Kimiidera temple in Wakayama city is often overlooked during sakura season in preference for the the castle, despite it only being a few kilometres walk (or a quicker bus trip) away. Going with Japanese friends who were first timers (despite being born here) I, on my third visit, got to be the (only occasionally smug) tour guide.
Built into the side of a mountain, Kimiidera is leg-achingly vertical. The view at the top, after scaling 231 steps, is best enjoyed after the rapid beating of your heart subsides. It is definitely worth the effort, as visitors peak down through pink clouds at the roofs of temples below, or enjoy the panoramic view of Wakayama and the ocean.
The temple complex sprawls along three tiers, and is fun to explore at any time of year. At each level, small stalls sell souvenirs, good luck charms and food. There are nooks to hang ema, wooden prayer tablets, and branches already knotted with O-mikuji fortunes.
Near the main temple building is a statue of a Buddha carrying tiny, crochet hat covered babies, symbolic of children lost in a miscarriage. People who have suffered a miscarriage can pray here, and wet the statue with water.
For physical aches and pains, there is a statue of Binzuru-san. You are meant to rub the part of Binzuru’s body which matches the sore area on your own. My Japanese friend wanted to know where she should rub for ‘stress’.
The Wakayama Tourist Organisation provides a good map and train directions. The entrance fee for adults was 200 yen, though if you’re driving the cost of parking is an additional 500 yen. A separate area within the complex housing a great golden Kannon statue and some historical artifacts including a some ukiyo-e, wood block, prints is an extra 200 yen.
During cherry blossom season, carpet covered wooden pallets are put out for picnickers to enjoy freely, and a small shop sells beer, yakitori and okonomiyaki, though many people bring their own food and drinks to enjoy while relaxing amongst the gorgeous scenery.