Visitors interested in trying a pilgrimage do not have to undertake the full 34-temple circuit to experience Chichibu’s historic route. The section beginning at En’yu-ji Temple (No.26) and progressing in numbered order to Chosen-in Temple (No.29) is an ideal day trip that includes several scenic attractions. The route is only 6.4 kilometers long and can be easily accessed from the Chichibu Railway.
From Kagemori Station, the walk to En’yu-ji Temple’s stately main hall (hondo) takes about 10 minutes. The statue of Kannon was enshrined at Iwai-do, the inner hall of En’yu-ji Temple located higher up the mountain. A trail leads from the main complex, first along a road that passes through the compound of a Showa Denko chemical plant, then into the forest. A climb of over 300 moss-covered stone steps leads up to Iwai-do, a secluded pavilion nestled against the cliff face. From there, the pilgrimage route follows the Kotohira Hiking Trail along the ridge toward Daien-ji Temple (No.27).
Before descending the ridge, visitors will pass Daien-ji’s central image, a striking white statue of Kannon enshrined on the hilltop. Lower in the valley stands the main hall, Tsukikage-do, where visitors can acquire temple stamps for Daien-ji. Temple stamps for Hashidate-do Temple (No.28) can also be received here during its winter closure.
Just over a kilometer from Daien-ji is Hashidate-do Temple, which lies beneath the imposing cliff face of Mt. Buko. Nearby is the entrance to Hashidate Limestone Cave. In times past, pilgrims considered the natural pit cave to be sacred ground, and traveling through it was symbolic of rebirth. For a small fee, visitors can explore its 140-meter length of twisting, narrow passages and stalactite formations.
The cave’s exit lies near the steps up to Hashidate-do Temple, a scarlet pavilion framed by a sheer limestone cliff over 65 meters high. Enshrined inside the temple are wooden horse figures dedicated to Bato Kannon (“Horse-headed Kannon”), a rare manifestation of the deity who is worshipped as a guardian of horses. Hashidate-do Temple is unattended between the second Monday of December and the end of February.
The road to Chosen-in Temple (No.29) takes visitors over the Urayama River via the Morokami Bridge, which gives an excellent view of the 156-meter-high Urayama Dam. At Chosen-in, the large main hall is flanked by stone lanterns and surrounded by a Zen garden. From Chosen-in, it takes roughly 15 minutes to walk to Urayamaguchi Station.
For visitors who prefer to drive, limited parking is available at each temple.