A Kan'non statue with eleven faces. The ten-meter-tall statue was worshipped by noblewomen and ladies-in-waiting.
Hase-dera Temple lies along the Hatsuse-gawa River in the eastern part of Sakurai City in central Nara Prefecture, and is the head temple of the Buzan sect of Shingon-shu Buddism. It is believed that this temple was founded by the priest Tokudo Shonin, who in it enshrined the Juichimen-kan'non, an eleven-faced Kan'non (Goddess of Mercy) statue, by order of the Emperor Shomu of the 8th century. The worship of the Kan'non became widely favored after the 9th century, and many noble women and ladies-in-waiting at the imperial court in Kyoto came to worship at this temple.
The main temple, built in the 'butai-zukuri' style (with corridors surrounding the building like a stage) in the mid 17th century with a donation from Tokugawa Iemitsu, is one of the largest wooden structures in Nara. You will feel the atmosphere of the olden days emanating from this structure, as well as from the bell tower and principle statue of the 10-meter tall golden Kan'non with eleven faces.
Some 7,000 Chinese peonies are planted on both sides of the 200-meter-long corridor from the Ni-o-mon Gate to the main temple. The large-flowered peonies bloom beautifully from late April to early May to welcome the many visitors. A statue of Tokudo Shonin is housed in Hoki-in Temple, which is believed to have been his retirement home. It has a 5-storied pagoda, and a Shonin's step-stone, that is believed to make your wishes come true by touching it.
In front of the gate of Hase-dera Temple is a temple town, where many souvenir shops stand. You can also enjoy bathing at the nearby Hase-dera-onsen Hot Spring.
[Rail] 2h 15 min to Kyoto Station by JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line (Nozomi), and 55 min from Kyoto to Hase-dera Station by Kintetsu Line.
*It takes 2h 45 min from Tokyo to Kyoto Station by Hikari Shinkansen.
[Rail] 45 min from Uehonmachi to Hase-dera Station by Kintetsu Osaka Line.