岩屋観音洞窟

Iwaya kan'non dōkutsu - Iwaya Kannon Cave


Useful Information

Location: Mikawamachi Nekasa, Iwakuni, Yamaguchi 740-0505.
(34.189646, 131.986960)
Open: no restrictions.
[2022]
Fee: free.
[2022]
Classification: SubterraneaCave Church
Light: n/a
Dimension:
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no, long staircase
Bibliography:
Address: Iwaya Kannon Cave, Mikawamachi Nekasa, Iwakuni, Yamaguchi 740-0505, Tel: +81-.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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History

1934 designated a National Natural Monument.
1990 water wheel built as the largest water wheel in Japan.

Description

岩屋観音洞窟 (Iwaya kan'non dōkutsu, Iwaya Kannon Cave) or 岩屋観音窟 (Iwayakan'nonkutsu, Iwaya Kannon Cave) actually means the cave where a holy man spent time and which is now a temple. Okay, that's a very cynical interpretation, but when we checked the religious caves of Japan we were astonished how similar the mechanisms are to Christian (especially Catholic) customs. There are Saints, there are pilgrimages, there are idols which are reversed. The Kannon caves are like Lourdes grottoes. And this despite the fact that Buddhism actually has no god, it's all about becoming enlightened. We have no idea how worshipping Buddha statues helps with that, and actually we guess Buddha would share our opinion.

弘法大師 (Kobo Daishi) chose a cave, carved a Kannon statue with a height of 1 shaku and 1 inch (36.4 cm) and put it in this cave. He named it 岩室山 (Iwamuroyama).

空海 (Kūkai) was a buddhist monk, civil servant, engineer, scholar, poet, artist and calligrapher. He became posthumously known as 弘法大師 (Kōbō Daishi, The Grand Master who Propagated the Dharma). He travelled to China and studied Tangmi, the Chinese Vajrayana Buddhism, and back in Japan founded Shingon, the Japanese branch of Vajrayana Buddhism.

And obviously the whole story happen exactly here in this cave, and its prooven by a buddha statue which is located on a stalagmite. The dripping water has covered the statue with flowstone, pure calcite, so it looks like a stalagmite resembling Buddha, while it is a Buddha statue resembling a stalagmite.

The cave is entered ascending a long stone staircase. There is a ceiling in the middle of the stair to separate people entering the cave from people leaving the site, obviously it gets pretty crowded. Onc you reach the cave there is only a prette small cavern with a huge portal. It formed as a karst cave, there are numerous stalagmites and stalactites. Now it is converted into a religious grotto. Inside is a massive stalagmite in the middle of the chamber. It was incorporated into an altar. The statue stands on top of this stalagmite.

Quite famous is also the huge water wheel in front of the cave. It seems it was erected of specially produced cedar in 1990 to be the largest water wheel in Japan with a diameter of 12 m. It is obviously art, as it is neither historic nor does it power anything.