This article introduces the pilgrimage course to go around 4 temples in Tohoku that Ennin founded in the 9th Century. By traveling around these temples, you can follow the path of the famous poet Matsuo Basho & feel the history and nature of Tohoku.
What is “Shiji Kairo”?
Shiji Kairo is a pilgrimage course to go around 4 temples that Ennin founded; Risshaku-ji in Yamagata prefecture, Chuson-ji & Motsu-ji in Hiraizumi Iwate prefecture, and Zuiganji in Matsushima Miyagi prefecture. The famous poet in the Edo period Matsuo Basho also visited these temples in his most famous work Oku no Hosomichi, so visiting these four temples also follow the path of Matsuo Basho traveled.
How to start Shiji Kairo
Get a special shuincho (朱印帳) for Shiji Kairo from one of the 4 temples. Shuincho is a book sold at temples to collect shuin (朱印), which is similar to stamps that prove that you have visited the temple.
It is more polite and respectful if you bring wagesa (輪袈裟) or juzu (数珠) , Buddhist accessories, with you but it is okay to get the shuin without them. There are goshuinjo (御朱印所) a place to get shuin in each temple, so visit goshuinjo and ask for shuin. By collecting all 4 shuin after visiting 4 temples, the last temple’s chief priest gives you a special shikishi (色紙) with signs of the temple on it. The design of shikishi from each temple differs so some people who are energetic go around 4 times and collect all designs!
There are no any fixed routes so you can start whichever temple you want.
Yamadera Risshakuji, Yamagata prefecture
Risshakuji is a Tendai sect temple located in Yamagata-shi, Yamagata prefecture. It’s also called “Yamadera”, meaning mountain temple. The thousand step climb through the cedar tree is worth making to the temples, and the at the top, the view is breathlessly beautiful. On the way to the top, there are lots of stone Buddhas and small temples, which is very unusual and photogenic. Matsuo Basho visited this place and his most famous poem was written here; “ah this silence / sinking into the rocks / voice of cicada”.
4456-1 Yamadera Yamagata-shi, Yamagata prefecture
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Adults 300 yen, Treasure house 200yen
Zuiganji, Matsushima, Miyagi prefecture
Zuigan-ji is located near Matsushima, the famous location as one of the Three Great Views of Japan. Matsushima can be easily accessed from Sendai, about 40 minutes by train.
Chonai-91 Matsushima Matsushima-machi, Miyagi-gun, Miyagi-ken
January 8:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
February 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
March 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
April-September 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
October 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
November 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
December 8:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
*Last entry is 30 minutes before closing
Adult 700yen, Children 400yen
Chusonji, Hiraizumi, Iwate prefecture
Chusonji was registered to one of the UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011, together with Motsuji. Over 3,000 National Treasures and Important Cultural Property is stored here, including the still shining beautiful Golden Pavilion. Chusonji is a treasury of Heian art.
Koromonoseki-202 Hiraizumi, Hiraizumi-chō, Nishiiwai-gun, Iwate prefecture
Summer (March 1st to November 3rd) 8:30 a.m. 5:00 p.m.
Winter (November 4th to end of February) 8:30 a.m. 4:30 p.m.
Adult 800yen, only Golden Pavilion and Sankozo Museum need fees.
Motsuji, Hiraizumi, Iwate prefecture
Motsuji is about 20 minutes walk from Chusonji. Motsuji is also registered to UNESCO World Heritage site. Beautiful garden surrounded by the pond in the center is a must see. Especially in the autumn when leaves get colored is the most beautiful time to visit Motsuji.
Hiraizumi-chō, Nishiiwai-gun, Iwate-ken 029-4102
8:30 a.m. 5:00 p.m.
November 5th toApril 4th 8:30 a.m. 4:30 p.m.
Adult 500 yen, ticket includes entry to the Treasure House
Enjoy Tohoku’s history, view, food, and nature while going around the temples by doing Shiji Kairo.