On my latest visit to northern Hyogo, I was lucky enough to visit Daijoji. This secluded temple is a veritable treasure trove of Buddhist art.
Daijoji is located in Kasumi, half an hour west of Kinosaki Onsen by train. (The town of Kasumi is also worth visiting for its delicious Sea of Japan crab. Thousands of Japanese visit Kasumi to eat crab during this time of year.)
The temple structure is lovely and has an unusual history. The main building was designed and built by Ohkyo (1733-1795), an influential painter of the Edo period. He and his disciples designed the building layout and painted the sliding doors so that each room creates a unique landscape, and opening and closing the many doors reveals a whole Buddhist universe in miniature. Each room has a meaning based on its position relative to the Kannon Bosatsu (Guan Yin) statue housed in the temple. This is a triumph of three-dimensional Japanese art and demonstrates the significance of the use of space in Japanese design.
The priest, Mr. Yamasoba, is an expert on Japanese art and is devoted to the paintings of Ohkyo. When you visit, he will give you a unique English-language guided tour of the paintings, peppered with his personal opinions and stories.
He has also built an impressive English website for the temple, including a Flash-based virtual tour of the rooms of the temple. Highly worth checking out, and may motivate you to see the real thing when you visit Kinosaki Onsen or other locations in northern Hyogo: http://museum.daijyoji.or.jp/en/00kyaku/00kyaku.html
Hours: 9 AM – 4 PM.
Address: 860 Kasumi-ku Mori, Kami-cho, Mikata-gun, Hyogo 669-6545
Website: http://museum.daijyoji.or.jp/en/index.html (English), http://www.daijyoji.or.jp/main/index.html (Japanese)
How To Get There
Take the JR San-in Line 33 minutes from Kinosaki Onsen to Kasumi Station.
The temple is a 5-minute taxi ride from the station.