Hokke-ji Temple (法華寺)

Hokke-ji Temple is a temple of Komyo sect in Hokkeji-cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture. It was the so-kokubun-ni-ji Temple (the head nunnery temple) of Japan in the Nara period. It has no sango (name of a group of Buddhist temples). The principal image is Juichimen Kannon-zo (the statue of Eleven-faced Kannon) and the founder is Empress Komyo.

Origin and history
It is known as a monzeki temple (a prestigious temple whose chief priest is a member of the Imperial family etc.) as well as a temple associated with Empress Komyo,
While Todai-ji Temple was the so-kokubun-ji Temple (head temple of Japan), Hokke-ji Temple was the so-kokubun-ni-ji Temple, and its exact name was Hokke metsuzai no tera. At the place where Hokke-ji Temple is located now, there used to be a residence of Fujiwara no Fuhito, and after Fuhito died, his daughter Komyoshi, or Empress Komyo inherited it and used it as her residence. In 745, the residence of Empress was made into gu-ji (temple associated with a shrine), which is the origin of Hokke-ji Temple. It was around 747, two year after that, when the temple was ranked as the provincial nunnery of Yamato Province and the head nunnery of Japan. Office of Hokke-ji Temple Construction, which administrated erection of Hokke-ji Temple, was abolished in 782, so it is assumed that the buildings of the temple was completed around that time.

Hokke-ji Temple in the Nara period was a large temple with both east and west pagodas, but after the transfer of the national capital to the city of Heian-kyo, it gradually declined and the record in the late Heian period shows that the temple almost came to ruin around that period. It is said that in 1180, Todai-ji temple and Kofuku-ji Temple went up in flames by the fire caused by the war of TAIRA no Shigehira, and Hokke-ji Temple was also damaged.

In the Kamakura period, a priest Chogen SHUNJOBO, who successfully restored the Great Buddha in Todai-ji Temple, restored temple buildings and Buddha statues of Hokke-ji Temple in 1203. The wooden Buddhist's head in Kamakura period style that remains in the Temple is assumed to be the head of Rushana Butsu, the principal image at the time of this restoration. Furthermore, Priest Eison, who belonged to Shingon Risshu sect in the mid Kamakura period, fully restored the temple.

After that, buildings except the east pagoda were lost by fires caused by wars in 1499 and 1506 and by an earthquake in 1596. The current hondo (main hall), shoro (bell tower), and nanmon (south gate) were restored around 1601 by a bugyo (magistrate) Katsumoto KATAGIRI under the order of Hideyori TOYOTOMI and his mother Yodo-dono (Lady Yodo). The east pagoda that survived fires and earthquake fell due to an earthquake in 1707.

Since the era of Eison, Hokke-ji temple had maintained its status as a monzeki temple of Shingon Risshu sect, but in 1999, it decided to return to an independent temple as it was at the time of foundation, and named itself 'Komyo sect' after Empress Komyo to secede and separate.

Buildings of the temple
Hondo (Important Cultural Property) - Restored by donation from Hideyori TOYOTOMI and Yodo-dono in 1601. Yosemune-zukuri (hipped roof) style, with formal tiles. Materials of the former main hall that had been destroyed by the earthquake was reused to restore the hall. The principal image, Juichimen Kannon-zo, is enshrined in the zushi (a cupboard-like case with double doors) in the hall.

Shoro (Important Cultural Property) - There is an inscription of 1601 on the Onigawara (Japanese gargoyle roof tile), and based on the style and detail of shoro, it is assumed to be restored in the Momoyama period.

Nanmon (Important Cultural Property) - A four-legged gate with a gable roof with formal tiles that was restored when the hondo was restored.

Akamon (red gate)
Kyakuden (guest hall) - A shoin-zukuri style (a traditional Japanese style of residential architecture that includes a tokonoma) building behind the hondo. Its garden is designated as a national scenic beauty.

Steam bath (significant tangible folk cultural asset) - A steam bath that has a legend that Empress Komyo herself washed grime of one thousand people, but the current building was built after the mid Edo period.

Yokobue-do Hall - It used to be located at the detached temple grounds on the left of outside of Akamon, but it was moved to the east side of Akamon. They say that Yokobue, the heroine of the tale of tragic love known by "The Tale of the Heike" and 'Nyudo TAKIGUCHI' by Chogyu TAKAYAMA, lived in this building after becoming a nun. There is a lore that Yokobue created her own shape using waste letter paper, and the papier-mache statue of Yokobue (about 30-centimeters high) used to be enshrined here, but it was moved to the hondo.

Cultural Properties
The temple grounds is designated as a national historic site.

National Treasures
Wooden standing statue of eleven-faced Kannon (Goddess of Mercy) - The principal image of Hokke-ji Temple. It is a relatively small statue whose height is about one meter. There is a lore that an Indian sculptor Mondoshi created it modeling after Empress Komyo, but actual period of creation is assumed to be the early Heian period. Since the time of creation, it was a plane wood statue without coloring or gold leaf. Except that its hair, pupils, and eyebrows etc. were painted black and the lips were painted red, and metal was used in some part of hair and accessories, it is finished with beautiful wood surface. Except for small portions including its hands that are created using different materials, it is Ichiboku-zukuri, whose major parts of the head and body are carved of one tree. It is supposed that the above mentioned lore was created because the appearance and overall figure of this statue have somehow feminine and exotic feeling. It is well-preserved and it is a work that represents the sculptures in the Heian period. It is assumed that it was not the original principal image, but it was made to be the principal image when the hondo was restored in the early modern time.

Kempon chakushoku Amida Sanzon and doji zo (the colored images of Amida Triad and children on silk) - A Buddhist painting from the late Heian period to the early Kamakura period. It is deposited in the Nara National Museum.

(National) scenic beauty
Hokke-ji Park - Built in the early Edo period. It consists of a front garden, mid garden, and main garden.

(National) Important Cultural Properties
Kanshitu Yuima koji zazo (dry-lacquered sitting statue of Vimalakirti) - Nara period
Mokuzo Nitento (the wood statues of the heads of Buddha, it is said to be the heads of Bonten and Taishakuten [Brahma and Indra]) - Nara period
Wooden Buddhist's head - Kamakura period
A letter written by Eison in his own hand
Documents on the origin and history of Hokke-ji Temple, volumes three, one copy

(National) Significant tangible folk cultural asset
Steam bath

Most recent events (June)

Steam bath bathing memorial service

The bathroom of Hokke-ji Temple has been consistently utilized by common people as a bathing facility since its erection at the wish of the Empress Komyo, which has a very rare style of the steam bath using medical herbs.

Recently, bathing memorial event for ascetic practices of balneum bath by heating a furnace in accordance with ancient ritual was restored.

Date of bathing memorial service: June 13 (Open to support members only. For membership, please contact Hokke-ji Temple).

Zobihai (the way of drinking with the stem of a lotus) 'Lotus flower lovers' society'.

You can enjoy lotus flowers in Hokke-ji Temple, drink with Zobihai, and a healing time in the temple.

Date: June 27, 10:00 AM

Special Opening of the principal image

Spring: From March 20 to April 7

From June 5 to June 9

Autumn: From October 25 to November 10

Opening of gardens with scenic beauty

Spring: From April 1 to June 9

Autumn: From October 25 to November 10

Opening of Jikoden Temple

Spring: From March 20 to April 30

Autumn: From October 25 to November 10

Annual events

修正祭 Three days from January 1

Setsubun-e (Bean-Throwing Festival) (Star Festival) From January 28 to February 3

Ancient hina doll exhibit From March 1 to March 18

Hatsuuma-sai (First Horse Day festival) The first horse day in March

Nehan-e (Memorial service for the anniversary of Buddha's Nirvana) March 15

Higan-e (meeting of equinoctial week) For seven days, on the day of the imperial ceremony of ancestor worship formerly held on the vernal or autumnal equinox and three days before and after that

ひな会式 Seven days from April 1.

Anniversary of the founder Empress Komyo's death June 7

Steam bath (bathroom) Jun 13 (5,000 yen/person)

Zobihai June 27

Renge-e (Ceremony of the Lotus) July 17

Jizo-e (an event to commemorate Jizo as the protector of children) July 23

Urabon-e festival (a Festival of the Dead or Buddhist All Soul's Day, around the 15th of July or August, depending on local customs) From August 13 to August 15

天王宮祭 October 17

Ohitaki (bonfire) Festival December 8

* Schedules are subject to change, so please contact us.

Monthly events

Komyo sutra copying Fourth Thursday of each month from 9:30 to 15:30 (3,000 yen/volume)

Goma (holy fire) prayer 28th of each month from 10:00

Special events in 2010

The 1250th commemorating service of the death of Empress Komyo

May 6 to 8, 2010

Near 'Hokke-ji' bus stop on Nara Kotsu Bus Lines Co., Ltd. (for Saidaiji Station or Japan Air Self-Defense Force) from Nara Station of JR Kansai Main Line and Kintetsu Nara Station
Near 'Hokke-ji' bus stop on Nara Kotsu Bus Lines Co., Ltd. (for Nara Station, 白土町) from Yamato-Saidaiji Station of Kinki Nippon Railway Company

[Original Japanese]