The Salad Bowl - The English Newspaper of Shizuoka City, Japan.    Vol. V, No. 11. Dec. 1997.
A temple hall near the top of Mt. Akiwa Historic Sites in Shizuoka:

Akiwa san: A Place of Power

According to local legend, in the distant part a young couple lived in a village in central Japan. They wanted very much to have a child, but had no success. Eventually they decided to practise austerities. After three years of austere prayer and fasting, a son with exceptional wisdom was born. At the age of ten he became a monk and by fifteen he was reputedly enlightened.

Reputedly, the young monk gained supernatural powers. He could fly through the air or change his body size. Guided by mystic intuition, he decided to "hop" from his home in Nagano to a remote village in Enshuu province. A center for worship was established where he landed, which was a remote mountain valley up the Tenryuu River.

Centuries later during the Sengoku era, the son of Takeda Shingen ordered a local warlord to transport a thousand boulders from Enshuu to Sodeshi. By keeping the warlord busy with this project, Takeda was able to insure that his potential rival had little time or money for military exploits. In this way, Akiwa came to Shizuoka.

For many generations the Akiwa center prospered, combining the native Shinto and Buddhist practises. Seven generations after it came to Sodeshi, a temple priest divided the land among his two sons and a second temple was established. Two generations later there was a family split and a third temple emerged. Today there are three Buddhist temples around Mt. Akiwa: Minamoto-in, Fukusho-in and Eisho-in. Since the Taisho era all three temples have been associated with the Daigo-ha branch of the Shingon sect. The administration of the two main structures at the summit of Mt. Akiwa alternates each year between these three temples.

On the 1st, 16th, and 28th day of each month a special ceremony is held to honor a deity who represents the fiery aspects of Buddha known as Fudou-Myouou. The sage Akiwa-san is said to have embodied many of Fudou-Myouou's qualities. Fudou-Myouou is usually depicted as a fiery being surrounded by flame and he is said to have power over that element. Fire fighters have hold this mountain in respect. There is an imposing granite monolith dedicated to fire fighters who died in the line of duty midway up the mountain. On the 1st, 16th, and 28th a priest also chants ancient scriptures while offering sticks of wood to a ritual fire. Persons attending this ceremony can wish for the safety of their family, success with their children, the cure of illness, or virtually anything. For a fee, they can also have their fortunes told.

The main festival at Mt. Akiwa is held each Dec. 15 - 16. About 100,000 people visit Akiwa san during this period and there are numerous stalls selling trinkets. On the evening of the 16th a bonfire is set aflame at an area half-way up the mountain. Once the flames settle down, some people walk over the hot ashes to ward off ill-fortune.

To reach Mt. Akiwa, take Route 1 towards Okitsu. Turn left at the third traffic signal from the Shimizu JR Stn. When you come to an irregular 5-way traffic intersection, go straight towards the mountain. It takes 20-25 minutes on foot to reach this area. You can also take a bus bound for Ihara and get off at the 5th stop, which is Akiwa san-mae. Since buses depart only once an hour, however, it is often easier to walk. There is a fine view of Shimizu Harbor from the summit of Mt. Akiwa. This area also offers a refreshing patch of green.

- Tim Newfields

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Copyright (c) 1997 by Tim Newfields and the Shizuoka City International Association