Jingo-ji Temple (神護寺)

1. Jingo-ji Temple is the successor of the Koyasan Shingon Sect head temple located in Takao, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City. The temple is the 7th temple of the 18 Holy Places of Butto-koji (Old Temples with Pagodas). It is the temple described within this section.

2. Prior to the Edo period, a Jingo-ji Temple was a Buddhist temple that was permitted to become attached to and manage a Shinto shrine under the syncretism of Shinto and Buddhism.
It is synonymous with the terms 'Jingu-ji' and 'Betto-ji.'

Jingo-ji Temple is the successor of the Koyasan Shingon Sect head temple located in Takao, Ukyo Ward, Kyoto City and has the sango (literally, "mountain name"), which is the title prefixed to the name of a Buddhist temple, 'Takaosan.'
It was founded by WAKE no Kiyomaro and devoted to Bhechadjaguru.


The mountain temple stands half way up Mt. Takao-san in the Atagosan mountain range (Kyoto City) (924 m) located in the northwest of Kyoto city and is famous for its autumn foliage. All temple buildings including the main hall, 2-storey pagoda and Daishi-do are situated in the mountains at the end of a long path beginning at the Takao-hashi Bridge that spans the Kiyotaki-gawa River. Jingo-ji Temple occupies an important position within Japanese Buddhism, with Kukai briefly staying here before going on to manage To-ji Temple and Koyasan, and Saicho having conducted a Lotus Sutra lecture at the temple.

The jigo (literally, "temple name"), which is the title given to a Buddhist temple, is 'Jingokokuso-Shingon-ji Temple.'
However, this section will refer to the temple by the name 'Jingo-ji Temple' as this is the name used in the temple's historical archives such as 'Jingo-ji Ryakuki' and the National Treasure 'Mongaku-shonin Yonjugo-kajo-Kiseibun' and also the name written on the Romon Gate at the temple's entrance.


Shingan-ji Temple and the Wake Clan

Jingo-ji Temple is believed to have been established in the year 824 as a merger of two private Wake clan temples 'Shingan-ji Temple' and 'Takaosan-ji Temple.'
Of these two preceding temples, Shingan-ji Temple was constructed at the end of the 8th century by WAKE no Kiyomaro (733-799), but the Kawachi theory and Yamato theory both make different claims regarding its location and neither have been proven correct. WAKE no Kiyomaro was a high-ranking bureaucrat at the end of the Nara period and the beginning of the Heian period, and his close ties to successive emperors meant that he was involved in the relocation of the capital city to Heian-kyo. It is also known that he became embroiled in the issue of succession to the Imperial Throne involving the monk Dokyo and subsequently sent into exile. The monk Dokyo, who had the ultimate trust of Empress Shotoku (an empress regnant, a second enthronement of Empress Koken), obtained a revelation from Hachiman-Daibosatsu stating 'Dokyo is to be the next Emperor' but Empress Shotoku dispatched WAKE no Kiyomaro in order to reaffirm the divine will to Usa-jingu Shrine in Kyushu where Hachiman-Daibosatsu was enshrined.
On returning from Usa, Kiyomaro reported to the Empress that 'Hachiman of Usa does not wish a retainer to ascend the Imperial throne.'
This enraged Dokyo who had Kiyomaro exiled to Osumi Province and his elder sister WAKE no Hiromushi (Hokin-ni) exiled to Bingo Province in the year 769. The truth of whether or not Dokyo aspired to the Imperial throne is unclear but after Empress Shotoku died in 770, Dokyo was demoted and Kiyomaro and Hiromushi were forgiven and returned to the capital. It is said that Kiyomaro applied for the construction of the private temple of the Wake clan, Shingan-ji Temple, 10 years later in the 780, but the date has also been put at after 782. The name 'Shingan-ji Temple' (lit. God Wish Temple) refers to a temple that was constructed based on the divine will of Hachiman of Usa-jingu Shrine. A report (included in 'Ruiju-kokushi') exists that 'a new rice field of approximately 92 acres in Noto Province was donated to Shingan-ji Temple' in the year 793, making this the latest possible year of the temple's construction.

Takaosan-ji Temple

The other preceding temple Takaosan-ji Temple (or Takao-ji Temple) has long existed on the current site of Jingo-ji Temple. It can be determined from the presence of WAKE no Kiyomaro's tomb within the Jingo-ji Temple precinct that this temple is also connected to the Wake clan, but the time and circumstances of its founding are unclear. According to legend, it was constructed along with numerous other mountain temples when Atago-Gongen enshrined at Takagamine (Takagamine, Kita Ward, Kyoto City) in Rakuhoku was relocated to Mt. Atago-san. The first historical reference to Takaosan-ji Temple is in the year 802. It was in this year that the then head of the Wake clan, WAKE no Hiroyo (the first son of Kiyomaro), invited Saicho to Takaosan-ji Temple to conduct a Hokke-e (Lotus Sutra lecture) to mark the 3rd anniversary of the death of his aunt WAKE no Hiromushi (Hokin-ni). In the year 812, Kukai resided at Takaosan-ji Temple where he held the Abhiseka Ritual (an important esoteric Buddhist ceremony).
A surviving name list of Abhiseka initiates (Abhiseka initiates register) written by Kukai has been designated a National Treasure and also contains references to 'Takaosan-ji Temple.'

The Period After Kukai

According to Dajokanpu documents (mentioned in 'Ruiju-kokushi,' 'Ruiju-sandaikaku' etc.), the sites of Shiingan-ji Temple and Takaosan-ji Temple were 'exchanged' in the year 824, the temple was named 'Jingokokuso-Shingon-ji Temple' and it became a Jogaku-ji (one of a limited number of officially protected private temples). The reason for exchanging the temple sites was that the location of Shingan-ji Temple was deemed impure and unsuitable for Buddhist practices. The name 'Jingokokuso-Shingon-ji Temple' means 'Shingon Sect temple that prays for the spiritual protection of the nation by the divine protection of Hachiman' and clearly distinguishes it as an Esoteric Buddhist temple.

Following the time of Kukai, his disciples Jichie and Shinzei served as head priests and guardians of the temple, but it eventually fell into decay during the late Heian period. In the Middle Ages, great efforts were put into the revival of Jingo-ji Temple by the Buddhist monk Mongaku, who came from a Samurai family and is well known from the "The Tale of the Taira clan." In 1168 he made a pilgrimage to Jingo-ji Temple but was so grief stricken to see the dilapidated sight of a temple both founded by the divine will of Hachiman-Daibosatsu and so closely connected to Kobo-Daishi Kukai that he began to raise funds for its restoration. He later gained the support of Emperor Goshirakawa and MINAMOTO no Yoritomo and proceeded with the temple's restoration. Mongaku himself was found guilty of a plot and exiled to Tsushima Island (other theories claim it to be the Oki Islands) where he lived out the remainder of his days, but the restoration of Jingo-ji Temple was completed by his disciple Jokaku (Jokakubo Gyoji). The temple became devoted to the Kegon Sect during the Kamakura period and Jokaku's nephew the monk Myoe, who was responsible for the restoration of Kozan-ji Temple, resided at Jingo-ji Temple.


Romon Gate: The main gate which stands atop a steep stone staircase ascending from the main path. It was constructed in 1623 along with other buildings including Bishamon-do.

Kondo (main hall): Situated atop a stone staircase to the right as one enters the interior of the temple precinct via the Romon Gate. It is a typical Esoteric Buddhist hall with its formal tile hip-and-gable roof but was in fact constructed relatively recently in 1934 using funds donated by industrialist Gendo YAMAGUCHI.

Bishamon-do: Located at the bottom of the stone steps that lead to the Kondo. This hall served as the main hall before the construction of the current Kondo and housed the principal image of Bhechadjaguru. It was constructed in 1623. The miniature shrine within houses a Heian period standing statue of Bishamon (Important Cultural Property).

Godai-do: Located behind Bishamon-do. Constructed in 1623.

Bell tower: Constructed in 1623 along with other buildings including the Bishamon-do. A ro-zukuri style bell tower housing a bell which has been designated a National Treasure.

Daishi-do Hall (Important Cultural Property): A residential style Buddha hall with a shingled hip-and-gable roof located further within the temple precinct than the Bishamon-do and Godai-do. An early modern reconstruction of a building formerly named 'Noryo-bo' (lit. cool dwelling) that served as Kukai's former quarters. The miniature shrine within houses a statue of Itabori-Kobodaishi (Important Cultural Property) created in 1302.

Taho-to (two-storey pagoda): Stands on a high location at the top of a stone staircase leading up even higher than the Kondo. Along with the Kondo, it was constructed in 1934 using funds donated by industrialist Gendo YAMAGUCHI. Statues of the Godai Kokuzo Bosatsu (Five Great Akasagarbha), which are national treasures, are enshrined in the pagoda.

Important Cultural Properties

National Treasures

Wooden standing statue of Bhechadjaguru: The principal image of the Kondo. A wooden statue carved from a single tree trunk standing approximately 170 cm in height. This plain wooden statue features very little color with the exception of vermillion on the lips and black on the eyebrows and pupils. Its solemn squinting melancholy expression and the substantial body presents more a sense of intimidation than friendliness. The diagrammatic and ideological craftsmanship of the clothing exhibits the distinctive style of the early Heian period. Believed to have been created during the early Heian period. It is thought that this statue was located at either of Jingo-ji Temple's predecessor temples Shingan-ji Temple or Takaosan-ji Temple but it is not known which one.

Wooden sitting statues of the Five Great Kokuzo Bodhisattva: Enshrined within the Taho-to. Lined up in the order Kongo Kokuzo (green-blue), Renge Kokuzo (red), Hokkai Kokuzo (white), Goyo Kokuzo (black) and Hoko Kokuzo (yellow) from right to left facing inside of the pagoda. Like the principal image statue of Bhechadjaguru, they were also created during the early Heian period, but their style is somewhat more subtle and displays a different technique. They have each been carved from a single piece of wood and adorned with thick dry lacquer and color. They are not on general display.

Gold and silver paint on purple twill Mandala of the Two Realms (Takao Mandala): Each large piece is over 4 meters in length and both include the Five Wisdom Buddhas of the Diamond Realm as well as the Five Wisdom Kings of the Womb Realm. They have been painted not in color but using gold and silver paint on a purple-dyed twill fabric. Despite their extensive damage, these Kukai era pieces are believed to be the best examples of original Mandalas that he brought to Japan from Tang Dynasty China and are highly valuable both to the history of art and the history of Buddhism.

Color painting on silk of Shaka Nyorai: A Buddhist image created during the late Heian period. A large depiction of Shaka wearing red featuring the use of fine metal foil and color on the clothing, halo and pedestal.
Also known as 'Red Shaka.'

Color painting on silk considered to be those of MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, TAIRA no Shigemori and FUJIWARA no Mitsuyoshi: Based on sources such as the temple's historical record "Jingo-ji Ryakuki," it is thought that the models for these portraits were MINAMOTO no Yoritomo, TAIRA no Shigemori and FUJIWARA no Mitsuyoshi but the fact that this cannot be authenticated is reflected by the addition of the character 'den' to their National Treasure designations. It was previously believed that they were created during the 12th century by master portrait painter FUJIWARA no Takanobu, but there are theories that date the image anywhere from the late Kamakura to the period of the Northern and Southern Courts and speculate that the model may have been Takauji ASHIKAGA, Tadayoshi ASHIKAGA or Yoshiakira ASHIKAGA. (Please refer to Jingo-ji Sanzo for details).

Color landscape painting on silk folding screen: Created some time from the late Heian period to the early Kamakura period. This folding screen was placed in the seminary for the Buddhist priesthood during the conduction of Esoteric Buddhist rituals.

Bell: Cast in the year 875. This bell has long been referred to as 'Sanzetsu no Kane' (lit. Bell of Three Crafts) as the long inscription cast on the bell consolidates the work of 3 major cultural figures, with the words being those of author TACHIBANA no Hiromi inscribed by SUGAWARA no Koreyoshi (father of Michizane) and written by poet and calligrapher SUGAWARA no Toshiyuki. It hangs within the two-storey bell tower and is not on general display.

Abhiseka initiates register: This register written by Kukai himself lists the names of those who underwent the Abhiseka Ritual that he conducted at Jingo-ji Temple's predecessor, Takaosan-ji Temple in 812. This example of Kukai's ordinary handwriting is highly valuable to the history of calligraphy.

Mongaku-shonin Yonjugo-kajo-Kiseibun: This vow written to the gods during the Middle Ages by the monk Mongaku, who restored Jingo-ji Temple, includes a handprint of Cloistered Emperor Goshirakawa on the cover.

Important Cultural Properties

Color on silk twelve celestials 6-folding-screen
8 color on silk portraits of Shingon Hasso
Color on silk portrait of High Priest Shinzei
Color on silk portrait of Yoshimochi ASHIKAGA (portrait of Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA according to temple legend)
Color on silk portrait of Priest Mongaku
Wooden standing statues of the bodhisattvas Suryaprabha and Candraprabha (housed within the Kondo)
Dry lacquered wooden sitting statue of Bhechadjaguru
Wooden standing statue of Bishamonten (housed within the Bishamon-do)
Openwork engraved portrait of High Monk Kobo (housed within the Daishi-do)
Wooden sitting statue of Ragaraja engraved by Koen (deposited at Tokyo National Museum)
Gold on dark-blue paper sutras (Jingo-ji Temple sutras) in 2,317 scrolls and 202 books.
Draft of a letter written by Priest Mongaku (11th day of the 6th month)
Donation made by Emperor Gouda (10th day of the 12th month of the 4th year of the Kagen era <1306>)
Jingo-ji Ryakuki
Futarasan inscription
4 illustrations of the temple grounds
Illustration of Jingo-ji Temple
Illustration of Kozan-ji Temple
23 scrolls and 1 book of Jingo-ji Temple documents

Pottery Throwing
At Jizo-in in the west of the temple grounds, visitors can throw unglazed earthenware disks into the valley below to ward off evil.

Jingo-ji Temple in Takao, Saimyo-ji Temple (Kyoto City) in Makinoo and Kozan-ji Temple in Toganoo are collectively referred to as "Sanbi." They are famous for their autumn foliage.


20 minutes walk from Kyoto City Bus Takao bus stop or JR Bus Yamashiro-Takao bus stop.

[Original Japanese]