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Hozanji Temple: A Spiritual Hiker’s Escape

The variety of small altars, large halls, a pagoda, and ojizo statues makes Hozanji Temple a visually interesting shrine, this is a great day-trip in almost any season.

By 3 min read 1

Ikoma is surprisingly close to Osaka. The fact that it is in Nara prefecture seems to confuse people who are always shocked to find that it is only 20 minutes by rapid express from Osaka Namba station.

Ikoma, because of its central location between Osaka and Nara, is mostly a haphazard bed town. Commuters heading into Osaka in the morning enjoy an elevated view of the horizon beating urban sprawl, and, returning home, a night-scape that is considered one of the best in the region.

In centuries prior however, before a train tunnel carved away its isolation, Ikoma was famous as a pilgrimage point for those visiting the Buddhist temple, Hozanji. The trip is much easier today, with a rope-way covering the distance from the station to near the shrine in 5 minutes, for more lazy or time-strapped day-trippers. The cost is 290 yen, and during the day, the rope-way operates every 15 to 20 minutes.

More motivated hikers can climb the steep, but pretty streets to Hozanji in about 30 minutes. Exiting Ikoma station, cross the road and head south, taking the right side when the road forks, and turns into stairs.

Nearing the temple, visitors will wander through a district of quiet, traditional ryokan and other guest houses, from a time when overnight trips to Ikoma were more popular. There are some wonderful restaurants up here, as well as a chill, hippie cafe, for those who need a quick refresher.

hozanji_2a
Photo: Ad Blankestijn

At the top of the mountain is Hozanji, which is actually a collection of religious buildings and idols, devoted to the worship of coin. Businesses, new and ancient, buy lanterns, statues, candles and omamori charms, to increase their luck, though sometimes by doing so they seriously decrease their bank balance. Some of the larger lanterns on display cost as much as $500,000.

The variety of small altars, large halls, a pagoda, and ojizo statues makes Hozanji a visually interesting shrine, and there are lots of nooks to explore. A permanent, fragrant smog hangs in the air, from braziers where worshipers burn handfuls of incense and immerse themselves in the smoke. Paths wind up behind the main shrine precinct, through a forest full of grave stones and Buddhist ojizo statues peeping out from behind the trees, reminiscent of walking in Koysan’s Okunoin. For the more adventurous, you can ask permission to scale up the sheer, crumbling side of the mountain where some Buddha statues have been cut into a ledge.

This is a great day-trip in almost any season. In spring, the way up is brightened by sakura blossoms, and in September, candles are set out for a Buddhist lantern festival. It is particularly pretty in the snow, however, the smooth stones are very treacherous. Hikers who take their time exploring will find both Ikoma and Hozanji very rewarding.

It is easy to stumble upon mysterious, half wild shrines hidden in the bamboo around the temple. The excellent Sri Lankan restaurant, Lucky Garden, is within a 40 minute walk, or there is an equally delicious curry restaurant called Spice Art Red near Ikoma station for those hungry on the return trip.

Access:

Take the Ikoma Cable Line from Kintetsu Ikoma Station (40 minutes from Shin-Osaka Station) and get off at Hozanji Station. The temple is 10 minutes walk from there.
(Car) 15 minutes from Ichibu Interchange on the Daini Hanna Toll Road

Hozanji temple is open from 8am, until 5pm. Entry is free. ​

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