Kanshin-ji Temple in Kawachinagano, southern Osaka Prefecture, is popular among local people for its year-round beauty and unique architecture. It is also home to a grave containing the head of one of Japan’s most respected samurai who led the armies of the Southern Court during the Nanboku-cho civil war of the early 14th century.
It is particularly impressive in the fall with a great abundance of momiji (maple) trees. These catch the Autumn sun in just the right way to make for some of the most dramatic and bright colors in the prefecture.
This temple also holds a number of registered national treasures. The most well known of these is its Kondo (main hall), which is built in a unique style that blends Japanese, Chinese and Indian Buddhist architecture.
Ever eaten kushi-age?
The relatively small grounds are a pleasant place to stroll around and they have a small museum showcasing a number of ancient Buddhist artifacts. Kanshin-ji also offer classes in shakyo (copying Buddhist sutras by hand).
While it was founded some time in the 9th Century, Kanshin-ji’s most active time came 500 years later. The temple grounds were extensively renovated by the renowned samurai, Kusunoki Masashige who was born nearby and studied at the temple in his youth.
He died a heroic, but avoidable death at the Battle of Minatogawa where he led a charge of just a few hundred warriors against several thousand enemies. He was an exceptional strategist and advised the Emperor that this attack would be folly, but it was the Emperor’s will that he fight. After the battle, his head was sent to Kanshin-ji temple and buried in a special grave called a kubi-zuka. Within Japan, he is known as the epitome of samurai devotion to their lord and as such, Kusunoki is the only samurai honored with a statue at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo.
At the back of the temple, a long flight of steps ascend into the trees lead to the eerily silent Hinoo-no-misasagi. This is the grave of the Go-Murakami, the 97th Emperor of Japan who led the Southern Court during the Nanboku-cho period that pitted two rival branches of the Imperial Household against each other.
Kanshin-ji temple is a perfect place to visit for both nature and history lovers with a heady mix of plum, cherry blossom and maple trees surrounding many monuments dating back over 1,000 years.