Satake, donated the land and made the temple the official place for his warriors to pray. The temple burned down in 1543 and took fifteen years to rebuild. That is still the temple building one sees today. In 1590 it was Satake Yoshinobu who unified Hitachi - what is now called Ibaraki Prefecture. No doubt a descendant of the Satake who patronized this temple.
Ancient guardians are still on duty at the gate, though the gate itself was rebuilt in the 20th century (Showa Era).
There were momiji at the temple offering lots of color as well as a large leafed maple with leaves that were deep red. The grounds were carpeted with the golden leaves of an old ginkgo tree. I'd been having trouble with my camera all day and many of my pictures were out of focus, so I don't have many to share here. I later discovered that I had inadvertantly set the camera for manual focus.
The sect represented here is Shingon which seems dominant in Ibaraki. There is a statue of Kannon, Bodhisattva of mercy, inside the temple.
One of the famous Buddhist pilgrimages in Japan is called the "Bando Pilgrimage" started by the monk Tokudo in 718. Bando means "Kanto" or the Eastern Provinces, which center on Tokyo. The pilgrims visited 33 holy sites related to Kannon Bohisattva. This was forgotten for a time, but rediscovered in 988 AD by Emperor Kazan (aka Emperor Hanayama, 968-1008 AD). The story is that Kannon Bosatsu appeared to Emperor Kazan in a dream, saying "I have divided into 33 bodies throughout the eight provinces of the Bando area, and a pilgrimage to these 33 sites will bring release from suffering."
Satake-ji is the 22nd stop in the Bando pilgrimage. This temple also has an interesting connection to the story I will tell in my next post.
As we approached Mito, the sunset was spectacular. A paraglider was somehow finding lift along a river bed and no doubt had the "best seat in the house".
The spiraling tower ahead is Art Tower Mito which is covered in triangular titanium panels and rises to 100 meters (328 feet). It was built in 1989 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Mito officially being a city.
From Mito, home is only an hour away, where Momo the Wonder Dog was waiting patiently for her dinner.