Zenpoji is the local large pagoda and Buddhist temple. It is very close to Tsuruoka, where we live. It is one of the 3 largest temples in Yamagata prefecture. So, during sakura (cherry blossom) season, we decided to visit it.

This is the initial entrance to Zenpoji from the street. There is a small moat surrounding it.

In the front is also a large statue that is dressed up. Although Kim studied Buddhism a bit in college, she has no idea why they put clothes on certain statues.

Zenpoji is famous for its 5 story pagoda which was built around 1450. It's amazing that such an interesting structure is so close to home! (10 minutes by car, 25 by bicycle.)

Here is a close-up of the pagoda with Kim and the sakura blossoms in front. Cherry blossom viewing only occurs for a week or so and it is a very big thing in Japan to go and see the blossoms at various parks.

Some of the sakura trees had pieces of paper tied to them. We have seen this custom at many shrines and temples in Japan. These sakura are non-fruit bearing!

A side view of the pagoda reveals pine and cryptomeria trees.

Inside the pagoda were some gilded objects and a Buddha statue. It was pretty cool but difficult to photograph due to the entrances being gated.

After going up the stairs next to the pagoda we came to a second building complex that included this bell.

In the middle of the second level couryard was this steaming pot. Neither one of us is sure what it was doing. There was a very heavy incense smell but that could have come from other sources.

Here is a view of a second set of stairs leading from level 2 to level 1. The trees on either side were really impressive.

This was the main temple on the second level. At the time we were there, people were chanting and a drum was being rhythmically beaten. The atmosphere was amazing.

Here's an upward view of those might trees!

Back at the second level there was a small garden. It was pleasant.

At the entrance were a series of statues that looked like not-so-fierce guards. Below is the second statue.

Note that there are flames around his head. This temple is associated with the worship of ryushin, a dragon god that is the guardian of fishermen. Zenpoji is located within 4 kilometers of the Sea of Japan and the seaside villages.

This picture turned out blurry but you can see several things. There were many smaller buildings for prayer dotted throughout the temple complex. The floor is tatami which means one has to take off their shoes to enter. There is a pillow in front of the Buddha statue for people praying. There are also many other colorful statues surrounding the main Buddha.


After our trip to Zenpoji we took a bike trail that goes over Mount Takadate and visited the beach!