Eisan-ji Temple (栄山寺)

Eisan-ji Temple is a temple of the Hozan School of the Shingon Sect located in Gojo City, Nara Prefecture. It was established by FUJIWARA no Muchimaro. Its sango (literally, "mountain name"), which is the title prefixed to the name of a Buddhist temple, is Gakushosan. Its honzon (the principal image of Buddha) is Yakushi Nyorai. It is known for Hakkakudo (an octagonal hall designated as a national treasure), which was built in the Nara period.


The area of current Gojo City was called Amida no Sato in ancient times. The place name of 'Amida' is mentioned in "Manyo Shu" (the oldest anthology of tanka), and Adahime-Jinja Shrine, which is one of Shikinai-sha (shrines listed in "Engishiki Jinmyocho" [a shrine list written in Engishiki, an ancient book for codes and procedures on national rites and prayers]), lies in this area; these facts suggest that this area was civilized early.

Eisan-ji Temple was previously known as Sakiyama-dera Temple, which is said to have been erected by Muchimaro, FUJIWARA no Huhito's eldest son, in 719. After that, it flourished as the Fujiwara Nanke family's family temple until the Kamakura period. In the period of the Northern and the Southern Courts (Japan), an Anzaisho (a temporary lodging built to accommodate an Imperial visit) for the emperors of the Southern Court, Emperor Gomurakami, Emperor Chokei and Emperor Gokameyama, was placed here.
Hence it is designated as a national historic site, 'the Site of Eisan-ji Angu.'

It is said that the existing Hakkakudo is what FUJIWARA no Nakamaro built in memory of his father, FUJIWATA no Muchimaro. Muchimaro's tomb was on Mt. Saho (a hilly place in the north of the urban area of Nara City) at first but moved on the mountain to the north of Eisan-ji Temple in 760. Therefore, Hakkakudo should have been constructed within the five-year period from this year to the year Nakamaro died, 764. There exists a document known as 'Zoendoshocho (造円堂所牒)' dated December 20, 763 in Shosoin Monjo (documents retained in Shosoin), and the word 'Endo (円堂)' in this document is considered to refer to Hakkakudo of Eisan-ji Temple.


Main hall
It is an octagonal building in the Honkawarabuki tile-roofing style and considered to have been erected by FUJIWARA no Nakamaro to pray to the Buddha for the repose of the soul of his father, Muchimaro. It is a rare structure among the buildings built in the Nara period from the points that it was built in the place other than Heijo-kyo or Ikaruga and that the year of construction has been almost identified. It is octagonal-shaped on the exterior, but the moya (the central part of the building) is square and four octagonal pillars erected at the periphery of the naijin (the inner temple) are structural pivots. It used to have a thatched roof before the refurbishment in 1911, when the roof was restored with tiles. The hoju (the uppermost spherical part of a pagoda finial) on the roof was restored then, but the remain of stone hoju, which is considered to be the original, is preserved separately. The colored paintings on the internal four pillars, hinuki (a neck penetrating tie beam which extends through a pillar) on the upper part of the pillars, and the ceiling are greatly damaged by peeling and falling, but nevertheless they are a valuable legacy from the Nara period painting and designated as important cultural properties as 'paintings' separately from the architecture. Bodhisattva playing a musical instrument is painted on the pillars and Hiten (a flying, music-playing Buddhist angel) and birds with human's faces on hinuki.

Cultural Properties

National Treasures
Hakkakudo (with the remain of stone roban [a dew basin at the bottom of a pagoda finial]and hoju [the uppermost spherical part of a pagoda finial])
Bonsho (a temple bell)
The inscription says it was made in 917. Along with the bell in Jingo-ji Temple in Kyoto and the one in Byodo-in Temple in Uji, it is known as one of 'Heian Sanzetsu no Kane (Heian's Three Best Bells),' and on its four sides there are bulged inscriptions of the words chosen by SUGAWARA no Michizane and calligraphed by ONO no Michikaze. It was dedicated by FUJIWARA no Michiaki who was 5 generations after FUJIWARA no Muchimaro, and his uncle, TACHIBANA no Sumikiyo, and initially it was in Yamashiro Docho-ji Temple. Docho-ji Temple was named after FUJIWARA no Michiaki and TACHIBANA no Sumikiyo by taking one character from each of their names, and is located in Sujikai-bashi Bridge, Fukakusa, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City.

Important Cultural Properties
Hakkakudo Naijin (the inner temple) Decorative Painting
Painting of Onjo Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) (on Octagonal pillars) 4 pieces
Pictures of Buddhist Angel, Bird with Human's Face, Bodhisattva, Mountain Wizard (on hinuki) 4 pieces
Hosogemon (a flower pattern) (on the ceiling) 1 piece
Wooden Seated Image of Yakushi Nyorai Buddha – the statue enshrined in a black-lacquered miniature shrine on the dais in the hondo (the main hall), which, based on the style of its make, is considered to have been created in the Muromachi period.

Wooden standing images of 12 divine generals
Stone lantern
This stone lantern has an inscription of 1284 and located in the main hall, it is called Eisan-ji style and it shows well its initial image.

Stone Toba (a stone 7-storied tower) – built in the later Heian period.

Historic sites
The site of Eisan-ji Angu

Cultural Properties stored in former storehouse of Eisan-ji Temple

Three ancient manuscripts mentioned below (each of which is an important cultural property) were bought by the Agency for Cultural Affairs after World War II, and currently belong to the National Museum of Japanese History. All are important historical records to study the history of the temple.

Eisan-ji Temple Jiryo (the fief owned by a temple) Monjo (documents): 3 volumes
Kansenji (a formal document issued by the highest administrative agency to a temple or a shrine): dated August 7 in the 3rd year of the Hogen era (April 27, 1156 to April 20, 1159)
Kishomon (a document on which an oath [to Buddha or gods] was written): dated October 20 in the 1st year of the Eiryaku era (October 1, 1160 to April 9, 1161)


Take a Nara Kotsu bus at Gojo Bus Center at JR Gojo Station (Nara Prefecture) and get off at 'Eisan-ji Temple'. The buses are not frequent, and do not run on holidays. Or get off at the bus stop 'Eisan-ji Guchi' and walk southward for about 10 minutes from the Imai-cho intersection.

By World Geodetic System

[Original Japanese]