The Sacred Shirataki Meditation and Temple in the Sky

The Sacred Shirataki Meditation and Temple in the Sky

Within the mountains of Toba lies a sacred waterfall where people have come to meditate for the past 1000 years.

The mountain range expands out from the Ise Grand shrine and in this area, nature itself was once worshiped as a god. Many resolved ascetics would journey through treacherous routes to reach this waterfall and seek enlightenment.

While times and beliefs have changed over the years, many people continue to visit the waterfall, not only to seek enlightenment, but also to escape from the busy modern society that most of us currently live in.

Today, I took a trip to the sacred Shirataki waterfall to undergo the tradition of waterfall meditation.

Deep in the Forest, 5 Minutes away from the Train Station

Deep in the Forest, 5 Minutes away from the Train Station
The place to undergo the waterfall meditation activity is only a few minutes walk from Funatsu station in Toba, but the area is surrounded by trees and dirt paths, completely immersed in nature.
In the morning, we drove over to the main base and parked the car in the dirt parking lot next to the river. There were a couple of shacks, a trendy looking cafe, and lots of trees in every direction.

We met up with the meditation guide and walked into one of the shacks to learn about the waterfall meditation.

Before the Meditation

Before the Meditation
We were debriefed on how the day will go. First, we’ll take a tour around the meditation grounds, participate in the waterfall meditation, warm up in a tent sauna, and end with a traditional lunch experience.

We proceeded to take a tour around the meditation grounds. The hiking trail ran alongside the river and was about 15 minutes long. There were many statues and relics along the way and the meditation guide explained to us the history and the significance of this sacred tradition.

Once we returned from the hike, we began preparations for the meditation. I was led to a small wooden shack to change clothes and I was given nothing but a white headband and loincloth.

Honestly, I felt quite naked, but it was summer so at least I wasn’t feeling cold.

And the Meditation Begins

And the Meditation Begins
Once I got dressed, I met the meditation guide next to the waterfall and he prepared me for the undertaking.

First, he explained what the waterfall meditation is meant to achieve and that I should stay as long as I feel is needed. Then he prompted me to warm up my body with a few practice punches and a loud warcry.
I was embarrassed and reluctant.

I was now ready to step into the waterfall.

I stepped into the water with one foot, then the other. It had just rained earlier so the water was cold but not unbearable.

I made my way against the current and greeted the waterfall daimyojin as I proceeded to enter. I first took a seat on the rock underneath and tugged my way under the waterfall.

The waterfall wasn’t gentle.

I could feel the water beating on my head as I tried my best to keep still. It took me a couple seconds to adjust to this environment and once I did, I began to close my eyes and meditate.

I sat on the rock, enduring the waterfall as I tried my best to clear my thoughts. I sat for what felt like a minute or so and then opened my eyes. I stood up, bowed to the waterfall, and proceeded to exit the river.

The meditation guide made sure I was okay and then told me to go back in for another round of meditation. I repeated the same process: bow to the waterfall, meditate for about a minute or 2, and bow as I leave.

After the second meditation, the guide asked if I’d like to attempt a third round, but highly encouraged it and this time, he said to really take my time.

After the Meditation

After the Meditation
When I closed my eyes, there were 4 people but when I opened my eyes, there was only one. I was handed a towel to dry myself and I was brought over to the tent sauna where the meditation guide was warming up the tent.

Despite it being a hot and humid summer, my body was freezing after being in the water for a long time so a tent sauna is just what I needed.

The sauna felt really nice and I stayed for an extra 3-4 minutes after my body completely warmed up. I worked up a good sweat in there and cooled down at the river one last time before changing back into my normal clothes.

Simple But Healthy Japanese Lunch

Simple But Healthy Japanese Lunch
After finishing up the meditation, we walked over to the Donguri Koya, a small, older house not too far from the waterfall. In this small house is a traditional kitchen and dining area with a firewood rice cooker and a sandpit in the middle of the dining table.

Here, we’d go through the experience of preparing a simple Japanese meal according to the oriental medicine principles of a healthy and balanced diet.

Most of the food was prepared beforehand and all we needed was the rice which we’ll be using the firewood stove to make. We placed some firewood and newspaper in the firepit and used a long bamboo straw to blow air in and build the fire.

Meanwhile, the others were preparing each individual’s plates with miso soup, tea, pickled cucumbers, and a vegetable dish which I’m not quite familiar with.

This meal was prepared with a balanced nutritious diet in mind. Everything was locally grown and included lots of vegetables, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein.

Once everyone’s food was prepared and before we dig in, we learned about the 13 measures of health. We sat around the table and everyone was handed a piece of paper. On the paper were the 13 measures to keep health from the ancient Chinese physician, Sun Simiao, once known as China’s King of Medicine.

We proceeded to practice these actions which involved swaying our head back and forth, massaging our face, rubbing our belly, and moving our eyes wildly. Supposedly actions like these are claimed to improve our overall health and wellbeing.

A Trendy Cafe in the Forest

A Trendy Cafe in the Forest
After lunch, we went to the Mori no Chaya cafe, back in the waterfall area, for some afternoon coffee. Shoes aren’t allowed inside so we changed into these interesting Japanese slippers at the entrance.

As I walked in, it felt like I was inside a cozy log house. It was a nicely sized house with a tall ceiling and a huge window with lush trees on the other side. There were seats in front of the window and this was the perfect place to enjoy a nice cup of coffee.

The Post Box in the Sky

The Post Box in the Sky
Just a 30 minute drive from the waterfall is Mt. Asama Viewpoint, the highest point of Ise, where we visited after the meditation. This place is located right at the border of Ise and Toba and you have an incredible panoramic view of both sides. On a clear day, it’s rumored that you can even see Mt. Fuji, making this the furthest point on land from where you can see the mountain.

There’s an elevated area and at the top of its stairs is a bright red postbox, gazing into the distance. Here, they sell postcards, which you can write a letter on and insert in the postbox to send to your loved ones.

I just took some photos.

The Temple in the Sky: Kongosho Temple

While at the peak of Mt. Asama, we visited another figure high up in the sky: the Kongosho Temple.

Just a short drive away from the post box, we parked at the temple’s wide open parking lot and walked over. The temple was a deep red tone, had traditional straw roofing, and guardians taking the form of a cow and tiger.

There were some stairs that led to the temple’s grounds, which was a wide open area with other temple buildings, monuments, and even a pond with a Japanese style bridge.

On the other side of the temple, there was a huge red and white gate that led to a mysterious path.

Tourist attractions covered by this article