Chokyu-ji Temple (長弓寺)

Chokyu-ji Temple is a Buddhist temple of the Shingon Ritsu sect, located in Kamimachi, Ikoma City, Nara Prefecture. Its sango (literally, "mountain name"), which is the title prefixed to the name of a Buddhist temple, is Mayumisan. The principal image is eleven-faced Kannon. It is said the kaiki (patron of a temple in its founding)was Gyoki. The main hall, a national treasure, is known as a representative of Esoteric Buddhist halls built in the Kamakura period.


There are several opinions on the foundation of Chokyu-ji Temple, and there is no indisputable one. According to "Chokyu-ji engi," in the Nara period, Emperor Shomu ordered Priest Gyoki to found the temple to pay a tribute to a local ruler, Mayumi Takeyumi, who had died by a stray arrow shot by his son. It is said that later, FUJIWARA no Yoshitsugu completed the temple buildings. It is said the temple had 20 sub-temples at its best time, but only four remain today.

A legend says a person called ONO no Mayumi Takeyumi from 鳥見郷 accompanied Emperor Shomu for hunting in 728. When Nagamaro, Takeyumi's son and one of the attendants, saw a strange bird take off and shot an arrow, the arrow hit Takeyumi by mistake and he died. Pitying unfortunate Takeyumi and his son, Shomu ordered Priest Gyoki to construct a temple. Gyoki placed an image of eleven-faced Kannon as the principal image of Buddha. The image of eleven-faced Kannon has an additional head of Buddha on its head, which is said to have been carved out of Emperor Shomu's arrow. Incidentally, the word "Tomi (鳥見 or 登美)," which is the old place name indicating the eastern mountain foot of Mt. Ikoma where Chokyu-ji Temple is located, appears in the myth of Jinmu tosei (Eastern expedition of Emperor Jinmu). It is presently the area from the west part of Nara City to Ikoma City.

It is said later, FUJIWARA no Yoshitsugu (716 to 777) restored it in the reign of Kanmu Emperor (737 to 806), but it does not match the history because Kanmu's accession to the throne was in 781 after the death of Yoshitsugu. Another legend says the temple was founded by FUJIWARA no Otsugu (774 to 843) in the early Heian period.

Although the history of the temple since then until the Medieval period is not so clear, it is obvious that the existing main hall was founded in 1279, according to the signature on a ridgepole. It was restored by Eison (1201 to 1290), who was the founder of the Shingon Ritsu sect.

Izanagi-jinja Shrine, located in the east side of Chokyu-ji precincts, was called Gozutenno-sha before the separation of Buddhism and Shintoism in Meiji. According to the temple history, it was constructed as Chokyu-ji's chinju (local Shinto deity) by the order of Emperor Shomu. As shown by a torii standing at the entrance of the gateway to Chokyu-ji Temple, syncretization of Shinto with Buddhism was practiced before the modern times.


The main hall, a national treasure, stands at the end of the precincts. Izanagi-jinja Shrine (Ikoma City) and Yakushi-in lie on its right side (east), and Ensho-in, Hokke-in, and Hoko-in on its left side (west). As the main temple of Chokyu-ji has no chief priest, the main hall is managed by its four sub-temples by rotation. Yakushi-in, Ensho-in, and Hokke-in among the sub-temples run shukubo (visitors' or pilgrims' lodgings in a temple), offering a vegetarian dish.

Main Hall (National treasure)
The signature on a ridgepole indicates it was constructed in 1279. It is an irimoya-zukuri (hip-and-gable roof construction) building with a hiwadabuki (construction with the bark of hinoki, Japanese cypress) roof. It is a typical new Japanese architectural style building in the Kamakura period, adopting Daibutsu-yo (Buddhist architectural style) for the designs, etc. of doors (sangarado, paneled entrance doors introduced from China) and kibana (the end of the beam penetrating a pole) of kashira-nuki (head rail) with decorative carving at the end of the timber, while using the Japanese architectural style as its base. It is characterized by a long and large koryo (moderately curved beam like a rainbow) fixed over the bay (space or distance between two pillars) of 3-ken (1 ken is 1.818 m) in length and a large gejin (the outer place of worship for public people).

Site of Three-storied Pagoda
Chokyu-ji Temple used to have a three-storied pagoda that was said to have been constructed in the Kamakura period. After the pagoda was moved two times, presently only the first story portion remains in the garden of Takanawa Prince Hotel in Minato Ward, Tokyo. When Chokyu-ji Temple was heavily damaged by the Muroto typhoon in 1934, the roof of its main hall was destroyed. The temple decided to sell the three-storied pagoda to raise the repair cost. To be more precise, the second and third stories of the three-storied pagoda had been lost earlier. It is said only the first story remained at that time. After the tower was once possessed by a certain businessman and moved to Kamakura City, it was moved to the garden of Takanawa Prince Hotel in 1954, and is now called "Kannon-do Hall." In addition to that, the gate and belfry, which had been in Chokyu-ji Temple, were moved to the hotel.

Mayumi-zuka (Mayumi Tumulus)
It is located one kilometer east from the temple, and said to be the tumulus of Mayumi Takeyumi, or the place where Emperor Shomu's arrow was buried (A legend says part of Emperor Shomu's arrow was used to carve the head of Buddha on the head of the principal image of eleven-faced Kannon).

Cultural Properties

National Treasure
Main Hall
Important Cultural Properties
Wooden standing statue of eleven-faced Kannon
It is a statue carved from a single tree trunk in the late Heian period, which is placed in the black lacquered zushi (a cupboard-like case with double doors in which an image of [the] Buddha, a sutra, or some other revered object is kept at a temple) as the principal statue of the main hall. The ancient style is left in its distinctive face with narrow eyes, thick body, and so on.

Black lacquered zushi
Wooden standing statue of eleven-faced Kannon
It is a statue carved from a single pine tree trunk in the Kamakura period, which is believed to have been carved by Koshun and his son, Kozei, who were belonging to the Keiha school of Buddhist sculpture.


13-minute walk from Shiraniwadai Station of Kinki Nippon Railway. Take a Nara Kotsu Bus Line bus (for Takayama) at Tomio Station of Kinki Nippon Railway, get off at "Ikoma Kamimachi", and walk ten minutes (Not so frequent bus services). Take a Nara Kotsu Bus Line bus (for Gakken Kita-Ikoma Station) at Gakuen-mae Station (Nara Prefecture) of Kinki Nippon Railway, get off at "Mayumi 4-chome," and walk 15 minutes.

[Original Japanese]