Iwamuro Kannon Hall
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Once acclaimed, now abandoned rock front temple on stilts!
Set on the side of a road between two rocks lies the forgotten temple dedicated to Kannon, commonly known as the Goddess of Mercy in English. Nowadays, the temple is neither famous nor acclaimed, but once upon a time it was both. Partly due to it being at one entrance to a now destroyed castle, but mainly due to being on a pilgrimage route for the Hiki area.
The current temple is a rebuild after the original got destroyed in a fire. It still marks the entrance to a trail up to the ruins of the Matsuyama castle, of which all that remains is the moat. The trail is visible from the inside the temple, which is an open structure with no gate or doors, except on the inner sanctum which is locked to protect its valuable contents. You can view that area through meshed gates. The ground floor (1st floor) of the temple is part of the natural cliff front. On either side are caves which house the 88 statues to Kannon. You can freely roam around the caves and take the very steep steps up to the first floor (2nd floor) where you can look out over Ichino River on the North side. From the South end of the temple on the ground floor you can access the trail to the castle site. Just as you exit there is a steep incline that was shaped into a staircase, with a handrail fashioned from a metal rope. It leads to a naturally formed heart shaped passage.
I quite enjoyed visiting the temple as I appreciated the architecture and settings. I think it is worth a visit if you are in the area. It is a nice complement to the nearby 100 Caves of Yoshimi, in fact they share a (free) car park.