Kinpusenji Temple is part of a sect that practices Shugendo Mountain Asceticism. This sect has roots both in Shinto and Buddhist beliefs. Several shrines and temples in this area, including Kinpu Shrine and Yoshimizu Shrine, are associated with this sect. This temple is one of the most important ones within Shugendo.
Kinpusenji Temple is a ten-minute walk from Yoshino Ropeway's upper station, Yoshinoyama Station.
Kinpusenji Temple houses some important relics of Shugendo. Three blue-skinned statues of Zao Gongen stand seven meters tall. They represent the past, present, and future aspects of the Buddha. These 1300-year-old statues are open for viewing only in the spring and autumn season.
The temple’s main building, Zao-do Hall, is the second largest wooden structure in Japan, after Nara’s Daibutsuden.
This temple is an important stop on various pilgrimage routes. Kinpusenji Temple is the starting point of a pilgrimage to Mt. Omine. It is also a stop on various other pilgrimages. The entire area containing Kinpusenji Temple and Kinpu Shrine is a UNESCO World Heritage site as part of the pilgrimage routes in the Kii mountains.
Kinpusenji Temple offers training events from May through October. These stress physical and mental endurance of the elements, such as hanging off cliffs or sitting under waterfalls. Shugendo teaches that these activities are a path to enlightenment.
The Rengekai Toad Festival is held on July 7th every year. It commemorates a local legend of a man being changed into a toad because he didn’t take his religious practices seriously. This legend has a happy ending, as a priest later returned him to his human form. Toad and frog statues can be found around the town in memory of this story.