Sandwiched between the Hida Mountains and the Sea of Japan, the town of Kamiichi, which is just fifteen kilometers from Toyama city, is surrounded by beautiful scenery and rich in culture. The melting snow from Japan’s North Alps feed the many rivers that run into the town, which is also home to an abundance of neatly farmed rows of rice paddies, that look spectacular against the rugged snow-peaked mountainous backdrop.
Kamiichi is home to various hiking trails, including the infamous Mt. Tsurugi-dake and a variety of interesting hands-on experiences, that will allow you to sample a good mix of local culture and breathtaking scenery.
Oiwasan Nissekiji Temple
Built in the early 700’s, Oiwasan Nissekiji is a fairly large temple with a long history in the town of Kamiichi. It is a pleasant temple with various areas you can stroll around and explore, but perhaps it’s main attraction is the opportunity guests have to engage in traditional Buddhist rituals such as Takigyo and Shabutsu.
The main hall at Oiwasan Nissekiji
Stone carvings inside Oiwasan Nissekiji
The waterfalls at Oiwasan Nissekiji
A brave soul experiencing Takigyo at Oiwasan Nissekiji
Takigyo is originally a Shinto purification ritual, but practiced in both Shintoism and Buddhism alike. It involves standing beneath a constant stream of cold water that flows down from its source in the mountains above. The water is believed to cleanse both the mind and soul and is regularly practiced by Buddhist monks in Japan. There are six spots one can experience this at Oiwasan Nissekiji – willing participants can enquire and collect their white robes at the small building in front of the main temple complex.
Reservations are not necessary, but the waterfalls may get busy during the hotter months of summer as they provide an excellent way to cool down after hiking the local country side trails, so it is recommended you visit with plenty of time to spare.
Shabutsu at Oiwasan Nissekiji
Shabutsu at Oiwasan Nissekiji
Shabutsu is the practice of copying Buddhust images by hand using either a bush or pen. It is considered a form of meditation in Buddhism, helping one clear the mind and relax the body. Shabutsu takes place while sitting on a tatami-mat floor with one of the temple’s resident Buddhist monks, who guides you through the whole process. All in all, it takes around thirty minutes to complete, and at the end you are welcome to take your drawing home with you.
The House of the Wolf Children
Roughly two kilometers uphill from Oiwasan Nissekiji Temple is “Hana-no-ie”, an atmospheric traditional Japanese farmhouse constructed in the 1880’s. It’s primary use is as a rest-house, maintained by the local community, for hikers who are passing through the area. In more recent years it has also become famous for being the house that features in the popular Japanese animated film “Okami Kodomo no Ami to Yuki” (Eng title: Wolf children), directed and animated by Mamoru Hosoda.
The owner of the house Mr. Yamazaki explains that he inherited the house from his father who was a local farmer some years ago. At first he wasn’t sure what to do with such a large building, but slowly realized it could serve the local hiking community well so he opened it up as a rest stop for those heading to the local mountain trails.
One day, the now-famous director of the above-mentioned film stumbled upon the house and knew instantly he wanted to include it in his next feature-length animation. Ever since then it has been a popular stop off for both hikers and anime fans alike. It has become somewhat of a shrine dedicated to the movie and its main characters, with many guests leaving their artwork depicting scenes from the film on the walls.
Drawings depicting scenes from the film “Okami Kodomo no Ami to Yuki”
The garden of Hana-no-ie
The road to Hana-no-ie
Sacred Waters to Heal One’s spirit and Quench One’s Thirst
Located in the northern reaches of Kamiichi lies a small shrine known as “Anantan no Reijo”, a sacred place discovered by a Buddhist priest during the Edo period of Japanese history. The water that flows from this revered place is known as “Anantan no Reisui”, and is considered to be some of the purest and most delicious water in all of Japan. For decades locals have believed this water helps cure many ailments and illnesses, and people from across the region come to pray for good health and stock up on the exceptionally clear spring water. Filling your bottle with the water is free of charge, and the ramshackle little shrine which is covered in pictures of Buddha is also well worth a snoop.
Inside Anantan no Reijo
Inside Anantan no Reijo
The Spring Water taps at Anantan no Reijo
A Base for your Explorations around Kamiichi
A great way to experience Kamiichi if you don’t have a car is by rental bicycle, which can be picked up from the tourist information center inside Kamiichi Train Station. With rentals running you a mere 1000 yen per day, it’s a great way to see all the town has to offer at a reasonable price. They also offer model cycle-routes that are planned out on an easy-to-understand map offering a variety of routes that take you past picturesque rice fields, historic temples and to a number of hiking paths.
Rental Bicycles from Kamiichi Tourist Information
Cycle Routes that take you past Beautiful Rice Paddies
Ryusenji Temple – a popular destination to reach by bicycle
A Peak Fit for a Buddhist Monk
Speaking of hiking paths, Kamiichi, and indeed the wider area around Toyama City, has no shortage of places fit for a good hike, and in some cases a long trek through the mountains. Perhaps the most famous of which is the notorious Mt. Tsurugi-dake, once known among locals as “the most dangerous mountain climbable” due to the number of people who perished trying to reach its peak. It was believed for years to be almost impossible to climb, until it was finally conquered in 1907, although when the brave soul who successfully scaled the beast reached the summit he discovered a number of small metal items. They turned out to be religious items dating back over a thousand years to the Heian period!
Today one must use fixed chains to navigate the sheer sides of the mountain, it does make you wonder about the Buddhist Monk who scaled Mt. Tsurugi all those years ago, more than likely with little more than a stick and a pair of wooden sandals!
Anybody who is serious about attempting this mountain must prepare thoroughly by reading up on the route, equipping themselves with professional gear and maps, and seeking out a guide who knows the terrain well. We repeat, this peak is for experienced climbers only.
For easier hiking trails in and around Kamiichi, information is available at the Tourist Information Office mentioned above.
Mt. Tsurugi-dake from afar
Kamiichi also offers a number of easy hiking trails through the countryside
Regardless of what you come to Kamiichi for, there are a wide range of activities and experiences waiting to be discovered. We recommend at least one whole day to make the most of it, making it an ideal day-trip from Toyama City or a great pace to spend the night and take it easy over a weekend.