“Ushita Alps”, a popular trail for hiking and running.
There is a large, golden Kannon statue that can be viewed from miles away standing prominently at the foot of the Ushita-waseda area of the mountain. Once you walk up to the temple grounds where the statue is located, you discover many other interesting statues and a small, well kept pet cemetery.
According to onmarkproductions, there are many types of Kannon statues used in Buddhism in Japan. This particular Mizuko Kuyo Kannon figure is devoted to helping the souls of lost children find their way and its use dates back to the 14th or 15th century AD. At the base of the statue and in her arms, you can see the babies she protects.
Mizuko-jizo bosatsu statues with their red bibs who are said to also play the same guardian role for children who have died too young. According to the belief, children who die too young did not have enough time to build up kharma, so these guardian statues are erected in hopes that they do not become angry, hungry spirits. If a child is lost in any way, including abortion, families can pray to these statues for their protection and to ease their remorse or sadness. Please read more of the interesting details about Kannon statues and many other religious images you will find in Japan on this excellent website by Mark Schumacher (in English).
Below the golden Kannon statue, there are many beautiful flowers and small, well maintained plots in the pet cemetery. If you follow the path around past the golden Kannon, you will also find a very modest building where people pay to leave their pet’s ashes, pictures and momentos, so that they can come back to pay their respects. It is very touching and reminds me that at this moment in Japanese history, there are in fact more pets than children and they are often beloved family members. If you have a pet that has passed away, you can contact the Ushita-yama pet cemetery [japanese website] for cremation, ceremony and to buy a space for your pet.
Following the path up behind the golden Kannon, it leads up and out of the temple grounds to the Ushita-Waseda residential area. The path ends under giant arms in the gesture of prayer. There are signs asking that you not go on this part of the temple property after 6pm for safety reasons. However, the official opening times of this site are 9:30 to 7 pm everyday. We were also a bit afraid of the barking dogs near the main Kannon statue, but when we waited at the bottom of the steps for a while, a groundskeeper came out and held the dogs away from us so we could pass. I did notice that they were securely tied up when we passed.
If you can visit this area in good weather, there are a few pleasant hikes you can do in this mountain range area. If you start from behind the Big Wave (Higashi-ku sports center), which is next to the “Ushita-Big-Wave” astram (monorail) stop, you can walk up to the peak of “Ushita-yama” and then continue along until you see the sign for Ushita-waseda 牛田早稲田. If you follow signs down from here, you will go down just to the right of this temple area.
For a longer hike, and if you prefer to come from the Hiroshima Shinkansen side of the station, start with the Peace Pagoda hike. Head up through the Tosho-gu shrine, on to the views from the Peace pagoda, continue on to the Futaba-yama peak if you are willing to do a bit of a climb. Then carry on along the ridge to the left and follow the signs down to Ushita-waseda (same as above). However, if you want an easier time, follow the streets down to the town of Ushita from the Peace Pagoda hike and finding this temple from here is much easier on the legs. If you want to pass on the hiking and go straight to this temple, take the #6 bus from the main exit of Hiroshima station, or in front of Tokyu hands department store to “Ushita waseda” and get off at either the San Belmo stop in Ushita-asahi (when the bus turns around), or the Shouji supermarket stop at Ushita-higashi 1-chome (icchome).
Address: Hiroshima city, Higashi-ku Ushita-yama, Waseda 2-16-18
View Ushita-yama Golden Kannon Temple & Pet Cemetery in a larger map