Oita, Japan Oct. 01 Sun 6:38PM
The Kunisaki Peninsula in northern Oita is one of Japan’s hidden treasures. A series of rustic farmlands surrounding Mount Futago, the area is dotted with many temples, some minor, some major, including the highly venerated Usa Shrine.
This shrine is the main habitation of the Shinto god Hachiman, who is so highly venerated that over 40,000 branch shrines throughout Japan have been erected in his honor. During the construction of the Great Buddha at Todaiji during the eighth century this shrine's Mikoshi was carried all the way from Kyushu form Nara to watch over the contstruction. Today, it is considered the second most important Shinto Shrine in all of Japan, second only to Ise Shrine in Mie Prefecture.
The peninsula has its own unique pilgrimage culture, known as “Rokugo Manzan,” incorporating the great Usa Shrine as well as its Buddhist temples, two of the most renowned of which are Futagoji temple and Fukiji Temple. Sacred spots tucked away in mountains and the prominence of stone statues are two distinct traits of the region’s spiritual heritage.
Futagoji Temple is located near the peak of the central Mt. Futago. The most iconic image of this well over thousand year old temple is that of its two Nio guardians fiercely guarding its entrance, stone steps mysteriously leading upward.
Those who make the climb will be treated to a complex of temple buildings housing sacred artefacts and some hikes up to great views.
In contrast to Futagoji’s rugged rockiness, Fukiji Temple is wooden and serene. In fact, the oldest wooden structure in all of Kyushu. The nearby Makiodo also displays magnificent wooden sculptures of Buddhist deities, which miraculously survived a major fire over 700 years ago.
Another popular destination is the small town of Kitsuki, where a beautiful castle overlooking the coast is surrounded by charming streets that will truly transport you to a premodern Japan, as authentic as it gets. The most popular activity for visitors to the town is renting a kimono and strutting in style.
Due to its somewhat remote nature, the Kunisaki Peninsula is not reachable by public transportation. Although renting a car is an option, we also offer a lineup of tours which visit the main spots, a perfect side trip for your time in a nearby onsen town like Beppu or Yufuin.