Translated by Richard Perkins
The Edo Period Lives On! Nozaki-Kannon Temple At Mt. Iimori In Osaka
Written by Atsuko Yagura
This is the city of Daito, a part of Osaka prefecture near Osaka Plain and home to Nozaki-Kannon, a temple that has been featured in the stories of Japanese performing arts for centuries.
The city of Daito, which helped to support the 'Kitchen of the Nation', Osaka, is now most famous for its Nozaki-Kannon Temple. The Nozaki-mairi, a visit to this temple to pray, has been taking place for the past 300 years, and even today you will find a great number of people making this pilgrimage.
Japan is known for its numerous forms of performing arts, and the rakugo (*1) recitation "Nozaki-mairi", the joruri (*2) performance of the tragic tale of Osome and Hisamatsu, not to mention the hit song of the Showa era titled "Nozaki Ballad", all refer to the Nozaki-Kannon Temple and this region of Osaka, making it a very well-loved place.
Now let's take a step back in time and head towards Nozaki-Kannon Temple!
*1 Rakugo: a form of Japanese comedy, in which humorous stories are told by an individual performer.
*2 Joruri: a type of dramatic recitation accompanied by a puppet theater and shamisen performance.
Walking the Road to the Shrine - Tread the Stone Steps to Nozaki-Kannon
When you arrive at JR Nozaki Station, you will notice a sign indicating which route to take to head to Nozaki-Kannon Temple, which is on the mountain ahead of you. During the Nozaki-mairi season, this street is full of vendors and stalls, and you are sure to enjoy the walk to the temple even more if you snack on their castella sweets and candy apples as you stroll along.
After walking for about 10 minutes, you will come to the stone staircase that leads up the mountain to Nozaki-Kannon.
It's an unexpectedly long staircase... But do your best to climb it.
Once you've made it up the stairs, you'll find yourself now at the main temple building! The blue sky, fresh greenery, and azalea blossoms all combine to create a gloriously vivid scene around you.
First, stop to pray at the main temple building. Here prayers specifically for marriage, easy childbirth, child conception, better fortune, protection against evil, and many other wishes are said to be granted. Set your mind at ease, then bow twice, clap twice, pray and bow once more to finish your prayer.
By focusing your mind and heart on your prayers, you will soon find that the sounds of the people around you and of the wind will grow distant. Enjoy the deep silence you encounter here.
Savor History by Viewing the Stone Monuments
Throughout the grounds of Nozaki-Kannon, here and there you will find stone monuments that speak to the long history of this area's contribution to the traditional performing arts of the region and to Japan.
For example, the grave of Osome and Hisamatsu.
Their story is based on a true incident that happened in the Edo period (1603-1868) and was famous by joruri performances. It is the story of an oil merchant's daughter, Osome, and the hokonin (*3) Hisamatsu, who fell in love with one another, were torn apart, and committed lovers suicide. Their tragedy, based on their different social positions, is demonstrated by this stone mound monument.
Being moved by the heartrending tale of their impossible love, you cannot help but stop to pray here for their spirits as well.
*3 Hokonin: a type of house servant that lived in a samurai's residence; they took part in the family business and performed household chores as well.
This is a monument inscribed with the lyrics to the Nozaki Ballad. An extremely popular song from the Showa era (1926-1989), the grounds of the temple were open for a concert performance of this piece the day that we visited, and the visitors here were all becoming rather nostalgic when gazing at this stone and listening to this song once again.
Strolling Through the Fresh Verdant Grounds
Here you can enjoy sweet sakura in the spring, brilliant foliage in fall, and snow-covered grounds in the winter - but the fresh green leaves that appear in the early summer here are just as charming. Near the grave of Osome and Hisamatsu, there is also a pond, where koi fish swim about freely.
This is the Important Cultural property, the stone built Nine Story Pagoda. It is quite the divine sight to behold when surrounded by greenery. This was a nine-storied pagoda, but in the past, the top layer was lost, and now it actually has only eight stories - but that's between you and me.
Take a Rest at the Viewing Platform and See Osaka Plain in One Sweep
After having climbed all the way up that long stone staircase and made your way through the grounds of the temple, you might find yourself getting a bit tired. Now is the perfect time to take a break in the rest area.
If you follow the signs and walk just past the main temple building and head slightly uphill, you will see the vast, beautiful Osaka Plain opening up right before your eyes. Just sitting here and resting your weary legs as you gaze out at the landscape will surely inspire you to think about the Osaka of the past and present.
Nozaki-Kannon: the ideal place to enjoy a light stroll, take in the splendor of nature and feel the flow of history surrounding you. Even in Osaka, actually, for this reason in fact, this area has been continually beloved by the people of Osaka.
If you would like to get out of the city for a bit, then please come and perform the Nozaki-mairi for yourself.
By the way, the hiking course doesn't just end here. Actually, from here you can climb even higher up Mt. Iimori, so if you are in the mood to keep on hiking, please follow the trail upwards to the summit.
Nozaki-Kannon (Fukujusan Jigen-ji)
Address : Osaka, Daito, Nozaki 2-7-1
Closed: Open all year
Credit Cards: -
Nearest Station: JR Nozaki Station
Access: 10 minute walk from JR Nozaki Station along the temple road
Phone Number: 072-876-2324
Website: Nozaki-Kannon (Japanese)
** Nozaki-mairi takes place at the start of May, and is a time wherein the streets are bustling with events and street stalls. There are many other events that take place here throughout the year as well, so you can come to visit or pray at any time.