Many sites to see on the large temple grounds
It takes 3 hours and 30 minutes from Shinjuku by direct express bus to reach Mt. Minobu. The mountain was opened by Nichiren in the Kamakura Era with Kuon-ji Temple becoming the head temple for the Nichiren sect. The temple is also famous for being the place where Nichiren spent his last 9 years just before his passing. On its huge grounds, there are many highlights such as the Sanmon gate which is one of Japan’s 3 great gates, the 287 stone steps known as “The Steps of Enlightenment”, the Black Dragon painting on the ceiling of the Main Hall, and the cedar trees which are over 700 years old. Kuon-ji extends on a steep slope from the Sanmon gate to the rear temple so it is suggested that you use the free elevator or the ropeway.
The huge 2000-person procession in honor of Nichiren
The Founder’s Passing Remembrance Ceremony is a festival associated with the legend of cherries blossoming unseasonably in the fall on the passing of Nichiren. The memorial service has been held annually for over 700 years for several days including the anniversary day of Nichiren’s death on October 13th with the procession being the main event. The Mando involves a parade involving 2000 participants proceeding 2km up to Kuon-ji from the Mt. Minobu Main Gate with about 50 Mando lanterns resembling fully open cherry blossoms within a musical accompaniment of flutes and taiko drums. The sight of the slowly moving parade with the lit lanterns is soul-stirring and gorgeous.
The 400-year-old weeping cherry tree
Mt. Minobu is located at the southern edge of Yamanashi Prefecture and is the place where the cherry blossoms open the earliest in the prefecture. The peak time to see them is from late March to early April, and along with the two 400-year-old weeping cherry trees on the temple grounds, there are approximately 300 cherry trees all over the mountain in Higashidani (East Valley) and Nishidani (West Valley). The pale pink cherry blossoms filling the sagging branches make for a magnificent sight, and during the time when they are in full bloom, there is nighttime illumination of the trees.