Are you tired of all those temples in Nikko National Park? Go to the Kanmangafuchi Abyss (憾満ヶ淵), located on the Daiya River! I know, it’s a mouthful, but during the walk you won’t notice it. This place is not visited by many tourists. And that is a pity because it is a beautiful short and quiet walk along the river.
But watch out for the 70 mysterious statues with red scarves. Did I say 70? Maybe 71 or 72? Try to count them, but according to the it’s impossible. But why are these statues here and what do they mean?
Reading tip: Would you like to visit a temple? I visited the Toshogu Shrine. Read here why this temple made such an impression on me: Toshogu Shrine: worth a visit?
Start at the Shinkyo Bridge
Conveniently I start this hike at the Shinkyo bridge. Officially this bridge is the access road to the Futurusan Shrine, one of the many temples in Nikko. But if you follow this river from the right side and take the first bridge in the residential area you will arrive at the Kanmangafuchi Abyss.
But first some information about this Shinkyo bridge. The original one dates from 1636, but because of a flood it was destroyed and rebuilt in 1907. This is where the monk Shodo Shonin (735-817) crossed the river with the help of two snakes that formed a bridge and erected a number of temples. The bridge has been open to the public since 1973 and can be crossed for a fee.
But why would you do that if you have a nice view of the Shinkyo Bridge from the car bridge? Taking a picture is enough for me. And then I continue my route along the Daiya River to the Kanmangafuchi Abyss…
Kanmangafuchi Abyss and 70 mysterious statues?
Once I crossed the river It looks I have entered another world. At least a quiet world, because a lot of tourists don’t come here. 7000 years ago this gorge was created when mount Nantai was erupting. Furthermore, it is only a few hundred meters long.
And quite at the beginning of the gorge I come across statues with red clothes. Try to count them. It is said that there is always one that disappears when you try to count them. The name for these statues is therefore “Bake Jizo” (Spirit Jizo) or “Narabi Jizo” (Jizo in a row).
A Jizo is a Bodhisattva who takes care of travellers and is the guardian of the children. A Bodhisattva is an enlightened being who wants to become a Buddha, but postpones it to help the living people.
And then those red bibs…
So in Buddhism, Jizo is an important Bodhisattva. The story goes that all young children go to Sai-no-kawara after their death. In the underworld this is the dry bed of the river of souls. Because they have little experience (karma) they have to build turrets from stones. Each tower stands for a prayer.
But every evening the oni, the devils, come and knock down these turrets. The young souls have to start all over again. But then Jizo is the savior in need. He wanders around and hides the children in his red bibs. They are now in good hands with Jizo. But why then only red bibs?
The colour red probably refers to an old tradition in the Asuka period (522-645 AD). Children with diseases like chickenpox were given red clothes to distinguish them from other children. But red is also seen as a color that represents safety and protection.
Why Kanmangafuchi Abyss is worth a visit?
For those who still have an hour left, the Kanmangafuchi Abyss is a great walk. Don’t forget to sit down along the river for ultimate relaxation. But don’t be fooled if the number of statues is not right. Enjoy nature without meeting many people.
Tip: In Nikko I stayed at Nikko Guesthouse Sumica. This hostel is located near the two train stations. The owners are very nice and for a bunkbed I paid around €17 euros. The only disadvantage is that it is a 30 minute walk to the temple area and the Kanmangafuchi Abyss. But fortunately there is also something they call a bus.
Plan a visit to Kanmangafuchi Abyss?
How do I get there?
The Shinkyo bridge is traditionally the gateway to the various holy temples in Nikko National Park. From JR or Tobu Nikko Station it is 10 minutes by bus, get off at Tamozawa bus stop. Walking from the station it is about 30 minutes. The access to walk over the bridge is 500 yen. To get to the Kanmangafuchi Abyss it is best to walk from the Shinkyo bridge to the right along the river and cross the bridge. Entrance is free.
Would you like to read more about Nikko National Park?
- Nikko National Park Travel Guide | 4 historical sights
- Kegon Falls | 200 suicides in Nikko National Park
- Toshogu Shrine, Nikko | Visit the Golden Temple
And what’s your opinion about the Kanmangafuchi Abyss? Please feel free to leave a message below!