The Oya-ji Temple, is close to the Oya stone museum and cavern (separate post) and so also a bit north of Utsunomiya, in Tochigi Prefecture.
The Temple dates back to 810 and is famous for a number of things, firstly that it is carved into the rock face as part of a natural cave, the rock being Oya stone and secondly there is a huge 27 metre (88 feet) high Kannon outside the temple.
Inside the temple there are a number of carvings in the actual walls of the cave, which I couldn’t photograph, although they are on the information board outside.
The most famous in the temple is the Senju-sengen Kannon (Thousand-armed and Thousand-eyed Kannon), and it is the central Buddha image of the temple. The legend says, it was carved by the original Temple founder Kobodaishi in one night. It’s the oldest rock-carved Buddha in Japan.
There are a number of other carvings in the wall at the side of the temple that are also of a significant age and historical value.
The temple has a beautiful garden attached to it as well as a small museum that details some of the restoration work that has been done to preserve the carvings as well as some artefacts found during the restorations. There was a lot of material dug out from the area around this site dating back between 2,000 and 10,000 years showing that it was a dwelling place of people in the Neolithic age and so a highly prized archaeological site.
There are 2 white snakes in the garden near the small Bentendo, according to the legend the original founder came here (in 810) because the locals had an issue with a fierce snake. He went into the cave for many days and when he came out the snake problem was solved and the ‘1000 armed 1000 eyed’ Kannon was on the wall, so began the temple.
Across the road from the temple is the huge Kannon called the “Kannon of peace” standing at 27 meters high and carved in the wall of Oya-stone. It was carved after World War II by hand from 1948 to 1954, in commemoration of those killed in the war. It pretty much dominates the landscape around Oya, you can see the huge statue in the background from the gardens behind the temple.
The temple is open 8:30 to 17:00 (April to September) 9:00 to 16:30 (October to March) and the admission fee was 300 yen. You can take photos outside and in the gardens, but not inside the temple or the museum.
The leaflet is in Japanese, but the sign out the front is in Japanese and English and there is a small postcard in English with some additional information especially about the restoration.