PRICE FROM 37,500 JPY
(for a group of 2 people)
Reset your mind and body in the hidden gems of Nara, with an amazing spiritual experience at a historical temple followed by an eye-opening healthy gastronomic encounter by a renowned “food mediciner.”
Hase-dera is among the most revered of Japan’s Buddhist temples, founded in the 7th century, serving as the main temple of a large branch of the Shingon sect. It is perched on the hillside near the top of a mountain in the Hase area of Sakurai city in Nara prefecture and is also known as the “Temple of Flowers” with its wide variety of blooms in large quantities. The main hall is designated as a National Treasure of Japan and houses the temple’s principal object of worship, the Juichi-men Kannon [11-faced Bodhisattva of Mercy], which is the tallest wooden-carved Kannon statue in Japan at over 10-meters. With the help of the Kannon, people have cleansed their minds and purified their souls here for over a thousand years.
When you first arrive to the Hase-dera temple, you go up the steps leading to the Ni’ou-mon gate. While it may look like other such gates around the island nation full of temples and shrines, it is a Nationally Designated Important Cultural Property (ICP) of the country, one of the many structures with such a designation of importance throughout the temple.
Once you pass through, the next structure which awaits is also an ICP of Japan: the highly thought-through, 399-step inclined corridor. It is lined with flowers and stone lanterns along its path to the top that stretches 108-ken (Japanese measurement with a correlation to tatami-mats). This by no coincidence is the same number of desires humans are said to have from birth, or bonnou, and it is split into three sections which also represent the 3 stages of life – childhood, adulthood, and old age. As you proceed up the sections, the steps actually get bigger as if to showcase the difficulties in each phase as one gets older, whether it be the physical or social aspects of growing old.
The implied idea of the deliberate and calculated covered stairway is to forget or suppress the 108 bonnou while climbing up the dragon belly-like passage.
When reaching atop, it amounts to the 400th step which could be construed as “crossing over to the other side” (the number “four” is avoided in Japanese/Buddhism as it sounds the same as the word for “death”), whereby you arrive at the main hall to finally meet the famed Kannon which is also an ICP. As you are seated for the morning service, you will see exactly how grand the statue truly is.
When the service starts, immerse yourself in the synchronized chants of the monks and sit through the surreal yet captivating tones reciting the sutras. Try to let go of all emotions and just let your mind loose and free; then you are sure to feel something powerful, sublime, or a sense of awe, regardless of your background or beliefs.
**At the end of the Rite, if you’re lucky depending on the type of service of that day, you’ll get a mesmerizing glimpse of all the monks gathering in a line on the outdoor stage to give a final few prayers and gratitude towards the various subjects of praise.
Once the service is done, follow a priest to guide you into the ‘back’ of the hall to the inner center where the Kannon statue stands. Get a close-up look and touch its feet to bring even better fortune, and also walk around to observe all the wonderful art & craft work on all sides of the walls of this chamber normally off-limits to the general public.
After seeing the rest of the back-half of the main hall, head back front and over to the outdoor stage for some stunning views. The hillside deck hanging over the cliff overlooks the precincts of the temple surrounded by mountains. With the sun peeping out over the mountains on the other side of the valley, take a moment to breathe in the crisp air and gaze at the awesome scenery before your eyes, including a beautiful pagoda to the side. Once you have taken it all in, choose to go back down the same path you came up, or choose to take a different route to further enjoy the beautiful nature and structures of the temple grounds as you head to a very special and unique breakfast experience.
Once you get back down to the entrance of the temple, a short walk through the rustic neighborhood of the temple town shops along the path straight out of Hase-dera brings you to one of many old traditional Japanese-style houses, with the sign Genji-Monogatari. Here, Ms. Kyoko Oonishi runs her operation Yamato-Yakuzen where she is usually the sensei [teacher] of medicinal cooking classes. Oonishi sensei is no ordinary teacher: She’s an eclectic who spent over 3 decades based in Belgium and touring around Europe giving guidance on living a healthier life through medicinal cuisine. While maintaining Oriental dietetics at its foundation, she focuses on the intake of ingredients in the environment in which the individual is surrounded by, with an emphasis on adapting to that very environment itself. So while in Europe, the ingredients were very Euro-centric. After the earthquake and tsunami disaster of Japan in 2011, she decided to finally move back to her motherland in hopes to help her fellow country people, hence shifting the ingredient-base to that of Japan. She is on a mission to help revitalize Japan and is particularly interested in women’s health, through teaching how to be good to yourself. Taste and Learn how to take care of yourself even better through a special meal arranged by her.
After entering the rather well-preserved 185-year old folk house she bases her activities out of, and being welcomed and ushered in by her staff, prepare yourself for a new type of “healthy” as you will discover a very healthy feast using
plant-based ingredients. Usually starting with a special tea, you will be served a variety of miniature dishes or servings of fresh, natural, and (in most cases if not all) locally sourced ingredients prepared with a caring heart, keeping balance and your body in mind. The carefully crafted yet abundant variation is an eye-opener to a new level of well-being.
If you’re lucky enough to visit in her presence, try to strike a conversation with her as the icing on the cake. Her presence very much adds to the relaxing/eloquent time there.
The seemingly shy-at-first sensei will entertain you with her stories such as episodes from when living in Europe, along with her teachings of course.
Even if you don’t get to meet her in person, her style will certainly be ingrained in your mind and hopefully that will help you to follow her teachings to be good to yourself.
37,500 JPY (for a group of 2 people)
Please contact us for two or more people.
The morning service fee
The guide fee to the inner center by a priest
We can arrange an accommodation and a transport to your hotel with an additional charge. Please contact us for the price inquiry.
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