In Japan, some of the most celebrated sightseeing areas are not simply tourist attractions, but what are known as "power spots". Power spots are believed to provide visitors with a healing or rejuvenating energy, and while some are simply areas where one may feel in tune with nature, many are sought out with the hope of answering a wish or prayer, meaning they can be found at spiritual spots like ancient shrines.

Just one look at the "wall of joy" at Jouganji, a Buddhist temple in Nara, will tell you what wish travelers from all over the country have in mind. On Ema, or wooden wishing plaques, visitors leave notes expressing gratitude for finally being granted a child after over a decade of marriage, for overcoming infertility through treatment, and for welcoming new children into their family. That's because Jouganji is sworn by as Japan's "Child-bearing temple", and is said to bless those praying for safe childbirth.

Nara prefecture's "Child-bearing temple", Jouganji

Located at the foot of Mt. Katsuragi in Nara prefecture, Jouganji has a history of more than 1200 years. The temple gained its reputation when long ago, Emperor Montoku visited and had his prayer for a successor safely answered. Soon after, Jouganji became known as a destination for those seeking to build a healthy family. In a recent visit, our staff found that while that appeal may seem esoteric to some, the temple grounds are quite the scenic beauty with a main statue of the Amida Buddha and tranquil gardens.

Behind the main hall, one will find some unexpected scenery. While certain parts of the ground are under construction currently, we were able to explore finished areas that reveal the temple to not only be a place to pray for familial longevity, but also take in the rich history of the Buddhist temple and appreciate a rewarding mountain view. The temple's 23rd priest Ryukei Washio explained that the temple's garden are known as the "healing gardens", and so one might say that taking in the area is what allows one to appreciate the temple as a power spot.

Flowers are trees are planted seasonally inspired by the six paths of existence, the basis of Buddhist teachings. Priest Washio says that "While there are many uncertainties and anxiety in the outside world, it is good to leave oneself to the mind of nature and let oneself go", perhaps summarizing the most rewarding aspect of such power spots.

The path of the temple grounds is designed as a perfect circle to reflect the endless cycle of the six paths.

To the east, you can even see a wonderful sprawling view of the three mountains of Yamato (Yamato Sanzan).

Priest Washio goes onto explain what he believes to be the healing power of the temple, and how it can lead to healthy and safe childbirth:

"Many of the people who visit here are suppressing their honest human feelings. When you can purge yourself of stress by praying, it's no wonder that it can lead to a body that allows for childbirth. You're letting your feelings be put at ease and unraveling a chain that binds you. As we live in such a stressful society, it is important to allow ourselves such a time and place."

When many visit power spots in Japan, they may be doing so expecting to receive the power to pass a test or win a big sports competition, but perhaps another way to enjoy these sought-out spiritual spots is to think of visiting them as a way to relieve stress and gain more peace of mind.

Joganji enjoys visitors from all over Japan as well as overseas, and while many visit with the specific goal of praying for healthy childbirth and growing their family, the temple is open those looking to relieve their stress or simply appreciate a beautiful and historically rich spiritual spot. Prayers take place within the main hall, and the official blog and Facebook page update with daily events and information.

Mt. Fuse Joganji

Sect: Jodo

Time of operation: 8:00 AM--5:00 PM

Address: 1170 Katsuragi-shi, Nara Prefecture

Access: Get off from the Kintetsu Minami Osaka line at "Takada-shi" station, and it is accessible in ten minutes by taxi. From Kintetsu Shinjo station, it's accessible in seven minutes by taxi.

By - grape Japan editorial staff.

/ / / / /