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Tucked away just a short distance from Toyota City is the remarkable temple of Shimpukuji. The temple was built in the 6th century after a Buddhist exile named Masachi Monobe witnessed a ‘nyorai’ or incarnation of Buddha, emerge from a natural fountain in the region. Shimpukuji is said to retain miraculous powers. Even to this day people come to the fountain to pray for healing; especially those in search of a cure for ailments affecting the eyes.

Visitors whom are merely curious won’t be disappointed either. Of course all the standard features of a temple are there; the likenesses of Buddha, stone statues, and a sense of wellbeing hard to find in the hustle and bustle of city life. However, Shimpukuji is a startling blend of the modern and the classic. No where is this more noticeable than the bonsai and artefact museum located beside the main temple; a beautifully constructed building complementing its ancient surroundings. Inside the bonsai garden some of the most beautiful bonsai can be viewed, while downstairs artefacts from the Edo period, one of the most culturally rich periods in Japan’s long history, are displayed.
Shimpukuji is also home to a host of Buddha, housed in 6 temples scattered around the undulating grounds.

At the base of the main temple stands a small but particularly famous character; Ikkyu-san. According to legend Ikkyu-san was a monk with incredible intellect. People wishing to improve their IQ rub the statue’s head, imparting wisdom when repeating the process on their own head. The main temple itself is home to Izumi, Buddha of water and the reason the Shimpukuji temple was erected here in the first place. People in need of healing come here to pray.
Outside the temple, an abundance of flora greets the eye. From bamboo to cherry trees, Shimpukuji really is a part of nature. Guests can stroll throughout the temple’s grounds, shaded by lush tree canopies while admiring the forests of bamboo hedging the lower paths. If you aren't afraid of heights, investigate the walkway 10 metres above ground which stretches from the temple itself to a common dining area where visitors can sample this temple’s specialty; ‘chikuzen ryori’ or bamboo cuisine.

Traditionally, temples were considered by the weary as a place of refuge from cold and hunger. This spirit is carried on today with modern day travellers invited to partake in some of the bamboo delicacies made by the temple’s second in command, Mr Zenkyou Omura. On offer are a selection of bamboo dishes, tofu products and fresh tempura, just to name a few. Although bamboo has little taste, there is something in the way Mr. Omura prepares each dish that makes you reach for more. Preparation aside, bamboo is very healthy, low in calories, high in fibre and the presentation of each dish is exceptional. Carrying the bamboo theme throughout the meal, each dish is served with cured bamboo, fashioned into cups, dishes and trays. Whilst dining, guests here can enjoy a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside, the greenery of the mountains slowing giving way to Toyota city in the distance.

Shimpukuji is a breath of fresh air in a smog filled day; it’s a retreat from lessons, computer screens or commuting; it’s an exploration into Japanese history and culture; it’s a place to relax and appreciate the less complex of life’s wonders.

During my short visit I found myself making excuses not to leave and when I had to, realized I was already making plans to return in the near future.

To enjoy the Shimpukuji lunch a reservation is necessary. Reservations can be made on
0564 45 4656. To simply take in the sights Shimpukuji has to offer, no reservation is required.

Basic lunchtime set costs ¥1,260 which includes plain steamed rice.
(¥1,470 if you want to upgrade to bamboo rice.)

WANT TO VISIT SHUMPUKUJI? click here to download map and directions