Visiting historical sites around Japan has been one of greatest pleasure from traveling. The origin of the Yoshino area was the ascetic place for monks to train and pray. Since the Heian period (8th to 12th centuries), it was known as a popular place to enjoy Cherry blossoms blooming. I have a strong image of Yoshino as a place for enjoying cherry blossoms, but it’s also politically critical site and there are several historical sites. Here are my favorite historical places to explore in Yoshino.
Kinpusenji Temple was built 1,300 years ago and prospered throughout the medieval period. Kinpusenji main hall is the second biggest wooden building after Todaiji Temple Daibutsuden in Japan. The columns of the temple convey strength and simplicity because they lack ornamentation. It offers a glimpse of a bygone Japan that can be difficult to find in contemporary Tokyo. You can walk Omine Okugake Michi, the old 80 km pilgrimage route from the Yoshino area to the Kumano area and it still remains and leads to a monks training field. Kinpusenji Temple provides a special training once a month from May to October to walk the part of the route.
Noten-okami ryuo-in Traing Place
My favorite place of Kinpusenji Temple was Noten-okami ryuo-in having a training place with waterfall. We walked down long stairs to visit from Kinpusenji main hall. The atmosphere is solemn and calm with beautiful greens and clear water.
We went to Yoshimizu Shrine to see a room where Yoshitsune Minamoto stayed. The structure of the room is Shoin-zukuri, Japanese traditional architecture style with Tokono-ma, an alcove with a well designed shelf.
A Room of Yoshitsune Minamoto
Yoshitsune Minamoto, a hero of the Kamakura period in the 12th century, stayed here when escaping to the east of Japan. We could still see the room inside of the Yoshimizu Shrine. Yoshitsune Minamoto won several battles during domestic wars, but he provoked antipathy from his brother, Yoritomo Minamoto. Yoshitsune conflicted with his brother and he had to leave the region. A tale of this tragic story was created in the Edo period and we love this story. It was fun to see the real place where this old historical hero stayed in Yoshimizu Shrine.
We also visited Nyoirinji Temple where Emperor Go-Daigo stayed and was buried when he lost his political war in the 14th century. For my kids, it was a place where just cats and dogs were playing around. Nyoirinji Temple was established in the early 10th century. The Emperor Go-Daigo escaped from Kyoto and went to Mt. Yoshino, but he could not return to Kyoto and was buried there.
A hiking path runs through from near Yoshimizu Shrine to Nyoirinji Temple. It takes about 40 mins with steep slopes. The Yoshino area is located in the mountains and the flat space is so limited that people had to build houses on the slopes against the valley. There is a house built in Yoshino architecture style in the Nyoirinji Temple site.
From Tokyo, get on the Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto. Spend a day or two there visiting splendid temples. Next head to Nara to see Todaiji, the largest wooden temple in Japan and free-roaming deer. On the next day visit Yoshino to experience authentic sites.