Tahoto (多宝塔)

Tahoto (literally, "multiple-treasure pagoda") represent an architecture of pagodas, which are religious buildings in Asia. Today's temple architects and cultural property experts define tahoto as a single-level tower with a Mokoshi (pent roof). As viewed from above, the mokoshi is square and the pagoda is circular in the middle (although there are some exceptions). Additionally, the term 'hoto' is used by professionals in reference to cylinder-shaped pagodas topped by squared roofs. Thus, hoto are stylistically different from tahoto.

Where the tahoto is first cited

The tahoto is mentioned in Chapter 11 of 'Hokkekyo' (the Lotus Sutra), Kenhotohon (literally, 'Seeing the Buddha nature'). According to it, a tahoto appeared while Shakyamuni was preaching Hokekyo. Then, Taho Nyorai (Prabhuta-ratnam), who was inside, turned over his position to Shakyamuni by giving him half of his seat; this is how the tahoto came into existence.

Kenhotohon states that 'while Seson (Shaka) was preaching, a huge Shippoto (pagoda made of seven treasures, including gold, silver and lapis lazuli) gushed out of the ground and rose high into the air.'
The pagoda was owned by Taho Nyorai, a Kakobutsu (Buddha before Shakyamuni). Taho Nyorai, who was residing in the pagoda, was so impressed with Shaka's teachings that he gave half of his seat to him and sat together with him. The name 'Tahoto' is considered to have been derived from this chapter of Hokkekyo.
In the Chinese version, however, the same pagoda is cited as 'hoto' or 'shippoto.'

This episode makes one of the most dramatic scenes in Hokkekyo and is well known as proof and validation. The theme has been taken up in various works of art. An example of this is Bronze Plaque Hokke-Sesso-Zu (literally, "a picture of Buddha preaching Hokkekyo engraved on a bronze plaque") (a national treasure), possessed by Hase-dera Temple in Nara Prefecture. The work, which was created in the late seventh century, depicts the scene from Kenhotohon. However, the pagoda in this work is a three-story tower with the floors in a hexagonal shape.


Kenhotohon, Chapter 11 of Hokkekyo, doesn't specifically indicate what shape the tahoto had. The tahoto now seen in Japan are considered to have developed in a manner unique to the country. Scholars believe that in China, as well as in ancient Japan, people built three-story or five-story pagodas and enshrined Taho Nyorai and Shaka Nyorai in them.


Using the current terms of temple architecture, a tahoto can be defined as a two-story tower with the first floor in a square shape and the second floor in a circular shape. More specifically, a tahoto had to have three pillars between the vertices of the square, which means that each side had four pillars with four spaces between them. The one that has five spaces on one side of the square is called 'Daito' (literally, "large pagoda").
The temples of the Tendai sect have built pagodas with the floors on both the first and second levels in the shape of a square, and they simply call them 'two-story pagodas.'
In a tahoto, a shumidan (an altar in the shape of Mt. Shumi) is usually placed on the first floor and Buddhist statues are installed on it. As shown by Ishiyama-dera Temple, Dainichi Nyorai is typically enshrined in a tahoto as the principal image.


Historically, the term 'hoto' has been used in reference to pagodas eulogistically, but it doesn't specify a certain architectural style. However, today's temple architects define a 'hoto' as a pagoda with a cylinder-shaped body topped by a roof in the shape of a four-sided pyramid. Hoto of this style were often used for the mausoleums of the Tokugawa shogunate. They were usually made of copper or stone; few were made of wood. Hoto with cylinder-shaped bodies and extended roofs are considered to be the archetypes of tahoto. Between the first and second levels, the tahoto shows a cylinder-shaped body covered in white plaster; this part is called 'Kamebara' (literally, "tortoise body") and is indicative of the cylinder-shaped body it used to have. Although the body of the pagoda appears to be in the shape of a cylinder, a tahoto is basically a cube topped by a cylinder-shaped structure.

Itto ryoson (principle image)

The temples of the Hokke and Nichiren sects worship hoto as their principle image. They have adopted a style called 'Itto ryozon' (literally, "a pagoda and two Buddha") where a pagoda is placed between Shakamuni-butsu and Taho Nyorai.
This style may sometimes take a form called 'Itto ryozon shishi,' where four Bosatsu (bodhisattva) worshipped by the sects are added to the above 'Itto ryozon.'

How the tahoto style emerged

The two-story pagoda with a squared floor on the first level and a circular floor on the second level was invented and uniquely developed in Japan. The origin of this style is found in Birushana hokkai taisho, a pagoda that Kukai (one of Japan's best known, most beloved Buddhist saints, and founder of the Shingon ("True Word") school of Buddhism) planned to build at Mt. Koya. The pagoda, which was completed after he died, was subsequently destroyed many times by fires. The pagoda now found in Mt. Koya is the one rebuilt with reinforced concrete in 1938. (This pagoda is called "Daito" (literally, "large pagoda") or "Konpon Daito" ("large pagoda, the root of the universe")). Evidence shows that the pagoda initially built was close to what we see today.

Saicho, who is considered to have been one of the most active Buddhist priests in the early Heian period along with Kukai, also planned to build six pagodas in various parts of Japan in order to house 1000 copies of the Lotus Sutra. However, unlike today's tahoto, they were two-story pagodas that had squared floors on both the first and second levels. Hokke Soji-in Toto, a pagoda built at Enryaku-ji Temple on Mt. Hie in 1980 to control the six pagodas built by Saicho, still maintains its original style with squared floors on both the first and second levels. There were very few two-story pagodas of this style before pre-modern times; the one at Kirihata-ji Temple in Tokushima Prefecture may be a rare example. This tower was initially built in 1618 within the precinct of Jingu-ji Temple, which was associated with Sumiyoshi-taisha Shrine in Osaka, but early in the Meiji period it was moved to where it now stands.

Major remains

National Treasures

Ishiyama-dera Temple (Otsu City, Shiga Prefecture)

Jigan-in Temple (Izumisano City, Osaka Prefecture)

Choho-ji Temple (Kainan City, Wakayama Prefecture)

Kongosanmaiin Temple (Koya-cho, Wakayama Prefecture)

Negoro-ji Temple (Iwade City, Wakayama Prefecture)

Jodo-ji Temple (Onomichi City, Hiroshima Prefecture)

Important Cultural Properties (designated by the national government)

Ishido-ji Temple (Minami Boso City, Chiba Prefecture)

Daiju-ji Temple (Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture)

Higashi Kannon-ji Temple (Toyohashi City, Aichi Prefecture)

Chiryu-jinja Shrine (Chiryu City, Aichi Prefecture)

Jojakko-ji Temple (Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture)

Kontai-ji Temple (Wazuka-cho, Kyoto Prefecture)

Kichiden-ji Temple (Ikaruga-cho, Nara Prefecture)

Kume-dera Temple (Kashihara City, Nara Prefecture)

Eifuku-ji Temple (Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture)

Shoman-in Temple (Osaka City, Osaka Prefecture)

Sagami-ji Temple (Kasai City, Hyogo Prefecture)

Gaya-in Temple (Miki City, Hyogo Prefecture)

Tokko-in Temple (Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture)

Choon-ji Temple (Amagasaki City, Hyogo Prefecture)

Kimii-dera Temple (Wakayama City, Wakayama Prefecture)

Kirihata-ji Temple (Awa City, Tokushima Prefecture)

[Original Japanese]