Shiofune Kannon-ji is a female Buddha temple near Ome, about 30 minutes by car from Yokota. The azalea display in April and May is stunning, and it’s beautiful other times of the year as well. Not even the bleakest February day could detract from the beauty of this area. Pass under the rope between two cedar trees hung with “lightning symbols.” Ring the bell to let Buddha know you have come. The grounds are set in a 270 degree bowl, presided over by a towering Buddha statue at the rim. When the azaleas are out, all different colors blanket the slopes. Paved paths — suitable for a stroller, although hilly — wind through the bowl and the views are breathtaking. Follow the trail down to the pond to spot a duck or two, or even tadpoles or frogs. Hydrangeas and irises during May and June continue the flower season here. From the Buddha statue, you can meander along dirt trails on the back side of the bowl, through a shaded forest.The grounds are open every day 8-5. They never close for holidays and are the scene of several celebrations. On May 3 ever year, there is fire-walking, food vendors, and lots of people. The small temple is open for inside viewing of Buddha on this day, also the 2nd Sunday in August, as well as during the New Year’s festivities. ¥100 is charged for a close up view of the Buddha. Admission to the grounds is normally free, but when the azaleas are in bloom parking is ¥700 and admission is ¥300. You may bring a lunch and have a picnic. You might want to bring a blanket to sit on. There is a small snack restaurant with a small gift shop inside. Restrooms are also located next to this building. There is another shop located across from the temple. Shiofune is about 9km from Yokota. To make a day of it, consider visiting the Fukiage Iris Park during the month of June. Shiofune Kannon GPS 35.80283, 139.28313.
DIRECTIONS: Exit Terminal Gate (0km) and turn right to head north on Route 16 and take the underpass. Turn left onto Ome Kaido, Route 5, (2.7km). As you near Ome, turn right on Route 194 (7km, Nogami intersection, with Mazda dealer on the left). Follow this road 1.6km up a gentle hill (8.6 from Yokota), until you reach a t-intersection with a traffic light. You’ll see, on the right side of the road, a vertical sign with pink flowers on the bottom pointing you to the left. Turn left here. Drive about 500 meters, until the road ends at a “T” intersection. There is a parking area for the temple on the right. Shiofune Kannon is up the hill to the right, diagonally left of the pedestrian exit on the other side of the parking lot. (What looks like another parking lot just beyond the “T” intersection and playground, is a private use lot for a trucking company. If the temple lot is full, you can carefully proceed up toward the right of the thatched roof gate to the temple complex. There is a white shrine, with a tile roof, toward the back of a further lot on the right hand side. You can park here. This newer shrine, by the way, is dedicated to traffic safety.) -Sarah Straus and Ace Tubbs, 2012, photos by Sarah Straus 2012, 2013, photos updated by Sarah Straus April 2014.