Day 6: Horai-ji Temple
Saturday, March 22nd, 2008
We woke up to a gorgeous sunny day, which began with breakfast at the restaurant of the hotel. Calling it breakfast really doesn't make it justice, because this was truly a joy, both for the eyes and for the palate!
After breakfast we walked through the lobby of the hotel and found a small group of hotel guests all staring at the big windows overlooking the river. They told us that they were waiting for the daily feeding of the falcons from the balcony, when one of the hotel employes throws food at them.
Next, we decided to go all for a walk through the small village of Yuya Onsen, walking along and across the railway that goes through the village, following the river.
Above is the entrance of a traditional bath house in Yuya Onsen, few steps away from the hotel where we were staying. The Yuya Hot Springs in Shinshiro have a 1,200-year history. The waters are believed to cure many ailments. The architecture of the wooden bath house is splendid and full of details - it breathes Japanese history and tradition. Below is a beautiful HD video, filmed and edited by Roger Walch, which shows the inside of this bath house.
After a quick stop at the tiny railroad station of Yuya Onsen, we walked back to the hotel. Then we took the small hotel shuttle bus to reach Kadoya, from where one can walk to the Horai-ji Temple. First we took a walk through the streets of Kadoya.
We knew that from Kadoya to the temple you had to climb a staircase lined with gigantic cedar trees, but no one had mentioned that the approach to the temple actually features 1,452 stone steps! We gave up climbing the massive staircase after a few steps and rather decided to get a bite at a local restaurant.
After lunch, the driver of the shuttle bus told us that there was actually a way to drive to a parking lot reserved for buses, which was located just a hike away from the temple. When he saw that I was carrying a camera bag and a couple of cameras, the driver proposed to take a slightly longer route which passed through some nice cheery trees which he told us were already in full bloom.
Once we reached the parking lot and started walking down to Horai-ji temple, the sun was already low, and the long shadows made the landscape surrounding us look really beautiful. 
Horai-ji temple was built in 703 by the hermit Rishu. It was venerated as a place for curing diseases by many powerful men including Takeda Shingen, a daimyo of the 16th century, and Tokugawa Ieyasu, ruler of Japan early in the 17th century. The influence of the temple has declined since the mid-19th century, however, when the samurai rule of Japan came to an end, with the result that only the sanctuary, Nio-mon ("Deva King Gate"), bell tower, Okuno-in (inner shrine), Ko-do (small hall), and two small annexes remain today. 
The hike gave us some appetite, so it was with great pleasure that, after we got back at the hotel, we got ready for another delicious dinner together.
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