Iwaidou hidden Buddhist Temple of Chichibu Japan

November 30, 2008 · Print This Article

I came to call it, “Iwaidou, the hidden Buddhist temple of Chichibu forest,” for hiking through the forest toward it, the temple appears all of a sudden, and appears before one’s eyes to have been dropped in from the heavens, rather than built by the hands of simple men.  Iwaidou is preceded by an equally startling “treehouse prayer wheel temple,” as I named it.  On this late November afternoon, Aya and I had all of this pretty much to ourselves, which made for a very tranquil, escapist pilgrimage in an autumn forest.

We started from Chichibi station on foot, first walking past an old mill nearby then up a steep hill to a great children’s playground, which we made good use of ourselves.  We then had lunch upon an open, grassy hill (pictured in gallery below) before formerly entering the forest and foothills that are home to Iwaidou.

This was a pleasant forest trek, with only a few ascents here and there, but with one somewhat tough 200m ascent.  After that, the signs of the hidden temple of Iwaidou begin appearing in the forms of smaller shrines and a few lone statues sitting quietly under their canopy of golden forest leaves (see above photo).  We did not disturb them.

Then, behold!  Iwaidou appears! (after climbing an out of place metal staircase)  Tucked up tightly against the back of a large, mostly large stone hill, if not for that jarring metal staircase, one could walk right by it if approaching from its rear.  However, just turning one’s head to the left offers a majestic and serene, if not aging, structure.  

Iwaidou, the hidden Buddhist forest temple of Chichibu, offers a magical afternoon not that far from Tokyo.


An old mill in Chichibu A very rare grassy hill, found in Chichibu The start of the forest hiking path near Chichbu station
Parts of the forest had great foliage (autumn colors). Much of the hike was spent crunchily walking on a carpet of dry, fallen leaves.  Fun! There was a random sheep farm out in the middle of the hiking path.
Tibet is Tibet at Iwaidou Temple in Chichibu Saitama Japan A once majestic mountain now being clear-cut, a true crime against nature. The clear cutting of the mountain is causing rock slides.
A haikyo bridge along the trail. Signs of the Buddha appeared as we hiked deeper into the forest All of a sudden in the middle of nature a steep metal staircase arose.
This is a Buddhist prayer wheel up in a treehouse of a structure. I do not believe these were goings, I forgot to ask Aya. I really felt like being in a treehouse inside this Buddhist prayer wheel structure.
A lone hidden Buddha in Chichibu Saitama Japan The Buddha is content to sit even where there is no view. A fake rock mass obstucts the view of Iwaidou Temple
Iwaidou Temple, the hidden Buddhist temple of the forest. Jason and Aya, getting blinded by the sun, hence the strange faces.  


8 Responses to “Iwaidou hidden Buddhist Temple of Chichibu Japan”

  1. on November 30th, 2008 6:08 PM

    That takes me back – my wife’s folks are from Chichibu, and many years ago I decided to do the 34 Kannon temple pilgrimage round the town. I remember Iwaidou, number 26, very well. Looks like you had fantastic weather for it!


    Jason Collin Reply:

    Very good memory Christ, number 26 indeed. Do you remember how long it took you to visit all 34 temples? We hope to go back and visit some more in December.

    I guess you must have seen the fire festival? We are thinking of going to check that out on December 6th.


    Chris (i-cjw.com) Reply:

    It took about 10 days because a) it was mid-August when the temperature was hitting 40 degress and b) I was a lazy student at that point, with plenty of summer vacation to fill and a penchant for not getting up till noon… I think it would usually take 4-6 days though.

    The fire festival is great, although sadly I can’t go this year. You do know it’s on the 3rd Dec though?


    Jason Collin Reply:

    Ah, thanks for the heads up on the date of the fire festival…I didn’t check it out in detail until you mentioned it, I just thought it would be the first weekend of December. Guess I’ll be missing it unfortunately.

    Hiking around those no doubt humid forests as well in 40-degree weather is nothing I’d try to tackle in less than 10 days either!

  2. on December 1st, 2008 12:18 PM

    Great pictures again. I wonder how active that temple is? Is there a lone monk who lives there? Worshipers? Many pilgrims?


    Jason Collin Reply:


    The inside of the temple looked in fairly good condition, without any noticeable huge buildup of dust, but also no plate of fruit either. It would be a good place for meditation I think, as it is high up and secluded, but also no real view from that high point, so one wouldn’t get distracted just staring off into the distance.

    I think quite a few people make the pilgrimage to all 34 temples, but there must be a specific season for it I bet.


  3. on December 6th, 2008 12:44 AM

    […] been other places, like Chichibu, where the ginko trees long have since turned yellow, and I guess Shinjuku’s, in their […]

  4. on August 31st, 2016 7:25 AM

    I relish, result in I found exactly what I used to be taking a look for.

    You have ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day.
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    nẵng, furama danang


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