Japan Temples: Yomeiji Temple, Tsuwano
Yomei-ji Temple 永明寺
Yomei-ji Temple in Tsuwano in Shimane Prefecture was once a major temple of the region. During the Edo Period (1603-1867) is was known as one of the two great Soto Temples of Japan, the other being Daijo-ji in Kanazawa.
At the height of its importance more than 200 monks lived, worked, studied, and meditated here. Now the only inhabitants are a solitary priest and his wife, both very advanced in years.
Yomei-ji is situated in a narrow valley just a few minutes walk from Tsuwano train station, yet gets few visitors, most choose to stick to the main street of the town.
Tombs of the Lords of Tsuwano
After climbing the steps and going through the entrance gate one first sees the quite impressive bell tower and second gate. Then one sees what is nowadays an unusual sight, the main hall of the temple sports a thatched roof.
To the side of the main building is a graveyard containing the tombs of the successive generations of the Lords of Tsuwano, as well as the tomb of the famous novelist Mori Ogai who was a Tsuwano native.
Entrance to this part of the temple is free, but if one wants to go into the building, see the gardens, and visit the small museum and treasure room then one must hope that the elderly couple are around on that day. I have been there several times and no-one was around and so could not get in. I have also been there when the doors were open but there was no-one around to take the entrance fee.
The treasure room is not particularly interesting unless you have a keen interest in old Buddhist paraphernalia, but the garden is quite enchanting. Not particularly large but "busier" than most Zen gardens.
Yomei-ji is one of the quieter attractions in Tsuwano, impressive in its own right, but attractive also because of the quietness.
Open 8am-5pm, and entrance 300 yen, though both dependent on someone being around
Tel: 0856 72 0137
Tsuwano Access - Getting to Tsuwano
Iwami-Hagi Airport is the nearest airport, and has domestic flights to Tokyo Haneda Airport (85 mins.) and Osaka Itami Airport (65 mins.)
Tsuwano JR station is on the Yamaguchi Line, 40 minutes from Masuda, and 70 minutes from JR Ogori Station (2 hours 30 mins from Shin Osaka or 5 hours 35 mins from Tokyo). The Yamaguchi Line connects Tsuwano with the Shinkansen at Shin-Yamaguchi and then on to Hakata and the Kyushu Shinkansen.
An interesting way to arrive in Tsuwano is by the Yamaguchi Go steam train. The train makes one round trip a day from Shin-Yamaguchi station via Yamaguchi Station on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays from late March through to November.
The Yamaguchi Go steam train features carriages refurbished in a variety of different era styles. The journey takes about 2 hours each way, and stops in Tsuwano for 3 hours. Tickets are much sought after and inquiries should be made to Shin Yamaguchi or Yamaguchi JR stations.
By car, Tsuwano which is on Route 9, is about 30 minutes from Masuda, around one hour from Hagi. Express buses take 1 hour, 15 minutes to Hagi while by local bus the journey time is approximately 2 hours.