What better way to end a temple visit than with an ice-cold tapioca bubble tea?

Japan’s countryside continues to surprise us. First, there was the train that only ran for one high school student. Now, we’ve uncovered a giant – and we mean giant – temple in the Japanese countryside. Bukkosan Hosuiji Temple stands just a few minutes’ drive from the hot springs town of Ikaho Onsen in rural Gunma prefecture.

▼ This happy sign welcomes you to the sprawling temple grounds.

Bukkosan Hosuiji Temple acts as the Japanese headquarters of the Bukkosan Buddhist sect and was only just completed in 2018. When our Japanese-language reporter Masanuki Sunakoma went to see what all the hubbub was, he found the grounds to be so huge that it was impossible to capture in a single camera frame. And they’ve got bubble tea (more on that later)!

▼ He was able to capture this shiny, happy Buddha, though.

The vastness of even the stairs – which could easily fit fifteen people across – reminded Masanuki of a movie set. But on the long path up to the main temple, there were interesting statues with friendly faces to keep him entertained.

▼ Think of them as very still cheerleaders encouraging you to get to the top.

When he got to the top of the stairs, he turned around and saw an amazing view of Gunma’s sprawling and mountainous countryside.

▼ If this doesn’t refresh you, then we don’t know what will.

Masanuki turned around to face the main temple and was stunned once more. If we hadn’t told you he’s in rural Japan, you might have thought that you were smack dab in the middle of a Taiwanese Buddhist temple.

▼ The architecture, the shape of the roof…is this really Gunma?

An elaborate stone sculpture at the base of the main temple depicts Buddhist saints and celestial beings listening to the sermons of the Buddha. Here is an image of Shakyamuni Buddha, standing at seven meters (22.3 feet) tall and creating a solemn mood befitting a temple.

▼ Imagine how long that must have taken to sculpt.

Masanuki eventually went to participate in the custom of getting his omikuji “fortune”, on which a mysterious scripture was written.

▼ He wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, but it probably means he now has the power of a god, or something.

And finally, the bubble tea. Along with tapioca bubble tea for 500 yen (US$4.78) a pop, the temple’s cafe offers a selection of popular Taiwanese dishes like chimaki (a steamed rice dumpling wrapped in bamboo leaves).

▼ It’s like taking an international trip but domestically! A welcome experience when considering the state of the world this year.

Masanuki got his bubble tea and went to enjoy it closer to the main temple. Okay, so the tapioca bubble tea fad isn’t exactly new, but have you ever sipped on one at an enormous Buddhist temple?

▼ Didn’t think so.

Probably the best part of the experience? There’s no fee for entering the temple grounds. That means if you ever make a trip to Ikaho Onsen and have a sudden craving for tapioca bubble tea, Taiwanese food, or enlightenment, all you need to do is drive a few minutes out of the way. And while you’re in the area, check out the prefecture’s self-driving buses!

Temple information
Bukkosan Hosuiji Temple / 佛光山法水寺
Address: Gunma-ken, Shibukawa-shi, Ikaho-cho, Ikaho 637-43
Open: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (April-November), 9 a.m.-4 p.m. (December-March)

Photos ©SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]