advertisement

Shuzenji Spa spreads along the Katsura River. In the center of the spa town, in the riverbed, is Tokko-no-yu, the oldest hot spring in Izu. According to legend, in 807 Kobo Daishi saw a young boy washing his ill father in the cold water of Katsura River. Taking pity, Kobo Daishi struck a rock in the riverbed with a tokko (iron club), causing the rock to split open and release a hot spring that cured the sick father. Today, a pavilion along the river marks the historic spot.

After discovering Tokko-no-yu, Kobo Daishi founded Shuzenji Temple just steps away from the river on a small hill. Because of its associations with the great Buddhist leader, the temple flourished and a village sprang up around it. During the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), Shuzenji Temple was associated with two tragic events involving the Minamoto clan's bitter family feud. First, Minamoto Yoritomo, who established the Kamakura shogunate but feared that his younger brother Noriyori had ambitions to take over, had Noriyori imprisoned here in 1193. Noriyori, who had proved his bravery by acting as commander in chief in the defeat of the rival Heike clan, subsequently killed himself. Later, Yoritomo's son, Yoriie, the second Kamakura shogun, was assassinated in Shuzenji while enjoying his bath at nearby Hakoyu spa, reportedly from poison added to his bath water. The present temple building dates from 1883, when it was rebuilt following a mysterious fire. The Shuzenji Treasure House contains items relating to the temple, including the tokko said to have belonged to Kobo Daishi and Yoriie's death mask. You'll also find a statue of Dainichi Nyorai, given to the temple by Hojo Masako, Yoritomo's wife, in honor of her son Yoriie. Admission to the treasure house, open daily 8:30am to 4pm, is ¥300; temple grounds are open daily 6am to 5pm.

Across the river from Shuzenji Temple is Hakoyu, now a modern hot-spring public bath housed in an eye-catching tower. You can bathe in its tub made of hinoki cypress for ¥350. It's open daily from noon to 9pm.

Nearby is the Bamboo Forest Path, a pedestrian walkway through a bamboo grove, as well as Shigetsuden, the oldest wooden structure in Izu. Yoriie's mother, Masako, ordered construction of Shigetsuden to house several thousand rolls of Buddhist scriptures, donated to console the soul of her son Yoriie. Most of the scriptures are thought to have been sent later to Edo (present-day Tokyo) by order of the Tokugawa shogunate, though one roll is displayed at Shuzenji Temple's Treasure House. Beside Shigetsuden is Minamoto Yoriie's Grave, marked by a stone pillar erected in 1703 by Shuzenji Temple's head priest to mark the 500th anniversary of Yoriie's death. The eldest son of Yoritomo, Yoriie was only 18 when he became the second shogun and was placed under house arrest in Shuzenji after only 5 years of reign. He was 23 when murdered in his bath by assassins from Kamakura. Three stones behind the pillar mark the graves of Yoriie, his concubine, and their son.

A walking trail leads across the river to Minamoto Noriyori's Grave. Other hiking trails lead through the surrounding mountain scenery, including the 5km (3-mile) Okunoin Walking Trail leading to Okunoin, where Kobo Daishi is said to have practiced meditation as a youth.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.