The Crimson Shrine that Changed Japan's History

Tanzan Jinja Shrine

Built in the 7th century


This shrine is located deep in the mountains, as though it were hiding from people. The conference for a coup d'état (the Isshi no Hen or Isshi incident of 645) that changed the history of Japan was probably also conducted here because of the isolated location.
Its grounds feature 17 important cultural properties, such as the world's only thirteen-storied wooden pagoda. It looks more like an elegant fort than a shrine, and one can image many battles being fought here. The bright almost blood-red of the building and the autumn foliage are very beautiful, and many people use the site for viewing autumn leaves. It is known as the model for Nikko Toshogu Shrine (Tochigi Prefecture, World Heritage Site). Enjoy the solemn air and graceful architecture of this secluded mountain site.

Isshi no Hen (Isshi incident) / 645

The Soga Clan that ruled the Imperial court grew audacious in the first half of the 7th century, plunging the nation into disarray. In order to set matters right, Fujiwara no Kamatari enticed Prince Naka no Oe to execute a coup d'etat. This led to the destruction of the Soga Clan, and the plotters then took over the regime, restored order, and brought prosperity to Japan (Taika Reform). Fujiwara no Kamatari was responsible for Isshi no Hen, and is enshrined here. He is the ancestor of a famed aristocratic family in Japan, the Fujiwara Clan. The Fujiwara Clan ruled Japan for about 400 years afterwards, and continued as powerful aristocrats for 1200 years.
Tokugawa Ieyasu (whose line ruled Japan for 400 years as the Edo Shogunate) respected Fujiwara no Kamatari and used this shrine as a model in building Nikko Toshogu Shrine.


8:30 - 16:30
Admission Fee
Adult ¥600 / Elementary school students ¥300
319 Tounomine, Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture
30 minutes by bus from Sakurai Station / Fare ¥490
Bus Stop Sakurai Station South Entrance → (Sakurai Community Bus Tounomine Line 25 minutes) → Bus Stop Tanzan Jinja → (5 minutes on foot) → Tanzan Jinja Shrine
* Note that there is only one bus per hour (approximately)
Sightseeing Duration
1 hour - 2 hours

Kannonji Temple

Constructed 8th century


Located around the 600m mark of the 851.7m tall Mount Otowa, this secluded temple and Buddhist convent is at the end of an hour-long walk up a mountain road almost impassable by vehicles.

Associated with stories of miraculous healings of eye afflictions, the temple is affectionately known as Otowa no Kannon-san (“-san” being a respectful honorific.)

The nuns of the temple treat visitors to tea and sweets, soothing the weariness of the trail up.

If you climb further up the mountain from the temple, you’ll arrive at an observation platform. The view here is truly fabulous, and on a clear day you can see as far as the ocean.

Time here flows with an incredible calm and silence. It's probably best to take your time and enjoy a leisurely climb up to the temple.

Advice for Visiting the Temple

  1. Cars, motorcycles, and other motor vehicles are not permitted on the road up to Otowasan Kannonji Temple. Please visit the temple on foot. The road to the temple goes up a steep slope and is unpaved. It’s best to come wearing comfortable clothes; e.g., a backpack, sneakers, etc. You’ll work up a sweat, so it’s handy to have a hand towel ready.
    Go up the road a little ways from the bus stop and you’ll see a sign and a bridge on your left. Turn left and cross the bridge.
    Once you’ve crossed the bridge, go up the road to the right. The sloping road continues up for about 20 minutes. Once you’ve passed through the village, you’ll see a parking lot. This is as far as cars can come.

  2. The road branches into two pathways. Take the road sloping up on your left. There are canes at the entrance to the road. Feel free to use one.

  3. About every 108 meters on both sides of the road are stone lanterns.

  4. After you’ve walked about 20 minutes, you’ll see a little bridge. It’s only a bit farther to Kannonji Temple.

  5. Once you see the staircase, you’re almost there. Good work!


Your choice
Admission Fee
Voluntary donation
Open all days
832 Minamiotowa, Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture
About 60 min. by bus and foot from Sakurai Station (Fare: ¥330)
Sightseeing Duration
60 min.