Honpukuji Temple Water Temple
Honpukuji, Ando's Water Temple, Awaji 本福寺
The "Water Temple", by Ando Tadao on Awaji Island
Tadao Ando, possibly the most well known of Japanese architects, has designed quite a few religious buildings, mostly Christian chapels and churches, but also several Buddhist temples, the most famous of which is certainly Honpukuji Temple on the island of Awaji.
The approach to the Water Temple on Awaji Island
Steps lead down below the pond at Honpukuji Water Temple by Tadao Ando
Honpukuji is known as the "Water Temple" for reasons that become obvious when you see it.
Approaching it you see a fairly standard-looking temple, but a sign directs you up a path that leads behind to where you must pass through a corridor of two curved, plain concrete walls with a floor of white gravel.
This is classic Ando, and creates a space that changes dramatically as the sun crosses the sky and creates different forms of light and shade at different times of the day.
Turning the corner you come face to face with a large, oval pool of water that reflects the hillsides behind the temple.
Again this is classic Ando, as he often uses pools of water to bring into his architecture the surrounding natural environment.
Growing in the pool are lotus plants, an important symbol in Buddhism, and if you come here in the summer you will see many lotus blossoms floating on the surface as well as water lilies.
The entrance into the Water Temple on Awajishima
The pond is bisected by a staircase that descends into the darkness below. From here you follow a curved corridor that increasingly fills with reddish light until you arrive at the main altar/sanctuary.
Here natural light enters the building from the western side so late afternoon is when it is most vividly red. As well as the main altar there are also statues of Fudo Myo O and Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon, the Buddhist sect to which Honpukuji belongs.
After leaving the main sanctuary the way passing the western side of the building where the natural light floods in through a vermilion lattice and back to your starting point and ascend up the stairs.
This is one of Ando's less monumental works, and the experience is less one of looking at a piece of architecture, rather it's one the experience of being in an architectural space.
Honpukuji is not so easy to get to, but consequently there are far fewer visitors. The temple is certainly worth visiting if you are interested in Ando's work and have just visited the nearby Yumebutai complex.
The main sanctuary and altar at Honpukuji, the "Water Temple"
Access & Information
Awaji, Hyogo 656-2305
Tel: 0799 74 3624
Open everyday from 9 am to 5 pm. Entry 400 yen.
By car the temple is just 5 minutes drive from the Higashiura Interchange. The nearest bus stop is Uraminato, about 600 meters, a 5 minute walk from the temple.
Regular buses stop here, but the Awaji Loop Bus that runs a circuit around the north of the island actually stops in front of the temple.
The west side of the interior of Honpukuji, where natural light enters the building
Accommodation in Awaji
In addition to the luxury The Westin Resort & Conference Center Awaji Island, Awaji city has good options including the Athena Kaigetsu, which is handy for the Awaji World Park Onokoro. Further south on the east coast at Sumoto are the Kaigetsukan, the Yumekaiyu, the Umi no Hotel Shimahana, the two star Awaji TT House Pacific Over Seas and the Hotel New Awaji. On the west coast are the Awaji Hamarikyu and Pension Le Mer. There are also a number of campsites on the island for the budget traveler.
Nearby Places of Interest
Akashi Castle - built in 1619 to protect the approach to Osaka from the west.
Shimanami Kaido - 60 kilometer expressway that links the main island of Honshu with the island of Shikoku.
Maiko Park - a pleasant park with views of the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and some historic residences.
World Peace Giant Kannon - once one of the largest statues in the world it is now virtually abandoned.
Awajishima Museum - displays on the history and culture of the island.
Sumoto Castle - Japan's oldest reconstructed castle.
Hokudan Earthquake Memorial Park - is located at the epicenter of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake.
Awaji Puppet Theater - has daily performances of Awaji Ningyo Joruri.
Izanagi Jingu & Onokorojima Shrine - two important shrines connected with Japan's creation myth.
Book Hotel Accommodation in Kobe Japan
Honpukuji Temple aka the Water Temple on Awaji Island was designed by architect Ando Tadao. It creates different forms of light and shade at different times of the day.