The five-storey pagoda of Bitchu-Kokubunji
looks impressive, be it from a distance and up close
The sight of the pagoda drew me into the grounds of
the quiet and peaceful temple complex
A serene looking Buddha statue has pride of place
in one of the temple buildings
When thinking back about the sights I saw over the course of my Kibi Plain bike excursion, I think the single most interesting place I visited was Kibitsu Shrine but the most eye-catching has to be Bitchu-Kokubunji -- specifically, its five-story pagoda, which was the last of its kind to have been built in Japan and can be seen from miles away.
Again, as with Kibitsu Shrine, I had the place pretty much to myself at Bitchu-Kokubunji. And once more like with Kibitsu Shrine, there was no entrance charge for the place -- something that I'm pretty sure would not have been the case if Bitchu-Kokubunji were located in, say, Kyoto or Kamakura (where all the Buddhist temples I visited charged entry fees though -- and this is something I've found pretty much without fail in Japan -- the Shinto shrines do not).
For the most part, I was content to peek into rather than enter any of the buildings at Bitchu-Kokubunji -- with the exception being that which housed a small souvenir area and where some food could be served. Although part of me was tempted by the thought of having a bowl of soba (buckwheat noodles) there, I settled instead for a cone of one of those great soft serve ice creams that I love to eat when I'm in Japan -- and which helped to slake my thirst as well as fill me up a bit!
More than incidentally, I was surprised to find way fewer eateries along or near the Kibi Plain bike route than I thought I would (so was glad that I did pack some snacks to eat along the way). I also didn't expect to see so few people out on the bicycle path that day. In all, I think I saw just three other bicyclists cycling from Bizen-Ichinomiya to Soja, and only one bicyclists electing to go the opposite way -- and I think that increased our feeling of camaraderie, so whenever we spotted one another, we'd smile and be friendly like we knew each other (when, in fact, we didn't!).
Bitchu-Kokubunji was the last place I stopped at before I got to Soja -- and looking back, I should have stopped at a couple of attractions in the town itself. Maybe another time... and if so, I may be tempted to go on this really very pleasant bike path once more, and check out other sights in the area that I didn't go for this time around! :)