Along with Hasedera and Omiwa-jinja Shrine, Abe Monju-in Temple, in the rural town of Sakurai, is among the oldest sites of worship in Japan.
The temple is nearest to the JR Sakurai Station, with convenient access from Nara, Kyoto, or Osaka.
From Tokyo or Kyoto: The JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line takes between 2 hours and 15-45 minutes to the Kyoto Station. Change here for the Kintetsu Line to Sakurai Station via Yamatoyagi. The journey takes about 1 hour.
From Osaka: From the Osaka Station, take the Osaka Loop Line to Tsuruhashi, followed by the Kintetsu Line to the Sakurai Station. The journey takes about 1 hour.
From Nara: From the Nara Station, take the JR Manyo Maharoba Line to the Sakurai Station. The journey takes approximately 30 minutes.
Though the main building of the temple was rebuilt several times due to fires, the current structure was erected in 1665
The Omote-Sanmon, or main gate, of the temple has never been closed since its foundation
There is free Wi-Fi throughout the temple grounds
Though destroyed by fire several times, Abe Monju-in Temple was founded as early as 645, which makes it one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Japan. It enshrines Monju Bosatsu, the Buddhist deity of wisdom. Therefore, it is no wonder that students flock here to pray and leave wishes for good results on wooden tablets before their exams.
Enter the main hall to see the statue of Monju Bosatsu itself, which is a masterpiece of Kamakura-period (1192-1333) sculpture by Kaikei, well-known for his two fearsome guardian deities that stand in the gate at Todai-ji Temple in Nara. The statue that depicts Monju mounted on a lion is some 7 meters in height, accompanied by four attendants. All of these works are National Treasures.
Abe Monju-in Temple also marks the birthplace of Abe no Seimei, who was an onmyoji or advisor to the government on such matters as auspicious events, the spiritual calendar, and quelling of evil spirits, which was based upon yin-yang principles and astrology. Referred to as “Japan's Merlin,” he has been made popular more recently by his appearance in several manga comics and films. This fact has made the temple a destination for pilgrimages by anime and manga fans.
Don't forget to claim your bowl of matcha tea and sweets, which is included in the entry fee.