Honno-ji Temple (本能寺)

Honno-ji Temple is a Buddhist temple belonging to the Hokke-shu Hommon-ryu Sect located in Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture. Its principal image as determined by Nichiren is the mandala from the 'Nam Myoho Renge Kyo' of Kuonjojugusoku. The temple is famous for the 'Incident at Honno-ji' when Nobunaga ODA was attacked by Mitsuhide AKECHI. The precinct includes seven sub-temples (Esho-in, Rensho-in, Josei-in, Koshun-in, Hongyo-in, Gemmyo-in, and Unryu-in).

Honno-ji Temple's name was initially written using a different 'no' character and was built by Nichiryu between Aburanokoji-dori Street Takatsuji, Kyoto and Gojobo-mon in 1415 during the Muromachi period. Because Nichiryu was opposed to Getsumyo of Myohon-ji Temple over the issues of honjaku (the relationships between Buddhist deities and Shinto kami) and shoretsu (superiority of the essential section of the Lotus Sutra over the theoretical section), Honno-ji Temple was attacked by Getsumyo followers and he moved to Mii - Amagasaki in Kawachi Province.

On his return to Kyoto in 1429, he rebuilt Honno-ji Temple at Uchino, in the vicinity of Senbon Gokuraku, with the backing of the major supporter Sojun KOSODEYA and, in 1433, the temple was again rebuilt and the 'no' character of the temple name changed after being he was donated land by Nyoio-maru in the area of Rokkaku-dori Street, the western area of Omiya-dori Street and the area of Shijobo-mon Street. Following this, Honno-ji Temple flourished as a sacred place from which Nichiren's 'Hommon-happon' Lotus Sutra doctrine was spread and, in the late medieval period, became one of the 21 head temples of the Kyoto Hokke Sect; gaining the protection of the Ashikaga clan. The approximately 40,000㎡ temple grounds occupied an area of that spread south of Rokkaku, north of Shijobo-mon, east of Kushige, west of Omiya and included many branch temples.

A doctrinal dispute with Enryaku-ji Temple escalated into the Tenbun Hokke Disturbance in 1536, during which all of the temple's halls were completely destroyed and followers temporarily fled to Kenpon-ji Temple (Sakai City) in Sakai City.

Nichijo shonin and the Incident at Honno-ji
On Nichiryu's return to Kyoto in around 1547-1548, Nichijo shonin, son of Imperial Prince Kunitaka of the fifth Fushimino-miya imperial family, became head priest (8th) and acquired a large site covering Shijo Nishinotoin-dori Street, Aburanokoji-dori Street, Ozunu and Nishikikoji-dori Street (the area of the former Honno Elementary School) where a large temple complex with over 30 branch temples was constructed.

The temple had not had an honorific mountain prefix since the time of its founding by Nichiryu and was presided over by a single chief abbot along with Honko-ji Temple (Amagasaki City), but as successive chief abbots later went on to disseminate their teachings, branch temples were founded around the Kinki region, in the Hokuriku district, on the coast of the Inland Sea and even as far as Tanegashima, and Hommon-ryu became established with Honno-ji Temple at its top.

As Honno-ji Temple was early to disseminate its teachings to Tanegashima, it became deeply involved with the daimyo (Japanese territorial lord) in the Sengoku Period through the acquisition of guns and gunpowder. Nobunaga ODA became devoted to Nichijo and lodged at the temple while in Kyoto, but on June 21, 1582, an incident (known as the Incident at Honno-ji) occurred in which Nobunaga committed suicide after the forces of Mitsuhide AKECHI surrounded the temple which was then burnt to the ground.

After Being Relocated to its Current Site
The temple was relocated to its current site (Oike sagaru, Tera machi, Nakagyo Ward) in 1587 under the orders of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI. The reconstruction of the temple complex began in 1592. It was a large site encompassing the present day locations Oike-dori Street and the Kyoto City Office.

In 1615, during the early Edo period, it was authorized by the shogunate as a 40-koku temple. By the Edo period, the temple's deep involvement with the daimyo (Japanese territorial lord) in the Sengoku Period for the reasons stated above allowed it to grow to an enormous size with 92 branch temples.

The temples halls were destroyed in both the Great Fire of Temmei Kyoto in 1788 and the fire resulting from the Hamaguri rebellion in 1864.

Excavations of the Old Site
Kyoto Municipal Honno Elementary School stood on the former site, Motohonnoji-minami-cho, but excavations were conducted after the school was closed in 1992. These attracted much attention after uncovering the remains of the place in which Nobunaga ODA lodged. The location is now the site of Kyoto Municipal Horikawa Senior High School's Honno building and Kyoto Honno Nursing Home for the Aged.

Excavations accompanying the construction of an apartment building in 2007 unearthed from sludge what is thought to be a tile burnt in the Incident at Honno-ji and a concave roof tile featuring a variant of the 'no' kanji character.

It has been inferred from the presence of a roofed mud-wall, a stone wall and a water-filled moat that the Honno-ji Temple used by Nobunaga ODA was so heavily defended that it would not be inappropriate to refer to it as "Honno-ji Castle."

As shown in the image on the right, the right-hand part of the 'no' kanji of 'Honno-ji' is different from that of a standard character as, instead of two 'hi' katakana, it uses the character meaning 'to leave.'
It is said that this was changed to form a character with the connotation "the fire leaves" due to the fact that Honno-ji Temple has repeatedly been devastated by fire ('hi' in Japanese).

Cultural Properties
National Treasures
A work of calligraphy attributed to FUJIWARA no Yukinari
Important Cultural Properties
A letter written by Emperor Hanazono
A bronze mirror


Soon reached by foot from Kyoto Shiyakusho-mae Station on the Kyoto City Subway Tozai Line
Soon reached by foot after taking the No.17 or 205 bus from Kyoto Station (20 minutes) and alighting at 'Kawaramachi Sanjo'

[Original Japanese]