Traditional architecture

Aizu Sazaedo Temple

Built in 1796, Aizu Sazaedo Temple stands in a secluded spot on a mountain in Aizuwakamatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture. This 16.5-meter-tall hexagonal wooden structure has an impressive entrance decorated with intricate dragon carvings.

The interior of the temple is designed to resemble the inside of a “sazae (turban shell),” with spiral staircases in a unique double-helix design, one for going up and the other for coming down. The clever design allows worshippers to safely move without bumping into one another. In Japan, there is a saying if you take a pilgrimage to 33 different temples, you will have a peaceful afterlife. Along the spiral staircases of Sazaedo, 33 statues of Kannon (Buddhist Goddess of Mercy) were placed so worshippers could “visit” 33 sacred spots at once.

The temple is situated on Mount Iimori, which is well known as a location connected to the Byakkotai (a group of young samurai warriors) in the Edo period (1603-1868). Within a short walking distance, there are some places of great historical interest, including the Byakkotai Memorial Museum, a magnificent 600-year-old cherry tree and an ancient tomb at the top of the mountain.

Map of Japan. Fukushima located north of Tokyo

The wooden exterior evokes its long history.

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