Hokan-ji Temple (法観寺)

Hokan-ji Temple is a Buddhist temple belonging to the Kennin-ji school of the Rinzai Sect located in Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture.
Its honorific mountain prefix is 'Mt. Reio.'
It is situated nearby to Kiyomizu-dera Temple - known as a sacred place of Kannon. The five-storey pagoda that towers above the streets is commonly known as Yasaka Pagoda and is a local landmark. The name 'Yasaka Pagoda' has come to refer to the temple itself as the small temple precincts have no buildings that stand out other than the pagoda itself.


According to legend, the temple's five-storey pagoda was created by Prince Shotoku in the year 592 after Nyoirin Kannon (Cintamanicakra) appeared to him in a dream, following which he made an offering of three of Budda's ashes and named the temple Hokan-ji. The account of the founding by Prince Shotoku cannot be taken literally, but it is certain that this ancient temple has existed since before the relocation of Japan's capital to the city of Heian-kyo, and the prominent view is that it was founded by the Yasaka clan who immigrated to Japan from the Korean peninsula as a uji-dera, a Buddhist temple financially supported by an aristocratic family.

The temple was destroyed by fire in 1179 but was rebuilt by MINAMOTO no Yoritomo. It would later be repeatedly ravaged by fire but rebuilt each time.

The currently standing pagoda was rebuilt by Yoshinori ASHIKAGA (the sixth Shogun of the Muromachi bakufu, Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun).

It was during this time that it became a Zen temple associated with the Kennin-ji school of the Rinzai Sect in 1240. Acting on the recommendation of Muso Kokushi, Takauji ASHIKAGA constructed Ankoku-ji Temples with Risho-to Pagodas throughout the country from 1338, but this pagoda was designated the Risho-to Pagoda for the capital city and an offering of Buddhist relics was made.

Halls and Pagodas

The five-storey pagoda is in a purely Japanese style, has a tiled roof, and stands 49 meters tall - making it the highest after those of To-ji Temple and Kofuku-ji Temple. The central foundation stone used in its construction is the one remaining from the time of the temple's founding. The inside of the primary storey on the first floor, the statues of the Five Great Nyorai, with Dainichi Nyorai at their center. Visitors can enter the pagoda where they can see the central pillar atop the foundation stone as well as statues of the Five Great Nyorai. It is also possible to ascend the stairs to the second storey where a view of the streets of Kyoto can be enjoyed from the window. The pagoda has been designated an Important Cultural Property.

The other buildings within the temple precincts are the Taishi-do hall (hall dedicated to Prince Shotoku), the Yakushi-do hall (hall housing a statue of Yakushi Nyorai) and the teahouse. The Taishi-do hall houses statues of Prince Shotoku aged 3 years and 16 years. The Yakushi-do hall houses the principal image statue of Yakushi Nyorai as well as statues of Nikko Bosatsu, Gekko Bosatsu, Yumemi Jizo and the statues of the twelve protective deities.

The teahouse is named 'Chotaku-an' (litarally Wind-bell Listening Hut) as the sound of the pagoda's bronze wind bells can be heard from within. Wind bells are wind-chime-like objects that hang from the eaves of the five-storey pagoda.

The temple precincts also contain a stone pagoda that is said to be a burial mound containing the head of Yoshinaka KISO.

Cultural Properties

Important Cultural Properties
Five-storey Pagoda
Color painting on paper image of Yasaka Pagoda (Hokan-ji Temple pilgrimage mandala)
Cultural Properties Designated by Kyoto City
Taishi-do Hall
Yakushi-do Hall

Nearby Attractions
Ryozen Kannon
Kodai-ji Temple
Kiyomizu-dera Temple

[Original Japanese]