Kanzanji: A big Buddha, a beautiful lake, and a lot of walking!

I’m in full “countdown mode” these days, and very aware of my dwindling days in Japan. In a way though, it’s become a good thing. Knowing that I only have a couple of months left in this fascinating country has really given my spirit of adventure a boost.

Last July I went to a nearby area called Kanzanji with my friends. At that time, I spotted a tall Buddha statue peeping above some trees and vowed that I would try to go back there and find it. When I woke up on Sunday the sun was shining, and I decided it was as good a day as any for a Buddha hunt!

Armed with very little information, I hopped on the bus at Hamamatsu bus station (number 30 from bus stop 1) and watched the world go by for 45 minutes as the bus took me to Kanzanji. It only cost ¥550 (each way), which I thought was pretty good. I got off the bus at the Pal Pal (パルパル) stop (by number 7 on the map below). I remembered Pal Pal (an amusement park) from my previous trip.

My route around Kanzanji

On the map above, you can see the route I walked (if it’s too small, click on it and you can see a bigger one). Starting at the bus stop by the number 7 (roughly in the centre of the map), I walked left and up towards Kanzanji Temple to find the Buddha (black line). After visiting the temple and shrine (blue line), I made a brief detour to the beach area, then back past Pal Pal to Kanzanji Ropeway. I took the ropeway up to where the Orgel Museum is (although I didn’t go in). There’s also an observation deck up there, which was very blowy! I briefly stopped for lunch – a rice ball and some green tea, with a beautiful view, then made my way down the mountain on foot. It was a longer route than I imagined, but I’m glad I tried it because I had the chance to see a lot of countryside on the way. As I walked round I realised how close I was to Hamamatsu Zoo, and decided to pay it a visit (more about that here). After the zoo, I walked back down to Bay Street, where I caught the bus home (near the number 8 on the map). It was very very windy and I got quite “wind-burnt” as I was walking, but it was worth it all for the gorgeous views – I was so lucky with the weather!

Here’s the day in pictures…

My goal was to get here to this Buddha. I love big Buddha statues! 🙂

I'm going to find this Buddha!

Even though Kanzanji is a temple, there’s a shrine right next to it, and the main entrance to the whole area is through a “torii“, a gate which indicates you are entering a shrine.

Torii Gate

There was an unusual little building for “ema” (message boards):

Ema

So many!

People had also left some “omamori” inside, but I don’t really know why.

Ema & Omamori

I found many smaller Buddhas on my journey…

Buddha

This is Kanzanji:

Kanzanji Temple

Surprisingly, I can find very little written about this temple online.

The ceiling was really interesting:

Temple ceiling

When I bought an “omamori” (good luck charm) in the shop, the monk happily chatted to me – in English! He told me he was studying English because someone in his family had married an Australian. He was such a nice man, and thanked me for giving him the chance to practice speaking English!

Kanzanji shop

It was a day of many steps, as usual…

Steps

As I walked the long way round to the Buddha, I felt like I was walking to the top of the world (even though it wasn’t really so high). And I was completely alone – just me and the gorgeous view!

Lake Hamana

Finally I came to the Buddha:

Kanzanji Buddha

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Kanzanji Buddha

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Kanzanji Buddha

It seems Buddha has hung up his shoes to rest…

Buddha's shoes

At the base of the buddha there were these two elephant vases. I wonder what the significance was?

Elephant vases

On the way back down I stumbled upon this curious little cave full of “ema”…

Little "ema" cave

Yes, I did actually crawl right in…

Little "ema" cave

And yes, I did kind of feel like I was in a Ghibli movie!

Back down by the temple, I looked at the old shrine.

Shrine

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Suzu (bell)

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Old lantern

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Nice hat!

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Shrine cat

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Chōzuya (or Temizuya)

Walking back, I paused by the beach area. The wind was getting up and there were even some windsurfers out on Lake Hamana.

Windsurfer

I was tempted to stop for “unagi” (eel) but resisted.

Unagi restaurant

I was also tempted to stop at the “ashiyu” (hot spring bath for feet), but it was a bit chilly for taking my socks off and getting wet! (The water was lovely and warm though.)

Ashiyu

I didn’t go in Pal Pal, but I had a great view of it from the ropeway.

Pal Pal

It was a bit bumpy on the ropeway, because it was so windy. I love this ropeway though… Just the same as last time I rode it, the “elevator music” that they play on the way up is “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. That has to be a conscious choice!

Kanzanji Ropeway

It was far too cold and windy to stay on the observation deck for long!

Lake Hamana

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Lake Hamana

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Hamamatsu in the distance

Soon it was time for lunch. I found a nice little spot out of the wind, with a beautiful view. I’ll tell you, my rice ball sure did taste good after all that walking!

A nice spot for lunch

After lunch I began wandering down the mountain, attempting to follow my map (pictured above). I have to confess I did switch on the GPS on my phone at one point, just to make sure I was still heading in the right direction.

Kanzanji countryside

I seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, but soon spotted Pal Pal again.

Pal Pal

Along the way I found some cherry blossom. It’s far too early for cherry blossom though, so I’m not sure what it was. Perhaps a different kind of cherry tree??

Early cherry blossom?

What a beautiful day! 😀

Lake Hamana

The full collection can be found on Flickr, as usual.

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Edit: January 2012 – This post has been submitted for the J-Festa 2011 Special Edition as it was the most commented on post on Haikugirl’s Japan in 2011 (85 comments at the time of writing this). Thank you everyone for your kind comments!

87 thoughts on “Kanzanji: A big Buddha, a beautiful lake, and a lot of walking!

  1. Fun post. I’ve been to Hamamatsy a few times but have never done that walk. If we visit again we’ll try it….always looking for interesting walks.
    BTW that blossom looks like ume/plum blossom but I’m guessing.

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  2. Absolutely beautiful pictures and your adventurous commentary made me feel as though I were with you … what a delicious post. Thank you for sharing with us.

    And congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! It’s very well deserved. -MJ

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  3. These pictures are absolutely gorgeous! My fiance proposed to me under a cherry blossom tree, and we plan on going to Japan after college and getting married under a cherry blossom tree.

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  4. Great little photo-essay. Japan is such an unusual and interesting place. I’ve only spent a couple of months there, years and years ago, but your post made me a little wistful and keen to visit again in the future. Well done on getting Freshly Pressed, too.

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  5. Just fabulous…makes me want to travel RIGHT NOW! I love Buddha statues, and that one was certainly worth the trek! Good lookin’ out & and enjoy all your remaining days as much as you seem to be! Congrats to you!

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  6. Thanks for sharing your photos with us, it was a joy to see Japan since I have never been there. You evidently had a fantastic day and I too love Buddha particularly the one you went to visit that had the view of the water. How peaceful.
    I hope you have many more days like that.

    god bless
    funkyfi

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  7. Absoloutely gorgeous photos and a very interesting trip through your photos. I’ve traveled quite a lot but never been to Japan, or any Asian country (Hmmm, maybe I should say I’ve been actually to a lot of thrid world countries..not really well traveled) i was fascinated by all the “ema” and such….
    Really lovely. Thanks for sharing with all of us!

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  8. That was a lovely overview of your trip. Your commentary took me along on an adventure and the photos just added that visual bonus. I am a Sri Lankan Buddhist but our statues of Lord Buddha are very different because Japan’s denomination is different from ours. I have been to Thailand and Malaysia but Buddha statues there are also not the same. By the way, I think those elephant vases are really artistic. The giant slipper reminded me of Sri Pada , the holy mountain in Sri Lanka, which features the sacred footprint believed to be that of Buddha by those who subscribe to Buddhism..

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    • Thank you so much for your comment, Leadinglight. I’ve heard of that footprint and would love to see that someday. Yes, Buddha statues seem to be different all over the world, don’t they? I’ve also noticed that in Japan they really vary. This one was very different to others that I’ve seen. I wanted to find out the history of the statue but I couldn’t find any information in English.

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  9. WOW! You sound like you had a great day!
    I’ve been to Tibet, and I remember seeing huge statues of gods and goddesses over there. Sometimes I would stand in front of one, and start wondering how much time it must have taken to build this one statue, how many hours of work must have been put in.
    I wonder how you must have felt when you stood in front of the Buddha!
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!
    Ashley, aka TheEverydayMuser
    http://www.theeverydaymuser.wordpress.com

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  10. Stunning photos and you’ve given me an ‘armrest’ travel through Japan. First time ever that I’ve been! haha. Thanks for sharing, love your blog, congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

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  11. Congrats! I’ve been subscribed to your blog for a while. One of my favourite gaijin bloggers. I enjoyed this post it and am glad to see it now on the front page. Well done!

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  12. Love it love it! I really want to go to Japan. I’m just over the sea in China. I’m heading down to Sichuan, to Leshan, to see the Grand Buddha. I love solitary day trips too and enjoyed reading your description. How long have you been in Japan?

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    • Hi there!
      Thanks so much for your comment, and also for introducing me to your site. I have never been to China, so I will enjoy looking at your posts. I’m impressed that you manage to blog even though WordPress.com is blocked in China! How long have you been there? Are you Chinese? (If so, your English is excellent!!)
      I’ve been in Japan almost three years. Sadly I’m leaving soon – but I’ll be back! 😉
      By the way, I LOVE your avatar picture! Did you draw that yourself??
      Thanks again for stopping by!
      Ali

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