Hoju-ji Temple (Kyoto City) (法住寺 (京都市))

Hoju-ji Temple is a Tendai Sect Buddhist temple located in Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City.


It was founded in the mid Heian period by FUJIWARA no Tamemitsu and, following this, Emperor Goshirakawa centered his court at the temple as 'Hojuji-dono Palace' during his period of cloistered rule. Hojuji-dono Palace was set ablaze by MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka, the Retired Emperor Goshirakawa passed away several years later and Hoju-ji Temple continued to serve as his mausoleum until the end of the Edo period when the tomb and temple were separated in the Meiji period.

The temple's statue of "Migawari Fudomyoo" is in the Heian period style. According to temple legend, this statue was created by Jikaku Daishi and devoutly worshipped by the Retired Emperor Goshirakawa. The statue is said to have been used as a substitute for the retired emperor when the temple was set ablaze by Yoshinaka, and is at the center of the Fudo-e festival that is still held every November 15.

Heian Period

It is known from "Nihongi Ryaku" (Summary of Japanese Chronologies) and "Fuso Ryakki" (A Brief History of Japan) that Grand Minister FUJIWARA no Tamemitsu held Hoju-ji Temple's 'rakkei hoyo' (a memorial service to celebrate the construction of a temple) in the year 988. The temple's Shaka-do Hall houses a "one jo, six shaku" (approximately 480 cm) tall statue of Shaka Nyorai and statues of Kannon Bosatsu, Enmei Bosatsu and Nyoirin Kannon Bosatsu; the Hokke Sanmai-do Hall houses a statue of Fugen Bosatsu; the Jougyou Sanmai-do Hall houses a statue of Amida Nyorai; and the temple would put on lavish ceremonies for Emperor Enyu. In the year 985, Tamemitsu lost both his wife and daughter, Emperor Kazan's court lady, and it is said that he founded a temple to pray for their happiness in the afterlife. Tamemitsu rejected his worldly fame and resigned himself to a life at the temple absorbed in a prayer to Amitabha. The temple was donated 100 "sustenance" households (fuko) following Tamemitsu's death in the year 992. After Tamemitsu's death, his descendants protected the temple for a time but it was destroyed in 1032 when fire spread from the Kujo-tei residence. There are no records of any large-scale reconstruction works having taken place for approximately the next 120 years.

Period of Cloistered Rule

From 1161, the Retired Emperor Goshirakawa exerted cloistered rule from the area around Hoju-ji Temple, constructed by FUJIWARA no Tamemitsu, including the temple itself. This was Hojuji-dono Palace. The site was over 10 hectares in size, and the power of the Retired Emperor who also backed the Taira family allowed him to demolish the surrounding buildings to create an expansive estate in which the three Imperial palaces, Nan-den, Sei-den and Hoku-den (Southern Palace, and Western Palace, Northern Palace), were built. The small Hojuji-dono Palace was Nan-den. In addition to the Retired Emperor's residence, Nan-den Palace also contained the Higashi Komi-do Hall, Fudo-do Hall and Senju-do Hall, and a large pond. In 1163, Sanjusangen-do Hall was built to the north of Nan-den Palace using funds donated by TAIRA no Kiyomori. Ima Hie-jinja Shrine and Ima Kumano-hongu Shrine were also constructed in Hoju-ji Temple. The Hokke-do Hall was constructed as the tomb of Kenshunmonin (TAIRA no Shigeko), court lady of the Retired Emperor Goshirakawa, after she died in 1176.

Hojuji-dono Palace came to symbolize the glory of the Retired Emperor and the Taira family, but Nan-den was set ablaze in 1183 by Yoshinaka KISO's forces (Siege of Hojuji-dono Palace), the Retired Emperor escaped to Ima Hie-jinja Shrine in a palanquin and later moved to Rokujo Nishinoto-in Temple's Choko-do Hall where he lived out the remainder of his life. Following the death of the Retired Emperor Goshirakawa in 1192, Hokke-do Hall was reconstructed on the site of the former Hojuji-dono Palace and became his tomb. This Hokke-do Hall was situated to the south of Kenshunmonin's Hokke-do Hall, and it is assumed that the two halls stood side-by-side facing Rengeo-in Temple (Sanjusangen-do). It was recorded in the diary of Emperor Hanazono that Kenshunmonin's Hokke-do Hall became severely damaged in the 14th century, and now only the Hokke-do Hall of the retired Emperor Goshirakawa remains.

From the Kamakura Period to the end of the Edo Period

Hoju-ji Temple long continued to exist to protect the tomb of Emperor Goshirakawa. As stated above, the Hokke-do enshrining Kenshunmon-in and the Hokke-do enshrining the Retired Emperor Goshirakawa stood alongside one another to the west of Rengeo-in Temple. Hoju-ji Temple became connected to several temples as power changed hands over the years. The connection to Myoho-in Temple was so close that when the Retired Emperor Goshirakawa relocated Myoho-in Temple on Mt. Hiei to Kyoto, the head priest of Myoho-in Temple would be sent to Ima Hie-jinja Shrine and Hoju-ji Temple, and there was a chance that is could be considered a Monzeki Temple (a temple traditionally served by head priest related to the Imperial family).

Under the Toyotomi government, the territory of the temple came to include the precincts of Hoko-ji Temple (Great Buddha) immediately to the north and Rengeo-in Temple, but Myoho-in Temple was highly regarded by the Tokugawa government and Hoju-ji Temple became treated as an 'inge' (branch temple that supports the main temple) of Myoho-in Monzeki Temple. In the Myoho-in Temple diary entitled "Myoho-in Nichijiki", the name 'Hoju-ji Temple' becomes more prominent throughout the Edo period. It is known that Hoju-ji Temple continued to protect the adjacent tomb of Emperor Goshirakawa and, although the tomb is now separate from the temple, it has a water basin with the words "Hoju-ji Temple" written on it. The graves of the sucessive cloistered Imperial princes (Monzeki) who served at Myoho-in Temple were also in the precincts of Hoju-ji Temple.

Wooden statues of the Forty-seven Ronin are also housed at the temple as it is said that Yoshio OISHI visited Hoju-ji Temple during the Genroku era. When scholars emerged at the end of the Edo period claiming that the tomb at Hoju-ji Temple was not that of Emperor Goshirakawa, it is said that the head priest at the time dug under the tomb and discovered a cist containing the remains of the Emperor just as the records described.

From the Beginning of the Meiji Period to the Present

In the Meiji period, the tomb of Emperor Goshirakawa and the graves of the Myoho-in Temple Monzeki princes were separated from the temple grounds and placed under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Imperial Household. At the beginning of the Meiji period, a statue of Amida (Amitabha), thought to be connected to Shinran, and a wooden statue of Shinran (statue depicting him eating soba noodles) were relocated to the temple from Bukko-ji Temple in Shibutani, Higashiyama. Hoju-ji Temple was known as "Daikotoku-in Temple" from the Meiji period to the Showa period but its original name was restored in 1955. The temple's role of protecting the tomb of Emperor Goshirakawa ceremonially came to an end in the early Meiji era, but maintains a close connection and also has a replica of the statue of the Emperor housed within the tomb that was created in 1991. Also, Imayo (a type of poetry, popular in the Heian period) Utaawase (poetry contests) that were much enjoyed by the Retired Emperor continue to be held at the temple.

Emperor Goshirakawa Tomb at Hoju-ji Temple

Adjacent to Hoju-ji Temple
Under the jurisdiction of the Tsukinowa regional office of the Imperial Mausolea and Tombs Division, the Imperial Household Agency.


Sanjusangendo-mawaricho, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City

Main Events (as of 2005)

January 15: Mubyosokusai Daikondaki (a daikon radish prepared for Fudo Myoo is cooked in a large pot and served)
May 2: Goshirakawain Goseiki Hoyo (the wooden statue of the Retired Emperor Goshirakawa is displayed to the public from May 1 to 7)
Second Sunday in October: Imayo Utaawase (service by Japan Imayo kabu gakkai)
November 15: Minoshiro Fudoson Taisai (Saito Goma ceremony and performances)
December 14: Gishi Taisai (Buddhist memorial service followed by a tea offering ceremony and the serving of Uchiiri Soba ("raid" buckwheat noodles))

[Original Japanese]