Hasedera Temple (長谷寺) is located in the mountains east of central Sakurai. The temple was founded in 686, and now serves as the head temple of the Bunzan school of Shingon Buddhism. Situated in a valley, Hasedera has over 30 buildings built up along the hillside that visitors can spend a long time exploring. The main hall is at the very top and offers a great view of the surroundings from its balcony, particularly during the cherry blossom (sakura) and autumn color (koyo) seasons.
The approach to Hasedera consists of a small temple town, whose restaurants and merchants have been catering to temple visitors for centuries. At the base of the temple is the Niomon Gate with statues of guardian deities housed within. A long, covered corridor with almost 400 steps leads up to the main hall, passing a variety of other buildings. From the top, the view can be breathtaking, and during cherry blossoms or autumn colors the view itself can be reason enough to make the journey.
From the main hall balcony most of the temple's many other buildings can be seen. To the west is a five story pagoda, which gets surrounded by cherry blossoms in spring and colorful foliage in autumn. Monks actively study at Hasedera, and the living quarters and libraries are part of the temple grounds. Sometimes the monks themselves may be seen walking between buildings in their robes. There are also a number of gardens which are visible, and can be observed more closely on the way back down.
Hasedera's main object of worship is a twelve meter tall wooden statue of the Kannon deity, which stands in the main hall but is only partially visible. In the early 8th century, a monk came across a large tree near Hase village and decided to use it for carving a statue. Because the tree was so big, he carved two statues. One became the temple's object of worship, while the other was cast into the ocean in hope that it would reappear and save people elsewhere. Fifteen years later it washed upon shore near Kamakura, where another Hasedera Temple was built to house and venerate the statue.
Hasedera Temple is a 15-20 minute walk from Hasedera Station on the Kintetsu Osaka Line. From Sakurai Station, Hasedera Station can be reached in a short train ride (10 minutes, 210 yen one way, covered by the Kintetsu Rail Pass and Kansai Thru Pass). There are also direct trains from Osaka's Uehonmachi Station.
9:00 to 17:00 (October to November, March)
9:00 to 16:30 (December to February)