Lose yourself in the beauty of this peaceful mountainside temple.
About halfway up the slopes of Mount Ikoma in Nara prefecture lies the beautiful temple complex of Hozan-ji, shrouded in incense smoke and intrigue. Dedicated to Kangiten, a Buddhist god of joy and prosperity, it’s particularly popular with those praying for success and luck in business.
Despite the ease of access from Osaka and Nara cities, Hozanji Temple remains firmly off the tourist track. This means it retains an air of tranquility even during the holiday season, giving visitors the time and space to fully explore all the small nooks and interesting features in the complex.
These features include different halls and altars in the main area, several smaller shrines in the forest behind it, and a red pagoda that you can see peeping through the trees when you enter. In September the temple is host to a spectacular autumn lantern festival. Thousands of tiny glowing lanterns line the steps and paths, transforming the area into a scene that could be taken straight from a Studio Ghibli movie.
A cable car runs from Ikoma station up the mountainside to the temple, or you can make the short pilgrimage up the quiet streets on foot. A long set of steps takes you past traditional guesthouses and local restaurants before arriving at Hozan-ji.
Those eager to stretch their legs further can carry on up the hiking trail behind the temple to the summit of Mount Ikoma, which is also accessible using the cable car. At the top, there’s a small amusement park which is great for families with young children. The park is free to enter and the grounds are open year-round, but the rides only operate during the summer months.
Know before you go
The temple is free to enter and is open from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (4 p.m. from October-March). The cable car to Hozanji station costs ¥290. Alternatively, you can buy a ticket to Ikomasanjo station at the top of the mountain for ¥360, which enables you to get off at Hozanji and explore the temple before continuing to the summit.