My Inaka, by David Williams
My adopted hometown of Honyabakei is most famous for its beautiful autumn colors and the Aonodomon tunnel, which the legendary monk Zenkai reportedly dug single-handedly through the rock of Mount Rakan 200 years ago. He wanted to make it easier for people to reach the temple of Rakanji, and it took him nearly 30 years to do it. Nowadays you can take a five-minute, 630 yen ride in a ski lift, but I prefer the 30-minute hike up the mountain to reach the temple, which must be one of the eeriest in Japan and is certainly my favorite place here. A stone-flagged path leads through the forest from the ski lift to a spooky enclosure holding nearly 4,000 centuries-old Buddha statuettes. Perhaps eeriest of all are the prayers and messages to the dead, written on thousands of wooden spoons nailed to every wall. From the temple itself, a little further down the path, there is a spectacular panoramic view of the surrounding area. In this quiet, mystical setting, I am always moved to contemplate the infinite. I’ve seen many temples, but nothing matches the magical atmosphere of Rakanji.
David Williams is a second-year Assistant Language Teacher on the JET Program.