- Mount Minobu is a spiritual destination of important significance to Buddhism. It’s adjacent to Mount Fuji and two-and-a half hours away from Tokyo
- There will be ample opportunity to take in the natural splendor of this mountain on the descent from the summit
- Stay at a shukubo, a type of lodging found in Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines for visiting pilgrims and tourists
- Be entertained by a performance of jikabuki, a form of traditional Japanese theater performed by local enthusiasts
- Observe the morning routine of monks, listen to a sermon and try meditation techniques at the main hall of a Buddhist temple
- Try shakyo, a method of meditation through copying Buddhist sutras by hand
- Enjoy a dance performance by geiko and soak in an onsen (Japanese hot springs) at Isawa Onsen, the largest hot springs resort in Yamanashi Prefecture
The tour starts from Tokyo Station, where participants hop on to shinkansen train bound for Shizuoka. After changing to local train and arriving at Minobu station, the tour really begins with a leisurely trek from the base of Mount Minobu to Kuon-ji Temple, taking in the mystical surroundings with all senses. Mount Minobu is approximately three hours away from Tokyo and stands 1,153 meters tall in Yamaguchi Prefecture near Mount Fuji.
Minobusan Kuon-ji Temple is the head temple of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism. This tour allows participants to take a spiritual journey at the temple and be healed by its traditions and natural surroundings. The weeping cherry blossom trees of Kuon-ji Temple make it one of Japan’s best locations for cherry blossom viewing, but the temple is nonetheless a delight to behold all seasons. Paired with the temple’s designation as the holy site of Nichiren Buddhism, the grounds of Kuon-ji Temple will continue to attract visitors and worshipers for years to come.
The founder of Nichiren Buddhism, Nichiren Shonin, lived during Japan’s Kamakura Period, an era characterized by natural disasters and war. Though he faced personal hardship, he drew upon his religious zeal to spread the teachings of Buddha across Japan. Nichiren Shonin believed that it was the Lotus Sutra that could save all beings on Earth. He attributed the social turmoil of 13th century Japan to Mappo, one of the three ages of Buddhism in which dharma, cosmic law and order would no longer be balanced. The source of these calamities, according to Nichiren, was what he had deemed “inferior” Buddhist teachings.
While he managed to convert others on his journey to Kamakura, the seat of Japan’s military and political power at the time, his pleas to the ruling military dictatorship were not headed. At one point, his life was in danger, though he was later pardoned. After being pardoned by the Kamakura Shogunate, Nichiren was exiled to the Izu and later to Sado Island in the Sea of Japan, off the coast of Niigata Prefecture. After being invited to Minobusan by a vassal of the kamakura Shogunate in 1274, Nichiren established Minobusan Kuon-ji Temple.
A night stay at Japanese Buddhist temple lodging is among of one of the highlights of this tour. Shukubo, simple, private rooms with tatami straw mats, were originally offered to temple worshippers and those on religious pilgrimages. However, in recent times, many temples have opened their doors to accommodate tourists. Temples are rich with history and often have scenic gardens, and those lodging overnight may also try a traditional Buddhist vegetarian meal. Shukubo have now become a retreat for urban dwellers wishing to unwind and escape the bustle of their daily lives.
At Kuon-ji Temple, participants will have the opportunity to observe the morning rituals of Buddhist monks. It is an enlightening experience that often leaves one feeling as if they have been reborn.
The second night of this tour includes a traditional dance performance by geiko (skilled female artisans) and stay at Isawa Onsen hot springs resort. The resort is a treasure of Yamanashi Prefecture that attracts visitors from across Japan. In fact, it ranks third nationally among Japan’s Modern Tourist Attractions.
The first day of the Mount Minobu Spiritual Tour begins at Tokyo Station, where participants will board a Shinkansen (bullet train) to Shizuoka Station. From there, participants will proceed onto Minobu Station by limited express train. Alternatively, participants may choose to head directly to Minobu Station by taking a highway bus from Shinjuku Station.
After lunch, the tour will ride the ropeway to the summit of Mount Minobu and hike down to the base to Kuon-ji Temple, taking in the sights of and landmarks of historical importance on the way. From Kuon-ji Temple, participants will walk to Kakurinbo, the night’s lodging, for check-in and dinner, which will be followed by a kabuki performance by the Utsubuna Theater Troupe. Day 1 ends with an opportunity to converse with the performers.
An early start is required for Day 2, as participants will return to Kuon-ji Temple to see its bell tower and to observe and try the morning rituals performed by its Buddhist monks.
After breakfast, participants will listen to a lecture on the history of Buddhism, Nichiren Buddhism and its founder, Nichiren Shonin as they stroll the grounds of Kuon-ji Temple. This will be followed by shakyo (copying Buddhist sutras by hand), and lunch, before heading to Kofu Station via Minobu Station.
At Kofu Station, participants will journey to Isawa Onsen, the largest hot springs resort in Yamanashi Prefecture, for dinner and to enjoy a riveting traditional dance performance by skilled artisans known as geiko. Afterwards, participants will have ample time to converse with the geiko and learn about their art and history. This concludes Day 2 of the Mount Minobu Tour.
On Day Three, participants will head to Shinjuku Station via an limited express train departing Isawa Onsen Station. This concludes the Mount Minobu Tour.
Mount Minobu & Kuon-ji temple
Approximately three hours away from Tokyo and standing 1,153 meters tall is Mount Minobu, a mountain in Yamaguchi Prefecture near Mount Fuji. Minobusan Kuon-ji Temple, the head temple of Nichiren Buddhism, was founded in 1274 by Nichiren Shonin, who shared the Lotus Sutra doctrine to his disciples. Kuon-ji is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism.
Isawa Onsen Hot Springs Resort is a treasure of Yamanashi Prefecture that attracts visitors from across Japan.