Inside the eBook
Read an excerpt for temple No. 2, Kimii-dera:
Ain't no sunshine in Woodstock

We had myriad expectations for our two-day trip to Kimii Temple and the coastal city Wakayama. The narrative enticed us with insights into the sunken kingdom of Ki, wondrous natural springs and sly merchants. Guidebooks raved about the area as a Grade A vacation paradise. One even promised the Japanese Woodstock. What’s more? There was a samurai castle, a marina city, and a prominent noodle soup with a talk show career. All that and yet at the heart of the matter was something colorless, namely water. Right from the start, the rain set the tone. We stepped out at a small train station as planned — a few kilometers away from everything, but right in the middle, between: the city center, the temple and an ominous amusement park peninsula on Japan’s Inland Sea. Our plan was to take everything in on one big loop. Anyways, what could a little rain do?

We started out hiking in the direction of the coast, cutting straight towards an old residential neighborhood. The traditional wooden houses and the neighborhood temple had seen better days. Quite a few houses were empty and looked like they had been abandoned for some time. While there was the occasional farmer or sales person peddling their wares on the covered streets, we never came across any shoppers. The area was oozing with the charm of a dusty, black-and-white film, which could still beguile an audience despite scratches and tears. Yeah, Japan may have once come across that way, when the construction chaos still wasn’t dominant, when the power lines didn’t stretch like spider webs over the houses, and the world was as it should be. The melancholy of the wind and rain deepened in pregnant clarity as we left the old neighborhood as if in acknowledgement of our sentiments.

Soaking wet and half-frozen, we reached the other side of the world. It began a paltry two-kilometers away at the other end of a pier. There lay the marina city with its glittering high-rise façades, kitschy wedding chapels, beauty salons and wellness hotels. Then we discovered Europe, Europe the amusement park and honeymoon destination with Mediterranean flair, three hundred square meters decked out with pastel-colored half-timbered houses and Venetian gondolas. Maybe it wasn’t the high season, or the weather was too awful, because Europe lay deserted before us as well. We only ran into life along the obligatory arcades with souvenir shops and eateries. Spry seniors had gathered around to marvel at a master chef, who was adeptly dismantling a giant tuna into pieces of sushi. There were many stands with Satsumas and mandarin products like jams, desserts and all kinds of sweets. Wakayama prefecture is, after all, the main growing area for this winter fruit. The history of the temple later revealed to us the initiator of this tradition. After we had warmed ourselves up, and our clothes were to some extent dry, we continued on to the temple by city bus. On the bus we were alone once more.

Kimii-dera is nestled on the side of a hill. The steep staircase which ascends immediately behind the entrance gate bears a name of its very own: Keichen-Zaka. Zaka means slope. It’s also found in the name of the city Osaka, which can be translated as ‘large slope.’ Kechien, in turn, is a Buddhist catchall, which describes all of the actions towards becoming a Buddha. Therefore, the steps of Kimii-dera are a stairway to Nirvana.


Back in our room, we made ourselves comfortable on the rolled-out futons and buried ourselves in the stories involving the temple. We were soon wondering if it wasn’t the ruler of the sea who had drummed up the wind and rain, because he was craving company. If anything, it was his mount, a water dragon, who was springing out of the water to try and root out the monk IKKŌ SHŌNIN. 1300 years ago, that monk supposedly followed the dragon to the ocean floor in order to instruct the lonely underworld dweller in Buddhist wisdom. The monk returned to the surface after some time richly rewarded. The gifts – a temple bell, a priest’s staff and other valuable ceremonial objects – found their places in the treasury of Kimii-dera, it is said. Among the gifts were seven cherry tree seedlings, which, according to legend, the monk planted near the temple. To date, their numbers have grown to about seven hundred. The cherry trees of Kimii-dera are among the first to begin blooming in the Kansai region. Their magnificence must surely attract hoards of visitors to Wakayama then.

Excerpt from the Chapter: Poetry, Trivia and Travel Directions

Kanji: 紀三井寺 - Kimii-dera: Temple of the Three Springs in the land of Ki.

It is a long way
back home.
Yet, here in Temple Kimii
it seems that
the capital of flowers
is not so far away.

The temple's story is connected with the ancient realm of the land of Ki, with miraculous springs and clever business men. Not far from the temple grounds, there is a Samurai castle worth visiting. The best season to come is when the many cherry trees are in full bloom.

The temple is located in the south of the city of Wakayama. The address is 和 歌 山 県 和 歌 山 市 紀 三 井 寺1,201. The temple belongs to a local sect. Kimii-dera's main image of worship is an eleven headed Kannon (Jūichimen-Kannon). The temple is open throughout the year from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The entrance fee is 300 yen.


January, 1-3: Hatsumōde. First temple visit of New Year to pray for one's family, traffic safety and the like. February, 3 or 4: Setsubun. Celebration of last day of winter. Evil spirits are driven out by throwing soy beans. Try to catch a package and grip your fortune. March, 20 to April, 20: Cherry blossom festival. July, 7: Tanabata. Star Festival and Gion Festival with singing and fortune lottery. From noon to 6 p.m. August, 15: O-Bon Festival. Memorial service for the dead. Lanterns will be hang and a ceremonial bonfire takes place. From noon to 6 p.m. November, 9th day of 9th months in the lunar calendar: Kiku no sekku. Day of Chrysanthemum. Flowers are offered to protect against bad health or for the rescue from pain.


Take JR Hanwa Rapid Line from Tennōji  to Wakayama. It takes about 61 minutes. Change to local trains of JR Kinokuni Line. After 7 minutes the train reaches Station Kimiidera. From here, it takes 9 minutes to walk to the temple grounds. Follow directions displayed at the station.