I visited Kai Zenkoji for Hatsumode this year with my friends. Located in another corner of Kofu City, Yamanashi, a small and quiet place. The nearest station is Zenkoji Station on the Minobu line, Kofu Station and Sakaori Station from Chuo Line. Kai Zenkoji was actually a pretty big temple for praying at. From the main gate, we could see the ancient, majestic temple that was first built in 1558, coated in red. It is a Buddhist temple that is also home to a lot of precious historical statues from the Edo era. If it was good weather, up in the temple we could see Mount Fuji clearly.
Before entering the main building, visitors must wash their hands by the tsukubai or water basin, near the temple, by pouring the water on both hands, then wash your mouth, and lastly pour water on the handle of the ladle to make it clean again. This process tends to purify the body before entering the sacred temple. And when we arrived before the temple’s stairs, you will find a box for accepting payments to the temple. You can simply throw any coin into the box. The bigger value of the coin, they believed, the faster your wish would be granted.
And then, you can climb up the stairs to enter the temple. There is a reception box on the right side when you enter the temple. Feel free to ask for any information about the temple (in Japanese is better) there, purchase omamori (amulet), then pay the ¥500 for entering the main altar to see the Buddhist statue, there we could go to hear the famous Dragon’s Voice. Once you entered the altar, you will be prohibited from taking pictures, so make sure to take pictures outside the altar before entering it.
In my visiting time, the monk explained that Kai Zenkoji is the only place where you can hear the dragon’s voice in Japan. To see the dragon carving, we could look up and find it on the temple ceiling. Only a few people can be on the altar, because if there were too many people under the dragon, it’s voice could not be heard clearly. First, we went down to the storage of the temple, where the Amitabha-sanzon— where the sacred statue of this temple being kept, and shown to the public every 7 years. This 2017, it would be open in March and April, and the monk said if you touch the statue, it would bring health and happiness to your family.
Because our visit was not the showtime yet, the monk led us to the storage room and asked us to touch the padlock which locked the storage room. The monk said, if you make a wish by touching the padlock, it could come true.
We went downstairs and it was pitch black, we barely saw anything so we needed to be careful with our feet and keep touching the left wall, because the padlock was on the left side. When you touched the padlock, make a wish and keep walking forward, soon you will find the way out. And don’t worry about getting lost, because the monk will guide you. Once we came out from the storage, we came back to the same place you came in. After that, we headed back to the main altar, to hear the dragon’s voice.
There was a white footstep mark, a sign where we stood and clapped our hands to finally hear the dragon’s voice. The harder you clap, the more you will hear it. Even if your friend is beside or near you, they would not hear the voice because only the ones who stand on the white step will be able to hear it.
After we finished hearing the dragon, the monk brought us to the museum beside the temple. Here, we would see the statue and many historical objects kept from the Edo and Shikoku era. There was also a small omikuji (written oracle) inside the museum, that could be purchased for ¥200. If you were always lucky you could bring back home the oracle, if you were not you could tie the oracle paper in front of the temple, so the bad luck can be turned into good luck.
While the dragon's voice was the highlight of the trip, the temple itself was beautiful and cleansing for the soul. This was an hour when my friends and I just decided to suspend our regular status quo and believe anything. Including...dragons!
Official Site (Japanese Only)
Address: 〒400-0806 Yamanashi-ken, Kofu-shi, Zenkoji 3-36-1.