Buddhist Monuments in the Horyu-ji Area

※ This article discusses the 29th of October 2016.

In my Japanese class "Japanese Culture" on Monday, we briefly discussed UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Japan. I looked up all of them and found a nice list. "Buddhist Monuments in the Hōryū-ji Area" is kind of close to my place and therefore I decided to go there for event day. It features the oldest wooden architectures of the world. This map by OpenStreetMap shows the location:

Map ranging from Kobe to Hōryū-ji Area

I started around lunch time again. Martina stayed at home. I was a little bit scared whether I can find the destination. HyperDia showed one possible, direct route from Sannomiya (provided by JR), but all information at Hyperdia is provided without Kanji. So reading the same trains might be difficult. 1080 Yen is a bit more than my previous travel costs, but I assumed it will be worth it. I started my journey and actually the train’s direction and its time was written in Latin script. So it was not difficult to find the train. I sat down and had a pleasant journey. The chairs are very comfortable and I made an old man’s day by helping him with his luggage. He thanked right after I helped and additionally before he left the train… in English. This was nice.

I left the train. I was confused. There was no sign giving me the name of this small station. Is this Kyūhōji station (and I need to take the next train again) or is it Hōryūji station (where I want to go)? I went up the stairs and saw a promotional poster "Welcome to Hōryūji station!" with some images of the temple. Apparently I was at the right place, but I got confused by the station name I heard when leaving the train.

I takes less than 15 minutes to go from the train station to the temple by foot. I read online there is also a bus, but I was not interested. You immediately recognize the special roof tiles, they use close to the temple. They are crafted beautifully. From a map, I understood the basic structure of the ground and I discovered the ticket office. I wanted to know what parts of the area are public and which required a ticket. So I started with the public parts and basically went from West to East. Not a lot of people were on the Site in the early afternoon (I arrived around 14:00), but this changed at 16:00, when the sun wasn’t covered by any cloud anymore.

Horyu-ji grounds consists of the following buildings:

  • Saiin Garan, with its significant Gojū-no-Tō (5-story pagoda)

  • Daihōzōin, with its gallery

  • Tōin Garan, and I personally considered Tōin Shōrō most interesting

You can see them on this map:

Ground map of Hōryū-ji Area

Basically I traversed the whole area first without a ticket, hence missing the inner parts of Saiin Garan, the gallery of Daihōzōin and Tōin Garan. As far as a ticket at Saiin Garan costs 1500 Yen, Daihōzōin 500 Yen and Tōin Garan 300 Yen, I thought it sums up to 2300 Yen. Spending 23 Euros on visiting those temples is certainly too much. So I only paid the 1500 Yen ticket afterwards and it turns out that this is a collective ticket for all halls. After recognizing this, I traversed the whole area again with the ticket. I was happy about the actual price, but I was annoyed that you are not allowed to take photos within the galleries.

Toin Shoro at Horyuji in daylight

Whereas it was very sunny at 15:00, at 16:30 many areas were already covered by the shadows of buildings. So it was getting cold and I left the area. I ate Tsukine Udon at a restaurant close to the temple. Then I took JR line back to Kobe. However, at Osaka I had to change trains (just like when I got here), but no train on the track headed towards Kobe. I wondered why. I recognized a red warning color for the stations behind Kobe with a note "Level Crossing Check". Of course, it might be a Level Crossing Check, but it is unsual in my opinion that regular trains are interrupted for that. Often people commit suicide with trains and therefore this might be the reason. I was getting cold in my shorts and I exited the JR line at Osaka even though I bought the ticket for Kobe. I joined Hyanku line. I guess they share the same tracks, but I wanted to give it a shot. It was worth it. I took a local train to Kobe, so one hour later I arrived at Sannomiya, Kobe. I tested whether I can enter Hankyu line with my Osaka-Kobe ticket and leave it with my university pass. This does not work. Hence, my university commuter pass stores at least one boolean flag.

In conclusion, the Horyuji area is worth its recognition as UNESCO heritage site. Beautiful wooden architectures. There are comparable sites in China (as it was pointed out to me by a Chinese person showing photos), but I cannot judge on that. On the other hand it is sad, that you cannot take photos inside the galleries.