Jisha seiryoku (寺社勢力)

Jisha seiryoku is a term describing the military, governmental, economical and cultural power of temples and shrines (at that time considered equivalent because of syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism), which shared power with the military government and Imperial Court during the Japanese middle ages. It is called 'seiryoku' because there was no center of power as with the military government and Imperial Court, but each religious institution acted independently and even in one institution there were many counteracting groups.


From the late Heian period, large temples such as the Enryaku-ji and Kofuku-ji Temples kept monk warriors and an independent military power. They also carried the mikoshi (portable shrine) to file a direct petition and asserted their demands.

The temples had many laypeople called Shuto, Jinin who made up large megalopolises surrounding temples with high economical, learning and craft-making activity called 'Keidai toshi' (temple city) in recent Japanese history studies.

The Enryaku-ji Temple owned a large keidai (land) on the east side of the Kamo-gawa River in Kyoto through Yasaka-jinja Shrine that was under the control of Enryaku-ji Temple, and Kofuku-ji Temple owned most of the shoen (manor in medieval Japan) in Yamato Province; they had a large influence on Kyoto through their economic power throughout the middle ages. The Enryaku-ji and Kofuku-ji Temples were strong jisha seiryoku that were together called 'Nanto hokurei' (the powerful temples of Nara and Mt. Hiei).

The lands of large temples were considered 'Muensho' where the common people who had a hard life would move in and become absorbed. The right for the bakufu to investigate wanted people, called 'Kendanken,' could not be enforced within large temple grounds and therefore many people who were escaping the war such as MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune and Emperor Godaigo sought protection under the temples.

At the end of the Sengoku period (period of the warring states) (Japan), Nobunaga ODA, Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI and others were strongly against the jisha seiryoku and fought many vicious battles. However, they used the advanced technological skills of the jisha seiryoku, for example craftsmen from Enryaku-ji Temple were used to build Azuchi-jo Castle, or rifles made by craftsmen from the Negoro-ji Temple were used in the battle.

Hideyoshi's Katanagari (sword hunt) meant that not only from the farmers but also weapons owned by jisha seiryoku were collected and this led to the disappearance of jisha seiryoku from the power structure of Japan after 500 years of existence.

Major jisha seiryoku

Enryaku-ji Temple
Hie-taisha Shrine (Hiyoshi-taisha Shrine)
Yasaka-jinja Shrine
Onjo-ji Temple
Kiyomizu-dera Temple
Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine
Daigo-ji Temple
Shitenno-ji Temple
Hongan-ji Temple
Kofuku-ji Temple
Todai-ji Temple
Mt. Koya
Negoro-ji Temple
Kumano Sanzan (three major shrines, Kumano-Hongu-Taisha, Kumano-Hayatama-Taisha and Kumano-Nachi-Taisha)
Dewa Sanzan Shrine
Hiraizumi Hakusan-jinja Shrine
Mt. Sekido

[Original Japanese]