It has been six months since I moved to Uda City, Nara Prefecture. The busy summer days are over, and now comes the most active tourist season of the year, autumn.
Surrounded by mountains, this area is known for its beautiful fall foliage, but it also has several waterfalls and other unexplored places associated with water. Waterfalls are my favorite outdoor spots in the summer. Though the season is autumn now, I would like to write about one of them here.
The waterfall I visited is Aoba no Taki (aoba means green leaves, and taki means a waterfall). Many people come here to take pictures these days and share them on the Internet. Those pictures look beautiful and mysterious, with the water cascading down the tiered rocks. Aoba no Taki is located on a hill behind Seiyo-ji, a Nichiren Shu temple, where visitors can experience a takigyo, or waterfall training, under the guidance of the temple’s priest with a series of Buddhism services.
Religious Services before Takigyo
When I arrived at Seiyo-ji, I was greeted by a tall and well-built man. He is the temple’s head priest, Mr. Yamaguchi.
After listening to him preach in the main hall, I had him pray for me with an O-fuda (talisman) that had my name on it. He prayed for the fulfillment of my wishes and good health. The sound of the wooden fish resonated in the room, and I joined my hands and closed my eyes as the priest did.
Takigyo at Aoba no Taki
Following the prayer, I did some stretching and then changed into white kimono.
After about a five-minute walk on a mossy path on the hill, I reached a waterfall flowing in the sun. The resulting rainbow embraced the falls. That rainbow lit up my cloudy heart and instantly relieved my nerves which had been getting the better of me for the past few days.
There was a little shrine by the waterfall, and images of Buddha were carved on a cliff above it. While I was looking around, the priest set up a candle to offer a prayer.
Then he began to beat the drum and read the o-kyo or sutra.
There was no sound around except the priest’s deep voice and the waterfall’s sound. Perhaps this sound will remain unchanged for hundreds of years. It made me think of the ascetics who trained here long ago.
Once the sutra chanting was completed, the only sound around us was the water streaming. “Now, let’s get into the waterfall!” said the priest. I glanced at the falls and shivered for a moment. But I made up my mind. I took off my clothes and headed under the torrent with the priest leading the way.
My feet were cold. It was like the rainbow was showing me where I should stand. Gushing water hit my head and flowed down my face, shoulders, and feet. I clasped my hands together and shouted at the top of my lungs, “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo ,” as if to blow away the cold. I could see the blue sky through the trees when I opened my eyes. I wondered how long I had been chanting the o-kyo. My head and neck ached. My legs began to tremble.
I bowed my head and got out of the waterfall, thinking I would not be able to walk back if I stood like this any longer. I changed into warm dry clothes right away and walked down the path back to the temple.
Sunlight warmed me back in the temple. “So cozy” were the words that came from the bottom of my heart. The priest served me a cup of tea in the main hall. That warmed me up even more.
Time for peaceful meditation after the waterfalls
After a short break, I was taught mindfulness meditation. I closed my eyes and focused on breathing as the priest guided me. I felt the warm sun on my back. My mind was very light and clear, perhaps because I had been under the waterfall. I placed my hands lightly on my knees and continued to focus on breathing with my eyes closed, exhaling slowly through my nose.
I experienced a simple moment. Birds were tweeting outside. The wind was blowing through my body. About 30 minutes had passed like that. I heard the priest say, “Open your eyes.” So, I did. Then I put my hands together and bowed.
Although I had meditated a few times before, My mind often remained foggy. But this time, my mind was light, and my body was warm. I felt so good when I finished my takigyo.
At the end of the day, Mr. Yamaguchi said, “We all have good hearts and bad hearts. That’s all right. What is important is to know and accept yourself that way”. Those words echoed in my mind as I drove back home.
- Seiyo-ji Temple
- Location: 3748-2 Murou-Sanbonmatsu, Uda City, Nara Prefecture
- Access: 20 minute walk from Kintetsu Sanbonmatsu station / 25 drive from Hari Exit of Meihan Expressway
- Fee: 6,000 yen. Fudo-myoo talisman for an extra 3,000 yen
- For more details and reservation, contact us or go to Seiyo-ji official website (in Japanese)
- Related link
- Aoba no Taki Waterfall & Seiyo-ji Temple