Murō-ji and Hase-dera – 室生寺と長谷寺
Nara prefecture is one of the locations where the Japanese civilization was born. Here there are lots of national treasures and World Heritages. The most popular ones are Nara’s Hōryū-ji and Tōdai-ji, but many interesting places are located among this historical prefecture’s mountains.
In this article we are going to introduce two Buddhist temples, Murō-ji and Hase-dera.
By using public transportation the two temples are just 1 hour away each others, so it would be a good deal to visit both them on the same day.
This temple complex is located among Uda city’s mountains, in Nara prefecture. Once entered the temple gate, many buildings appear. Going on towards the complex’s heart, you climb the hill where the inner sanctuary is located.
The five-stored pagoda was built in the 8th century, it is therefore the most ancient wooden building of Japan. However, due to several natural calamities, the building you can see nowadays is a modern reconstruction.
Contrarily to the well known Kōya-san, here women were allowed to enter in the past too: that’s why Murō-ji is also known as Nyonin-Kōya, women’s Kōya-san.
How to get to Murō-ji
If you want to reach Murō-ji by public transportation, you have to reach Murōguchi-Ōno station: since it’s located on the Kinsetsu-Ōsaka line, you can have a day trip if you come from Ōsaka or Nagoya area. If you come from Tōkyō area, then you must head first to Nagoya, travelling on the Shinkansen. This journey on the Shinkansen is covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
At Nagoya’s Kintetsu station, get on the Kintetsu limited express heading to Ōsaka-Nanba station. Get off at Nabari station, where you can take the express train heading to Ōsaka Uehonmachi and arrive at Murōguchi-Ōno. The journey takes about one hour and 45 minutes and costs 3030 yen. If you don’t want to take the express limited train, the journey costs 1750 yen, but it will take a hour more. If you come from Ōsaka, you can reach Murōguchi-Ōno by taking the express train leaving from Ōsaka Uehonmachi station and heading to Unayamada station. The journey will take 54 minutes. From Murōguchi-Ōno station a Nara-Kōtsū bus leaves every hour: it will take you to the temple in 15 minutes at the price of 420 yen.
Quite similar to Murō-ji, Hase-dera is a Shingon Buddhist School temple: it consists of more than 30 buildings, scattered across a wide valley: take your time to enjoy a full visit. You can reach the main lounge after a 400 steps stair: many interesting buildings are along, so don’t hurry up.
Once reached the top, there’s a terrace similar to Kyōto’s Kiyomizu-dera one: from there you can behold cherry flowers in spring and maple leaves in autumn, it is really worth the effort.
How to get to Hase-dera
The way to reach Hase-dera is almost the same we described before to reach Murō-ji. From Hase-dera station, on the Kinsetsu-Ōsaka line, it takes 15-20 minutes walking. Hase-dera station is closer to Ōsaka, an the ticket costs 500 yen.
We visited Murō-ji in October, reaching it by car. The buildings are scattered among thriving cedar woods: the most interesting one is the five-stored pagoda. Seeing the stair which leads to it through the trees is impressive and a kind of mystic.
Reaching the inner sanctuary is a bit hard, but after we made it we felt accomplished. Hase-dera atmosphere is similar to Murō-ji’s one, there’s tranquility in the air. In front of the main gate there’s a small town, and there are a few shops.
We visited Hase-dera in June, during the rainy season: the clouds over the surrounding mountains, the spreading nature and the colored hydrangeas in full bloom created a beautiful landscape. This is a true paradise in the heart of Nara Prefecture.