Onogi Temple Tour

Onogi Temple Tour

Added In: Articles › Culture

Address: Nishi ku, Nagoya city

Betsy Headley

Awaken your imagination and ignite your sense of history. Take a self-guided walking (or pedaling) tour through Nishi Ward, north of Nagoya center. Explore a richly woven tapestry of historic and spiritual threads hiding beyond Nagoya high rises. This is your chance to go on a personal journey into the past, without the noise and bustle of the city.

Follow quaint, narrow streets that meander through much of Nishi-ku. Linger awhile and discover the unique qualities of each Shinto shrine, Buddhist temple, and significant landmark along the way. Don’t overlook the tiled-roof homes and flower boxes brimming with lavender and yellow pansies, and Bonsai-like evergreens reaching over walls.

Shonai Green Park, an expansive park featuring a lovely lake, rose gardens, tree groves, and impressive, tropical green house, is located behind Exit 2 of Shonai Ryokuchi Koen Station, Tsurumai Line. Bordering on the west of the park is an especially diverse area. Several shrines and temples reveal distinctive art and architecture. Otai Village (Saka Otai Historic Townscape Conservation District), an ancient community restored after the 1827 earthquake, provides an important view of the past.

Other points of interest lie northeast of the park. Set in the crook of the Shonai Gawa’s arm is Oonogi district. Composed of five small chome (neighborhoods), Oonogi has numerous religious sites as well as a variety of garden and activity parks. Located in Oonogi 2, Go Cho Koen is a multi-purpose park, ideal for a pleasant respite. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy the flower gardens, abundant with butterflies reveling in their blossoms

Nestled throughout Nishi Ward’s tight knit communities are Shinto shrines, jinja, where worshippers honor their ancestors and pray to kami (Shinto gods – spirits of natural phenomena). Shinto is indigenous to Japan and reveals much about Japanese philosophy, spiritual and daily life. A towering torii gate made of stone and Cyprus, painted in bright vermilion, welcomes all visitors. Shrines reflect a deep reverence for nature in their intimately sculpted gardens and carefully placed religious objects. You can view sacred, engraved monoliths, stone lanterns, elaborate timber architecture, and centuries-old, moss-covered trees that stretch protectively over these sanctified places.

Buddhist temples, O-tera, are vibrant with color and glow warmly in the morning sun. Buddhism came later in Japanese history, and is now practiced by about half of the population. A temple entrance gate, mon, is characterized by having several pillars and a multi-tiered roof, and often has serene stone or gold-painted, guardian figures. Tourists are welcome to visit the open grounds that display meticulously groomed gardens, elegant statues, and an engraved, bronze bell suspended in an elaborate shoro (belfry).

In certain cases, a shrine or temple may share the same precinct, so it can be difficult to determine where one begins and the other ends. Both have a wealth of intriguing, ancient traditions worth investigating, and fortunately we are invited to peek into those worlds.

Although walking tours vary in kilometers, most are on level ground and not too strenuous. Each tour delivers a glimpse into Japanese culture through its fascinating places of worship. Both Shinto and Buddhism continue to be a vital part of Japanese life today.

This article provides a sampling of the myriad options available. Whatever path you choose, may you attain wabi, enjoyment of peace and tranquility, in your travels!

This writer would be remiss if a particular Japanese-owned Italian restaurant, discovered while conducting research for this article, was omitted. A serendipitous find, Grazie is located near Nakaotai Station on the JR Line. Its friendly, low-key atmosphere, typical Italian aromas and décor gave no hint of the menu’s surprises. A delicate salad of shredded daikon radish was a perfect appetizer before the specialty of the house - miso pizza. That’s right – miso! Flavorful, light miso sauce, chunks of chicken and sausage, and cheese and artichokes were topped on a thin, thin crust – absolutely scrumptious. Reasonable prices, delectable selections, and a waitress who spoke a bit of English (menu is in Japanese), capped an experience to remember and revisit. On your trek though Nishi-ku, be sure to add Grazie to your itinerary!

The following resources may prove useful in your selection of a walking course that matches your interests, time, and stamina.

1. General Nagoya Information
2. Shonai Green Park Perimeter Walking Course – 8.6 km (in Japanese)
3.    Nishi Ward Yamada Branch Office located at 358-2, Yasuji-cho, Nishi-ku, offers a free, color map of Nishi Ward. Although written in Japanese, it is a well illustrated, with helpful landmarks, and shrine and temple symbols sprinkled throughout. Parks and community resources are clearly indicated.
4.    Nishi Ward Yamada Branch Office sells a walking courses booklet for Nagoya, loosely translated, “Nagoya’s Friendly Walking Courses,” and is 330 yen. Page 55 shows a Nishi Ward course. In Japanese only, the booklet has clear illustrations and points of interest.
5.    Shonai Green Park’s Information Desk provides a free, detailed map of the “Shonai Green Park Perimeter Walking Course,” 8.6 km, with names of most sites in English. Detailed descriptions are in Japanese. Additional courses on shown on the reverse side, also in Japanese.
6.    Tsurumai Line, Shonai Ryokuchi Koen Station, Exit 2. Beside the entrance there is a hard-to-miss, permanent map posted, “Nishi Ward Historical Walking Courses, 8.6 km.” (Title only is in English.) It presents large color illustrations of twenty shrines and temples. Unfortunately, this particular map is unavailable in print form. (A digital or cell phone camera could be used to save map information.)

Onogi Temple Tour
Onogi Temple Tour
Onogi Temple Tour
Onogi Temple Tour