Soothe Your Body and Calm Your Mind at Nikkozan Onsenji Temple

Venture off Nikko’s beaten path to Nikkozan Onsenji Temple, a secluded Buddhist temple tucked away in the Okunikko area of Nikko National Park. As its name suggests, the temple has on-site hot springs (onsen) open to the public, which draw water from the same springs that supply nearby Yumoto Onsen hot spring resort. After a relaxing soak, try your hand at shakyo, the practice of copying Buddhist sutras (ancient scriptures), for a moment of quiet contemplation that will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.


Nikkozan Onsenji Temple

At Nikkozan Onsenji Temple, you can relax both your body and mind with a hot-spring bath and the meditative practice of shakyo. The temple is an annex of Nikkosan Rinnoji Temple, a UNESCO-designated World Heritage site located in central Nikko. Nikkozan Onsenji’s history dates back to the 8th century, when Shodo Shonin, a great Buddhist monk who lived during the Nara (710–784) and Heian (794–1185) periods, is said to have discovered the hot springs now known as Yumoto Onsen. Yakushi Ruriko Nyorai, the Buddha of Healing, is the principal figure of worship at the temple. Nikkozan Onsenji Temple is about a 25-minute drive or bus ride from Lake Chuzenji’s bus terminal.


Relax your body

A dip in Nikkozan Onsenji Temple’s hot spring baths, which go by the name Yakushi-yu, is the perfect way to unwind and purify your body and mind before practicing shakyo. Those who bathe in the onsen waters beforehand may find that they can be more mindful during the sutra copying experience. The emerald green waters of Yakushi-yu, which turn milky white when exposed to oxygen, are believed to promote health and longevity. The high percentage of sodium sulfate in the water gives it skin-smoothing properties. The baths are small, and the water very hot (tap water is added to cool it), so take care when bathing. The baths are open from June to early December.


Calm your mind

Try shakyo, the spiritual practice of copying sutras by hand, in the serene environment of Nikkozan Onsenji Temple. As you copy each of the 16 Chinese characters of the ancient Yakushi Sutra with a calligraphy brush, you may feel a sense of calm and inner peace wash over you. Leave your sutras at the temple as an offering in the inner sanctuary. In exchange, you will receive a slip of gold paper with a red stamp as a token to take home. The sutras are burned at the temple every year on August 8 during the Saito Daigomaku Festival (Wild Fire Festival) in honor of Yakushi Nyorai. The shakyo experience is available at Nikkozan Onsenji Temple from late April to the end of November and takes around 15 minutes.

Areas of Nikko