難波の南蛮、戎橋の夷。

Treasures Off the Beaten Path- Yawata

I live relatively close to Kyoto, the unofficial capital of Japanese heritage.  I’ve always cherished the city for its accessible nature and ancient sites- but I’ve discovered lately that even smaller and more obscure locales boast their own, more underrated treasures.

Enter Yawata, a small city right on the border between Osaka and Kyoto prefectures.  Developed in the 1970s as a suburb of Osaka and Kyoto, Yawata is actually a lot older as a town, if not necessarily well-known.  The old town wraps around a lone hill called Otokoyama- and that is where I came on a hunch.

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Otokoyama is the site of Iwashimizu Hachimangu, a sprawling shrine to Hachiman dating back to at least the 9th century.  Hachiman is an interesting and complex figure in Shinto/Buddhism, an ancient Japanese god of war who became reinterpreted as a more peaceful bodhisattva, a guiding and tutelary figure in Buddhism whom several emperors were said to be avatars for.
Though not famous by any means, Iwashimizu is considered an important national historical site as almost all the structures in the complex, even small wooden shrines, date back to the 17th century.

The lower enclosure at the base of Otokoyama

The lower enclosure at the base of Otokoyama

 

Otokoyama may be small at just over 100 meters, but it's actually pretty steep.

Otokoyama may be small at just over 100 meters, but it’s actually pretty steep.

 

A striking sub-shrine in a steep clearing on the side of the hill.

A striking sub-shrine in a steep clearing on the side of the hill.

 

The approach to the main enclosure at the top of the hill

The approach to the main enclosure at the top of the hill

 

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Small shrines in the main enclosure, all at least 300 years old

Small shrines in the main enclosure, all at least 300 years old

 

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The north side of Otokoyama offers a good view north into Kyoto. Here is Atago, a far more daunting holy mountain I used to live closer to.

 

Here is Hiei, the most famous of Kyoto's moutains and a seminal site in the history of Japanese Buddhism.

Here is Hiei, the most famous of Kyoto’s moutains and a seminal site in the history of Japanese Buddhism.

 

...and here is downtown Kyoto, not very architecturally striking but no less densely urban.  Note Kyoto Tower slightly right of center.

…and here is downtown Kyoto, not very architecturally striking but no less densely urban.  Note Kyoto Tower slightly right of center.

 

Now that I know what underrated sights wait just off the beaten path, I ought to make a point of visiting more of Kansai’s “boring” suburbs in search of old treasure.

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3 responses

  1. kurokki

    Lovely. I miss living near Kyoto so much. I used to love poking around my local neighbourhood when I lived in Fushimi-Momoyama. If you haven’t dones so already, I recommend checking out Uji (I presume you have been to Kurama and Kibune already).

    Next time I am back in Japan I plan on checking out Nagaokakyo (briefly the capital) and Otsu (Tokaido checkpoint).

    November 13, 2014 at 11:41 AM

  2. It’s magical and reminds me a bit of Nara!

    November 13, 2014 at 12:26 PM

  3. Pingback: Fukuoka City! Part 1- First Impressions | perihele

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