CONTRIBUTED BY HEATHER OLSEN
Just down the road from the front gate of Camp Hansen is the beautiful Kin Kannon-do Temple. It is pretty easy to overlook this site because it is set back from the road and surrounded by trees. Even if you visit the temple, the cave entrance to the right is easy to miss as well.
The Kin Kannon-do temple is one of the eight famous temples in Okinawa that belongs to the Buddhist Shingon sect. The cave is rich with history. In 1552, a Buddhist priest by the name of Nisshu washed ashore during a typhoon as he was traveling back to mainland Japan from China. He stayed in Kin village and expressed his gratitude to the people for their generosity by praying to God to kill the large Habu snakes that lived in the cave that regularly ate their domestic animals.
Nisshu also created three statues of Buddha, Yukushi (God of Medicine) and Kannon (God of Mercy) to be placed in front of the cave. Later a temple was built near the cave, which is still used for marriage ceremonies and funeral services.
The cave is beautiful inside with its colorful stalagmites and stalactites. It is a steep descent down some stairs into the cave. Luckily this is one of the caves that have tall ceilings so you only need to watch out for the stalactites.
Soon after you enter the cave, you will see the stalactite called Buddha’s Big Parasol. It has transformed into the shape of a parasol big enough for Buddha! There are a few shrines inside as well as a golden Happy Buddha.
There is a track for rail cars because the cave is also used to store thousands of Tatsu Awamori bottles. People will pay around 10,000¥ to have a bottle stored for five to 10 years. People will store them for future special occasions, such as a graduation or anniversary and retrieve them at that time. There is a gate blocking the entrance to where the bottles are stored. The cave is only around 300 meters long.
We had young children with us and they loved it! They had fun shinning their flashlights on things and discovering new crevasses. Children should be safe within the cave as long as they walk and use the hand rails to go up and down the stairs.
What to bring:
- Sturdy shoes. The stairs and floor can be quite slippery.
- Flashlights. The natural light will not get you very far and you will miss out on a lot of cool details.
- Yen. One website that I found said that it cost 400¥ per adult, high school students 300¥ and children 200¥ to enter the cave, but we saw no one and nowhere to pay.
Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily
Website: Kin Kannon-do Temple & Cave
Directions: Head north on the expressway. Take the Kin town exit and follow it to the 329. Turn left onto the 329. At the 5th light, veer left. (This will be the second light after you pass the front gate of Camp Hansen) You will see the white sign ‘Kin Kannonji 230m’ directing you down this street. After you pass the first road on your right, you will see a parking lot. This is the parking lot for the temple. The temple is across the street to your left.
Google map coordinates: 26.455258, 127.921457