Hokai-ji Temple (法界寺)

Hokai-ji Temple, located in Hino, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City, is a special head temple of the Daigo branch of the Shingon Sect.
Its honorific mountain prefix is 'Tokozan.'
The temple was founded by Dengyo Daishi Saicho and is dedicated to the principal image statue of Bhechadjaguru (withheld from public view). It is known as being the Bhaisajyaguru-dedicated family temple of the Hino family of the Fujiwara clan under the alternate names 'Hino Yakushi' and 'Chichi Yakushi' as well as renowned for its National Treasures of the Amitabha hall and statue of Amitabha.

Origin and History

Hokai-ji Temple is situated in Hino, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City, to the south of Daigo-ji Temple and near to the Uji City boundary. "Hojoki" author, KAMO no Chomei lived in Hino and it is also the birthplace of Shinran. The Hino area was formerly part of Uji County, Yamashiro Province and was the territory of the Hino family. The Hino family was a family of the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan and had a rich tradition of Confucianism and poetry.

The origin of Hokai-ji Temple is believed to lie in the Buddha hall enshrining Bhaisajyaguru that was built during the latter part of the Heian Period in 1051 by the former doctors of letters (monjo hakase) Sukenari HINO after entering the priesthood. The inside of the Amitabha statue contains approximately 10cm long statues of Bhaisajyaguru that were created by Dengyo Daishi Saicho and handed down through the Hino family.

There is also an alternative legend regarding the temple's founding. It tells that the temple was constructed in 822 by FUJIWARA no Iemune, who came four generations before Sukenari HINO, as a family temple dedicated to a statue of Bhaisajyaguru carved by Saicho and with Saicho acting as founding patron.

The later increase in devotion to Amitabha and the spread of pessimism due to decadent-age theory during the latter part of the Heian period led to the construction of an Amitabha hall at Hokai-ji Temple. It is known from diaries and records of the time that at least five sixteen-shaku (shaku = about 30.3cm) Amitabha statues existed at Hokai-ji Temple during the latter part of the Heian period. However, it is not known which of these is currently housed within the Amitabha hall.

It is said that Jodo Shinshu sect founder, Shinran was born at Hokai-ji Temple in 1173 as the son of Arinori HINO (Hino Tanjo-in Temple, constructed during the Edo-period and connected to the birthplace of Shinran, stands near Hokai-ji Temple).

Garan (Temple buildings)

Bhaisajyaguru hall (main hall, Important Cultural Property): Originally the main hall of Dendo-ji Temple in Tatsuta, Ikaruga Cho, Nara Prefecture that was relocated in 1904. It was constructed in 1456, during the Muromachi period. Dendo-ji Temple was thought to have stood in the vicinity of Tatsuta-jinja Shrine in Ikaruga Cho but few details are known. The principal image wooden standing statue of Bhaisajyaguru (Important Cultural Property) was created during the latter part of the Heian period and has come to be worshipped as 'Chichi Bhaisajyaguru' (healthy breast-feeding Bhaisajyaguru) as it is believed that praying to the statue will improve the flow of breast milk.

Amitabha hall (National Treasure): Built during the early Kamakura period. It is presumed to have been rebuilt soon after being destroyed by a fire resulting from a conflict in 1221. The Ho-Goken (length between pillars at the front, back, right and left sides are all 5-ken) (ken= about 1.8m) hall is surrounded by a 1 ken deep pent roof enclosure and topped by a pyramidal cypress bark roof. Original paintings from the time of the temple's construction remain on the long, narrow, horizontal wall above the pillars and non-penetrating tie beams of the inner sanctum.

National Treasures

Amitabha hall: Described above

Seated statue of Amitabha: Created at the end of the 11th century. It is the principal image of the Amitabha hall. The statue is large at 2.8 meters tall and is a typical of the style of Buddhist sculptor Jocho.

Important Cultural Properties

Main hall

Wooden standing statue of Bhaisajyaguru

Wooden standing statues of Bhaisajyaguru's the twelve divine generals

Paintings on the wall of inner sanctum of the Amitabha hall

47 paintings: 23 of these adorn the long, narrow, horizontal wall above the upper non-penetrating tie beams of the inner sanctum (10 sky paintings, 5 paintings of instruments and Buddhist alter fittings, 8 paintings of Amitabha) and the other 24 are painted on the wall above this and depict Hoso Gemon)
They are a rare example in Japan of images painted, not on wooden walls, but on mud walls.

4 shitenbashira (the four pillars placed around the Buddhist altar): Paintings depicting images such as Buddhist deities of the Vajradhatu mandala, the twelve celestials and Kalavinka remain on the shitenbashira but have undergone severe peeling and fading.

Place of Pilgrimage

The 38th temple of the Saigoku Yakushi 49 Temple Pilgrimage

Annual Events

Hino Hadaka-odori (naked dance) (January 14th): A Kyoto City registered intangible ethnocultural asset


19 Hino Nishi Omichi-cho, Fushimi Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture

Opening Times
9:00-17:00 (9:00-16:00 from October to March)
Approximately 20 minutes walk from Ishida station (Kyoto Prefecture) on the Tozai Line of the Kyoto City Subway.

Nearby Attractions

Hino Tanjo-in Temple
Ichigon-ji Temple
Kayao-jinja Shrine
Daigo-ji Temple

[Original Japanese]