Ichibata YakushiBy Laura Payne
Founded over 1,000 years ago, Ichibata Yakushi is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in Shimane Prefecture. It’s a pilgrimage site and a popular autumn leaf viewing destination among other claims to fame, making it a must-see for culture and nature lovers. Whenever you visit, there is always something to see, do or learn here.
History and Pilgrimages
The story of Ichibata Yakushi begins with a fisherman named Yoichi. One day, he discovered a statue of Yakushi Nyorai—also called the Medicine Buddha—in the sea and brought it home. This sparked a chain of events that resulted in the sight of Yoichi’s blind mother being healed. Yoichi then entered the Buddhist priesthood and Ichibata Yakushi was founded in the year 894 to enshrine Yakushi Nyorai.
Since then, people have visited the temple to pray for eye health, safety or the healing of other ailments. Ichibata Yakushi also earned a place in the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage, the Shimane Peninsula’s Forty-Two Bay Pilgrimage and the Izumo Shinbutsu Pilgrimage.
The Temple Today
One of the most prominent features of Ichibata Yakushi is its location. Perched 200 meters up a mountainside, visitors are treated to panoramic views of Lake Shinji and the Chugoku Mountain Range. Surrounding forests are also loved for their stunning red and yellow hues during autumn.
Koreicha (tea brewed with local well water and tea leaves) is another draw for visitors. Often used as an offering during prayers, koreicha is believed to have special properties, and visitors can either sample some near the temple office or buy a tokkuri (ceramic bottle) to take some home. Plain well water and bags of loose-leaf koreicha are also available for purchase.
For those who want to learn more about Buddhist practices or take time to clear their minds, the temple regularly holds sessions of zazen meditation and shakyo (copying sutras by hand).
Overnight Stays and Shopping
Located next to the temple grounds, Mount Ichibata Cottage offers accommodations to overnight visitors. These cottages are best for pairs or small groups, and guests have the privilege of enjoying a sauna and meals made with local ingredients.
Whether you stay overnight or not, another place to explore is the shopping street between the temple grounds and main parking lot. Here, you can buy souvenirs, have meals at restaurants and try local delicacies like Ichibata manju (sweet red bean paste buns stamped with the temple’s symbol).