The Moss Shrine of Fukui – Heisenji Hakusan Shrine and Dynamics of Tojinbou
Fukui prefecture, originally referred to as the Echizen region, is home to both energetic and delicate landscapes of Japan.
Geographically, Fukui is located alongside the Sea of Japan and its topography is characterized by its enormous mountain ranges which surround the area.
Due to such geographic features, Fukui is well known for its fluctuating climate which causes occasional rainfalls and snow during the year. And yet, despite its attributes, the region of Fukui possesses many historical significance in Japanese history, for instance during the Sengoku Period (戦国時代) when the Daimyos and militant minded Buddhists were great influencers.
Here I would like to introduce you to some stunning sceneries which the fusion of Fukui’s unique climate and historical aspects combine to create.
Heisenji Hakusan Shrine
Hakusan (Mt. Haku), 2702m in height and part of a national park, is a religious icon of Hakusan Sangaku Shinko (mountain Buddhists of Hakusan) and thus is considered a significant spiritual place for the people of Echizen.
Heisenji Hakusan Shrine located in Katsuyama City, founded in 717 by Taicho, played a central part in Hakusan Sangaku Shinko during the Heian until the Muromachi period. Heisenji was initially a conglomerate of both Shinto and Buddhism, but it later officially converted to Shinto after the Shinbutsu Bunri (ordinance distinguishing Shinto and Buddhism) during the Meiji Period.
The size of Heisen-ji is believed to have been enormous, with ten times the size of what is now, comprised of 48 Shrines and 36 temples which accommodated over 6000 monks and over 8000 warrior monks within the premises.
Nevertheless, the power and influence of this temple declined after the Ikko Ikki (uprising of Echizen militant minded monks of Ikko shu) in 1574 when the troops of Asakura Kageaki burnt down the majority of the area.
Another picturesque place of Heisenji is most definitely the Mitarai Pond. This pond is considered a special site as Taicho named this temple "Heisenji" after this pond.
The mixture of all sorts of Greens reflected from this pond creates a stunning landscape and it beautifully portrays the mythological aspect of this place.
Just next to the Mitarai pond, there is a tree with tips of its trunk grown separately in 3 parts. This mysterious tree is planted by Taicho and thus it is considered a sacred power spot of Heisenji.
The staircase which go towards the Torii (entrance of a shrine) is known to be made of stones brought back from Lake Kuzuryu by monks of Heisenji during the Heian Period and this is designated a place of scenic beauty of Japan.
Many people tend to look at Kyoto for Moss temples and shrines, but if you are looking for an alternative in an area that is not Kyoto, Heisenji is a highly recommended one! Its carpet of green moss is most definitely comparable to the ones of Kyoto.
Tojinbou (also spelled Tojinbo) is a very popular sightseeing spot where almost every tourist goes and visits when they first land in Fukui. The work of erosion which created this magnificent cliff is admirable.But, do you know why this place is called Tojinbou?
The name Tojinbou is taken from a Buddhist monk of Heisenji who is believed to have lost his girlfriend to his peer and jumped off this cliff after losing in a toe-to-toe battle. The rough tides and the spell of long stormy weather are said to be a consequence of Tojinbou's rage. It’s trivial, but this story may add another dimension to how you perceive Tojinbou.
Getting to Heisenji and Tojinbou
If you are thinking of taking public transport to Heisenji Hakusan Shrine, you will need to catch the Fukui Echizen Tetsudo (福井えちぜん鉄道) from JR Fukui station to Katsuyama and board the bus from here to Heisenji Jinja Mae (平泉寺神社前). The overall travel time sums up to approximately 1hr 20 mins.
In case of taking public transport to Tojinbou, you will need to catch the Fukui Echizen Tetsudo (福井えちぜん鉄道) from JR Fukui station to Mikuni station then board the bus from here to Tojinbou bus stop. The train ride takes approximately 50 mins and the bus ride is about 10 mins.
The access to Heisenji from Fukui City by car takes approximately 45 mins and the drive to Tojinbou from Fukui City takes approximately 40 mins. For both the sites, many parking spaces are available for visitors but there are parking fees allocated per venue and the actual price differs according to the business.