Tenjo-ji Temple is only a 10 minute walk from Maya Ropeway Sanjo station. Its mountain-top position keeps the tourists away, and a quiet atmosphere hangs over the peaceful grounds. The views are well-known and the surrounding landscape is wonderful, too. Kobe city and the sea stretch below you in the distance; on a sunny day you can see Awaji Island and Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge, and even Shodo Island, approximately 80 km in the distance.
You’ll find a rock garden associated with Buddhist philosophy in the temple grounds; the dynamic arrangement of stones and raked gravel makes a worthy sight. The garden also holds seasonal flowers, like cherry blossoms and Japanese stewartia. Even in it’s proximity to Kobe, it’s still feels like entering a heavenly world where time loses all meaning.
The only temple in Japan for Maya Bunin
Tenjo-ji’s Buddhist philosophy is worthy of mention. Founded in 646, Tenjo-ji is the only temple in Japan dedicated to the worship of Maya Bunin, the mother of Gautama Buddha (the founder of Buddhism). Enshrined within is her deity, one that protects women. It is said that this temple was also the first to offer the traditional Japanese haraobi (a maternity belt wound around the belly of pregnant women in prayer for an easy delivery). Statues of Maya Bunin are enshrined in the Mayabunindo hall in the temple grounds.
Mt. Maya looks over Kobe Harbour and is seen as the protective deity of Osaka Bay. A long time ago ships used to lower their sails when coming and going in prayer of safety on the high seas. Many Buddhist images, including one eleven-faced Kannon, are enshrined in the main hall. Their richly coloured appearances can be quite overpowering.
Feel the spirit of Japan
Tenjo-ji was located halfway up Mt. Maya before an accidental fire in 1976, and was rebuilt at its peak, where it is today. The remains of the former temple can still be seen if visitors hike the trail. If you feel up for the walk there’s plenty to see, including a 100-year-old Japanese cedar called the Mother Tree, which was blown over in a typhoon but still remains there today. At the entrance to the current Tenjo-ji you’ll see a gate and stone staircase: the main gate is the boundary between the common and holy worlds. In order to prepare themselves, visitors cleanse their hands and minds at the chozuya or temizuya (the water purification pavilion) near the entrance. You’ll feel humbled when you arrive at the main hall on the mountaintop and admire the grand spectacle of nature that awaits. Tenjo-ji temple is said to be a place people visit to cleanse their hearts.