Last Updated: Sep 24, 2023
It’s been a while since I featured a truly off of the beaten path location so this week, we are going to do just that. The topic of this piece will be the Buddhist temple complex of Kongosho-ji. As you can tell by the title, this sacred site is located near the summit of Mt. Asama, directly to the northeast of Ise Jingu. In traditional Japanese geomancy, this direction was known as the Kimon (or “Demon Gate” in English) and people believed evil energies would enter from this spiritually vulnerable northeastern orientation. As a result of its orientation to Ise Jingu, Kongosho-ji protects Ise Jingu from its Kimon, thereby earning itself its bulwark nickname.
As you might imagine, Kongoshi-ji is a temple with a long pedigree to it. The compound was originally founded by none other than the legendary monk Kukai, one of the most revered persons to ever grace the pages of Buddhism’s history in Japan. This means the temple is over a millennia old. Though we have no date of founding for its ward (due to Ise Jingu’s Shikinen Sengu tradition of rebuilding the shrine every twenty years), we can at least say that some iteration of the Kongosho-ji complex atop of Mt. Asama has been standing watch in the northeast for over 1,000 years.
Despite being a very sacred place, few people in Japan and overseas know that Kongosho-ji is actually considered to be a part of a pilgrimage that also includes Ise Jingu’s Naiku and Geku (the inner and outer shrines). In fact, as recounted in the famous Ise Ondo, one’s pilgrimage to Ise isn’t considered complete unless Mt. Asama and Kongosho-ji are also visited. While I’ll be frank and say that Kongosho-ji isn’t the easiest of locations to reach, it’s certainly a worthy addition to any trip that takes you to this part of Mie Prefecture.
How to Get There
OK, when I said we would be covering an off of the beaten path location this time, I really meant it. Despite not…