nikkō: kanman-ga-fuchi, bake jizo & jokoji temple   12 comments

Sunday, July 30: This morning I’m down in the breakfast room at the Turtle Inn by 8:00, gobbling down some bread and a huge plate of fruit.  Random strangers are seated sporadically throughout the dining area.

Dining room at the Turtle Inn

I’m also surrounded by an invasion of turtles, which must be either the inspiration for the hotel’s name, or the manifestation of it.

Turtle at the Turtle Inn

stacks of turtles

By 9:00, I’m walking along the Daiya River toward Kanman-ga-fuchi Abyss and the famous Narabi-Jizo (Bake-Jizo).  I’m following one of two historical walks from the Nikkō Historical Walking Map.  I did the Takino’o Path yesterday and today, I’m walking the Kanman Path.  The weather can’t seem decide if it’s going to rain or not; the sky is sporadically spitting, and then it’s not.  Either way, it’s dark and dreary, as my entire time in Nikkō has been.

Daiya River

I come to the Stone Park where there are some interesting stone formations and previews of the Jizo statues to come.

Stone Park entrance

moss-covered stone

The gate along the Kanman Path

Soon, I have my first glimpse of Kanman-ga-fuchi Abyss.  This scenic area of the Daiya river was formed by the lava from an eruption of Mt. Nantai.  It is said that Priest Kokai named this abyss ‘Kanman’ because the murmuring of the stream sounds like a recitation of the last word of a sutra, “Kanman.”

first glimpse of Kanman-ga-fuchi Abyss

stone lantern

It isn’t long before I come to the Narabi-Jizo (Bake-Jizo), a line of stone statues of Jizo, dressed in red bibs and caps.  Jizo is a bodhisattva (bosatsu in Japanese) who is the protector of children, expectant mothers and travelers. He is also the protector of deceased children, including miscarried, aborted or stillborn infants.  According to one folk tale, the dead children go to a kind of purgatory where they must pile stones into towers to make merit and be released. But demons scatter the stones, and the towers can never be completed. Jizo hides children in his robes to protect them from these demons and save them, according to ThoughtCo.: Jizo Bosatsu and his Role.

Here, there were once 100 stone statues of Jizo, including two big ones, called ‘Oya Jizo’ (Parent Jizo), before the flood in 1902. Today, there are 74 statues standing in a line.  The statues were carved by the disciples of Archbishop Tenkai (1536-1643).




Kanman-ga-fuchi Abyss



At Narabi-Jizo, caps, bibs and sometimes toys are left by grieving parents who have lost a child.




The Reihi-kaku Divine Tower is a small building on a rock.  The original tower was built in 1654 by the priest Kokai as an oratory.  Priests lit a holy fire in this tower and prayed for world peace. However, the flood of 1902 washed this tower away, and the current building was rebuilt in 1971.

Reihi-kaku Divine Tower

Reihi-kaku Divine Tower



Kanman-ga-fuchi Abyss

Kanman-ga-fuchi Abyss

Here is a YouTube video of a walk among the Jizo statues:

I turn around and retrace my steps, heading to Jokoji Temple, which became a family temple (Bodaiji) after moving to this area in 1640. This temple enshrined Amida Nyorai (General Savior of Mankind).

gate to Jokoji Temple

Jokoji Temple

water pavilion at Jokoji Temple

Jokoji Temple

At Jokoji Temple, there are many stone figures, but I don’t know the significance of them.

figures at Jokoji Temple

Jokoji Temple

figures at Jokoji Temple

figure at Jokoji Temple

figure at Jokoji Temple

Kanman-Oya-Jizo-On-Kubi, the head of a parent Jizo, was washed away in the flood of 1902.  After the flood, local people discovered the head in a riverbed and enshrined it at Jokoji Temple.  Its facial features seem to have been washed away.


Sugegasa Higiri Jizo is enshrined in this small wooden building. Jizo is wearing a Japanese hat (kasa) of sedge (suge). It is very rare for Jizo to have such a hat on his head. It is believed if you pray to this Jizo for something you want to be realized on a certain day, your wish will be granted. Many people come here to pray for their wishes.

Sugegasa Higiri Jizo

The cemetery at Jokoji Temple is atmospheric and seems to evaporate into the surrounding forest.

cemetery at Jokoji Temple

At Jokoji Temple, three Jizo sit in a simple wooden building.  The one in the center was built in 1550 and is said to be the oldest stone Buddha in Nikko. This Jizo is called Michibiki Jizo.  “Michibiki” means “to lead” or “to guide.” People believed that this Jizo would lead a dead person to Buddha’s world.  The other two Jizo were called “Mimi-dare Jizo;” it is believed these two Jizo can cure ear disease.

Michibiki Jizo

Michibiki Jizo in the center, and the two Mimi-dare Jizo

reclining moss-covered figure at Jokoji Temple

After leaving Jokoji Temple at 10:15 a.m., I make my way to Nikkō Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park.  After that, I’ll have to be on my way home for my last two days in my Fuchinobe apartment before leaving on my one week holiday. 🙂



12 responses to “nikkō: kanman-ga-fuchi, bake jizo & jokoji temple

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  1. That’s a lot of green, looks like a relaxing hike. I was surprised by the number of turtles at the inn – lives up to its name.

  2. The faces are so serene, though there’s something quite unnerving about all those statues with red bibs and hats. I feel quite sorry for the overgrown one.

    • It is unnerving, especially in that melancholy setting, and especially when you know that all the bibs and hats are place by parents who have lost a child. It was also very quiet there; I had the place almost to myself, making it a little eerie. 🙂

  3. The sight of all that moss and fern covered stones suggest that it is always a bit wet in this place. (A bit like my garden) I do like the third photo of the Narabi-Jizo with the focus on the foreground. I’m excited to see where you went on your week away now.

    • I think you’re right, Jude, that it must rain a lot in Nikko. All that moss tells that it’s a very damp place. Thanks for your comment about the third photo. I had fun trying to get a good one with the perspective like that. It took a while.

      I can’t wait to write about my week-long trip. At least I had sunshine much of the time, though it was extremely hot and humid. 🙂

      • I am very keen to find out where you went to in your week’s holiday. Sounds as though you got better weather for photography even if you were a bit sweaty 😉

      • I loved my week-long trip to Hiroshima, Miyajima, Nara, Koyasan, and Narita although I had some misadventures along the way! You know how time-consuming it all is, Jude, so it will come slowly, especially as I’m also working on my Eastern Europe trip. I wish I’d finished Japan before that trip! Memories are slipping away. 🙂

      • A year later and I still haven’t written a post about Scotland! Probably never will now, just use the odd photo in a challenge!

      • Oh you should! It’s never too late, is it? 🙂

  4. So many turtles! 🙂

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