Hossho-ji Temple (法勝寺)

Hossho-ji Temple was one of the "Six Victorious Temples" that existed in Shirakawa, the eastern suburb of Heian-kyo (the area of Okazaki Park and Tokyo Municipal Zoo in modern-day Kyoto City) from the Heian Period to the Muromachi Period. It was established in 1076 by Emperor Shirakawa. The temple enjoyed extravagant Imperial patronage but went into decline and disappeared after the Onin War.


The site of Hossho-ji Temple was formerly that of a Fujiwara Clan villa (Shirakawa Villa) but was presented to Emperor Shirakawa by FUJIWARA no Morozane. The Emperor resolved to build a temple on the site and construction work began in 1075 - leading to the long-term construction of numerous buildings. In 1077, a ceremony was held in celebration of the completion of the golden hall dedicated to the principal image Vairocana (Birushanabutsu). A nine-storey octagonal pagoda believed to have been approximately 80 meters tall and Aizen-do hall were completed in 1083. The tall nine-storey pagoda was seen by all entering and leaving the capital from the east.

Hossho-ji Temple became known as uji-dera, 'The Temple of Kings', and was revered by successive generations of Imperial Household members. Other temples were later constructed in the Shirakawa area, and these became collectively known as the "Six Victorious Temples". Hossho-ji was the first and the largest of these Six Victorious Temples.

The pagoda was struck by lightning and burned down in 1208 but Eisai became a main organizer of solicitation for fund-raising and reconstructed it.

Enkan (Echin) worked to restore the temple after he was made a chief supervisor in 1326 under the order of Emperor Godaigo, and was rewarded by being appointed chief priest. However, the entire southern half of the temple was lost to a fire that broke out on the 20th day of the 3rd month of the 1st year of the Northern and Southern Court period (1342). The Northern Court again made Enkan chief supervisor but he resigned his post the year after another fire broke out seven years later on the 15th day of the 10th month of 1349 and destroyed the remaining northern half of the temple. However, he continued to put great effort into the temple's reconstruction in his subsequent role as chief priest. Despite this, it had now completely lost its status as 'The Temple of Kings' and later became reduced to a small temple belonging to a school of Tendai Sect known as Keichin-mon-ryu or Kurotani-ryu. Although Enkan and his disciple Yuiken, who inherited his master's position, continued to hold their own ordination certifications separate from those of Enryaku-ji Temple.

However, the temple once again began to decline after the deaths of both Enkan and Yuiken, and its deterioration is described in the entry dated the 18th day of the 8th month of 1418 in Yasutomi NAKAHARA's "Yasutomi-ki" diary. This was worsened by the successive conflicts in the area. In the midst of the Onin War on the 4th day of the 8th month of 1468, the temple was burned to the ground along with others including Shoren-in Temple during the Western Army's assault on Okazaki, and its reconstruction had not yet been completed when the temple was once again destroyed by fire on January 24, 1531 after becoming embroiled in the conflict between Takakuni HOSOKAWA and Harumoto HOSOKAWA over the position of Kanrei (Shogun's Deputy). It is known from Tokitsugu YAMASHINA's diary entitled "Tokitsugu Kyoki" that a sutra chanting service was held at the temple in memory of Burakumonin's death in 1535 but very few activities are known to have taken place after this. The last certification of ordination records to include the name 'Hossho-ji Temple' took place in 1562 and references to the temple disappear from historical records after 1571 when the Emperor made a command forbidding Hossho-ji from being dispossessed of its land. In 1590, the temple merged with Saikyo-ji Temple in Sakamoto, Omi Province (present day Otsu City) - also part of the Enkan school by the imperial order. These 19 years are considered to be the actual period of the temple's deterioration.

[Original Japanese]