Escape the hustle and bustle and experience that quiet moment you’ve been searching for. Only an hour away by car, this hidden gem offers nature’s beauty, Japanese culture and a little something for everyone. Located in the Naguri Valley, just northwest of Yokota, White Cloud Mountain is an easy day trip. As you are approaching the mountain, it’s easy to spot three white statues dominating the hillside. Many people park their cars at the base of the mountain and hike along a designated 45 minute trail through the forest. Along the trail you can see temples, sculptures, and various structures. Benches are scattered along the path, ideal for picnicking. While I was there on a Wednesday during the summer, I was not charged parking, however, visitors in the past have been charged ¥300. There are restrooms available next to the parking lot.
Hiranuma Yataro, born in 1892, is the founder of White Cloud Mountain Torii Kannon. Involved in politics and industry, Yataro became a sculptor later in life. The small temple at the foot of the mountain was built for his mother, an avid Kannon believer. This temple marks the beginning of the hiking trail. To the left of the temple is the home for the Buddhist priest and the right is a sculpture library. Once you pass the library, the trail begins to your left. Begin hiking and you will first encounter a gate with two mythical beings called “Niozo” who are protectors from evil. After walking through the gate, you will come upon a small temple. Walk further and you see a globe of the world topped with a statue. Continue on until you reach the road. Walk up the road to see the lovely three-tiered pagoda, the Xuanzang Tower. Vending machines are offered at the pagoda. Follow the road past the Xuanzang Tower to see the main attraction, the Salvation Daikannon, consisting of three white statues. On Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, you may enter the Salvation Daikannon for a small fee (not available December through March). ¥200 for adults and ¥100 for children, open 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Once inside, you can climb to the top to experience amazing bird’s-eye views. Don’t forget to enjoy the stained glass windows near the top. On your way down the mountain be sure to take the road, to experience the colorful Gyoku-kamon gate. Modeled after a gate in Thailand, and standing 34 feet tall.
Open year round, White Cloud Mountain offers much natural beauty. The Mountain is popular among visitors in the fall for the changing foliage. In fact, their website www.toriikannon.org has foliage information to help you plan your fall visit (please use Google Translator). In the spring, flowers are very much in bloom. However, the Mountain boasts that various flowers are in bloom throughout the year. In the summer you can catch their lantern and fireworks festival, August 16, 2013. Again, please check their website for current information.
If you want to discover the sights, but are not into hiking, no problem, there is a road that you can take up to the Xuanzang Tower and the Salvation Daikannon. The cost is ¥300 for motorcycles, and ¥500 for cars. The road is narrow and not paved entirely. The drive is only a one-half kilometer from the entrance to the summit. Parking is available at the top. GPS 35.879291,139.182992.
Sharon Chang, Teresa K. Negley, Doriann Geller, Delores Street, August 1997. Updates and photos by Michelle Nexon, July 2013.