Carpet of Yellow gingko tree leaves at Senpuku-ji Okegawa

To share or not to share, that is always the question when you find an off the beaten path gingko tree spot in your neighborhood! Same thing happened with Shoboji’s legendary gingko tree, which eventually became a hot spot. The location was suited to it though and the temple welcomes the increase in visitors. Although, they did have to install security cameras in recent years (insert crying face here!) However, there are some places that really just can’t cope with an influx of tourists, such as this secret wisteria spot, so I keep them covert! But with this spot in Okegawa its only a matter of time… online information has increased exponentially in recent years. And deservedly so given its rich history and hidden gems…

Off the beaten path gingko

gingko trees outside senpuku-ji temple in Kawataya area of Okegawa

However, the area around Senpukuji Temple in Okegawa is very tranquil and the roads into it are old and narrow. Thus I have debated over the years, whether to share it or not. And to that end, I have followed activity about it online. In the last couple of years, there has been an increase in the amount of interest and information online. Particularly during the pandemic. I think the ‘demand’, so to speak, for off the beaten path locations piqued in 2020/2021. Thus, there are now entries, in the Japanese language, about this temple on some of the larger tourism websites. So I came to the conclusion that it is time to share information in English about it too!

Senpuku-ji Temple

Senpuku-ji is a temple of the Tendai Sect located in the Kawataya area of Okegawa, along the Arakawa River. You can see the Honda airfield on the other side of the Ara River from the temple’s parking lot. The temple is of the Tendai sect. It was founded in 829 by Jikaku Daishi, whose disciple also founded Kitain, on order of Emperor Junna. The temple temporarily disappeared during the Genpei war and was restored in 1234. The forest around the temple is preserved by Okegawa City.

nioman statues and the rain making dragon of senpukuji Okegawa
Stone Nioman Statues and the rain making dragon. Can you make out the dragon above the entrance?

Although, not a touristy temple, in present day, and there is no official website, Senpuku-ji is actually one of Saitama’s most significant temples. Moreover, the Amida statue of the temple is a National Important Cultural Property of Japan. It was made in 1262. I read in a brochure that there is an ancient crepe myrtle on the grounds, but I can’t find that information online. There was also a mention of a rain making dragon, thankfully I did find information about that online. Its an old folktale about the dragon carving on the temple gate…

Once upon a time, this village was in a severe drought, and the crops in the fields were on the verge of dying, leaving the villagers in trouble. Then the village elder said,
“The dragon must be so bored being locked up in that gate for so long, why don’t you let it swim in the temple pond?”
With that said, all the villagers agreed with him, especially when no rain prayers had been heard, and they immediately took down the dragon from the gate and set it in the pond. The carved dragon swam like a living creature in front of the rain-making villagers. Forgetting their prayers for rain, the sky suddenly clouded over the villagers who were amazed.
The thunder roared, a heavy rainstorm broke out, the pond overflowed, and the Arakawa River soon filled up, resulting in a great flood. The villagers were so surprised that they couldn’t even pray for rain, so they decided to discuss what to do with the dragon. The elder who said to let go of the dragon, said
“I don’t know what will happen from now on. I have to stop that dragon from moving as soon as possible.” We all used our wisdom to think about what we should do about it. All the villagers came out to cut off the dragon’s claws and tie it to the gate of the temple where it had been housed until now with a gold chain.
“After that, there were no more floods in the village.”

Translated from an article on the Okegawa Tourist Association website

Autumn Colors

The gingko tree are on one side of the road outside the temple. It is not an avenue, as they only line the side that the car park is on. Part of the car park becomes a golden yellow carpet as the leaves fall. There is also a giant gingko on the temple grounds and there are also a couple of beautiful maple trees too.

Generally, the best time to see the line of gingko in gold is around mid November, but the giant gingko on the temple grounds doesn’t color until later. The maple tend to turn orange around mid November too. No guarantees, its just luck of the draw. Unfortunately, although the interest in this temple has increased, as has the online entries about it, it still hasn’t quite made it onto social media! So while you can often say for large attractions “check Instagram” or the “updates on Google Maps” for the current condition, unfortunately, that doesn’t really work for this (and most off the beaten path) location in Saitama!

Hydrangea

On my last visit in June, they were doing some work on the grounds. I was actually in the area for the safflower, for which Okegawa is famous, and went to check out the hydrangea at the temple. However, there are only a few. There is, however, a stunning hydrangea spot relatively nearby (about a 20 minute walk), at Rakusato no Kai.

Information

Senpuku-ji / Senpuku Temple / Senpukuji Temple / 泉福寺

Address: 2012 Kawataya, Okegawa, Saitama 363-0027. View on Google Maps.

Phone: 0487870206

Hours: not specified, so best not to visit too early or too late.

Cost: free

Official website – none that I can find. This website (Japanese language) has good information from different sources.

Access

By public transport you would need to get a bus from Okegawa Station to the Kawataya area and walk. The biggest landmark nearby is Shiroyama Park, which is only about a ten to fifteen minute walk from the temple. But the Okegawa loop bus actually stops in the neighborhood of the temple. There is a bus stop in front of “Izumi no Gakuen” which is just a minutes walk from the temple.

There is a relatively large parking lot for the temple. The only problem is, its down an old country road with a very sharp turn into it. If you don’t come from the North, it would be very difficult to turn into from the South. I did come from the South on my first visit and ended up backing down the hill! Ever since I am sure to come from the North! Plus from the North you pass through a lovely brick gate of sorts!

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