Joruri-ji Temple (浄瑠璃寺)

Joruri-ji Temple

Odawarazan Joruri-ji Temple: A Shingon Ritsu Sect temple located in Kizugawa City, Kyoto Prefecture. It is the 10th temple of the 18 Historical Temples with Pagodas. This temple is described in this section.

Iozan Joruri-ji Temple (Matsuyama City): A Shingon Sect temple located in Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture. It is the No. 46 pilgrim stamp office of the 88 Temples of Shikoku.

Joruri-ji Temple is a Shingon Ritsu Sect temple located in Kamocho, Kizugawa City, Kyoto Prefecture. It was founded by Gimyo Shonin, has the honorific mountain prefix Odawarazan, and is dedicated to the principal images Amitabha and Bhaisajyaguru. The temple's name is derived from the Eastern Paradise "Toho Joruri Sekai" where Bhaisajyaguru lives.

The main hall has long been referred to as Nishi Odawara-ji Temple and is commonly called Kutai-ji Temple (Temple of the Nine Images) due to the fact that it houses nine Amitabha statues in the main hall. The temple precinct retains a Heian period temple atmosphere with a Pure Land style garden centered around a pond and a main hall and three-storey pagoda remaining from the late Heian period. The main hall is highly valuable as the last remaining Kutai Amida-do (Hall of Nine Amitabhas) of the many that were once built around Kyoto. Joruri-ji Temple is also featured in "Joruri-ji no Haru" (Joruri-ji Temple in spring) by Tatsuo HORI.


The area of Tono-no-sato in which Joruri-ji Temple is located is dotted with stone Buddhist statues and stone pagodas collectively known as Tono Sekibutsugun (group of stone statues in Tono) that date back to the Kamakura period. For administrative purposes, the area is considered to be part of Kyoto Prefecture but it is also close to Heijo-kyo and Todai-ji Temple in Nara geographically, with the remains of Kuni-kyo (temporarily the capital city during the Nara period) and Yamashiro Provincial Temple also nearby.

Essentially the only source regarding the origin and history of Joruri-ji Temple is the 14th century record "Joruri-ji Ruki no Koto" (records of jewels, territory, equipments of Joruri-ji Temple) handed down at the temple. According to this record, Joruri-ji Temple with Bhaisajyaguru as the principal image was founded by Gimyo Shonin, the first chief priest from Taima (now Katsuragi City, Nara Prefecture), and Achiyama Tayu Shigemori of the benefactor, in 1047. Few details are known about Gomyo Shonin and Achiyama Tayu Shigemori but it is assumed that Shigemori was from a local powerful family.

Joruri-ji Temple is known for its Kutai Amida Nyorai (Nine Amitabhas) but at the time of its founding, the principal image was Bhaisajyaguru. The current main hall housing the Kutai Amida Nyorai statues was constructed in 1107, 60 years later from the foundation. The idea to enshrine the nine statues of Amida Nyorai within a single hall originated with the concept of 'Kuhon Ojo' (nine future lives). The concept of 'Kuhon Ojo' is advocated in 'Kanmuryoju-kyo' (The Sutra of Visualization of the Buddha of Measureless Life, meaning Amida), which preaches that there are nine stages or categories on Gokuraku Ojo (to rebirth from this world into Amitabha's Western Pure Land Paradise) from those who correctly adhere to Buddhist teachings to the most evil people.

From the medieval to modern period, Joruri-ji Temple was a branch temple of Kofuku-ji Ichijo-in Temple but it transferred to the Shingon Ritsu Sect and became a branch temple of Nara Saidai-ji Temple (Nara City) during the turmoil of the anti-Buddhist movement at the beginning of the Meiji era.

Gardens and Buildings

The precinct has been arranged as a Pure Land Style garden. The large pond at the center of the precinct was dug out by Eshin, a priest from Kofuku-ji Temple, and in the middle of it, a small island is placed on which stands a small shrine dedicated to Saraswati. A Japanese style three-storey pagoda housing Bhaisajyaguru stands on the eastern bank of the pond, and the main hall (Kutai Amida-do) housing Amitabha on the western bank.

It is believed that Bhaisajyaguru resides in the Eastern Pure Lapis Lazuli and serves to cure the suffering of the world, and that Amitabha is the ruler of the Western Pure Land Paradise. This is the significance of housing Bhaisajyaguru in the east and Amitabha in the west, and indeed the eastern bank with its three-storey pagoda could be considered as this world while Amitabha's western bank represents nirvana.

The predecessor of these current structures is believed to have been the new main hall housing nine Amitabha statues constructed in 1107 after the demolition of the old main hall built in 1047 and housed Bhaisajyaguru as its principal image.

Main hall (National Treasure): Constructed in 1107. It is a long and thin hall as the nine Amitabha statues are arranged in single file. Kutai Amida-do halls constructed during the latter part of the Heian period were said to be approximately 30 on records, including the one constructed at Hojo-ji Muryoju-in Temple by FUJIWARA no Michinaga, but the extant main hall of Joruri-ji Temple is the only one to survive. The hall is yosemune-zukuri (a square or rectangular building, covered with a hipped roof) and the simple interior with no ceiling allows the construction of the inside of the roof to be seen. The front of the hall faces the pond.

Three-storey pagoda (National Treasure): According to "Joruri-ji Ruki no Koto," it was relocated from Ichijo Omiya in Kyoto in 1178, but it is not known to which temple it originally belonged. Its characteristic construction has no pillars on the lower floor and the central pillar extends from the ceiling of the lower floor. After being relocated to Joruri-ji Temple, the Buddhist alter was installed in the lower floor and a statue of Bhaisajyaguru (Important Cultural Property, ordinarily hidden from public view) was placed on top. The surrounding walls feature paintings depicting imagery such as the sixteen Arhats.

National Treasures

Main hall

Three-storey pagoda

9 wooden sedentary statues of Amitabha: Created during the latter part of the Heian period. The central image stands at 224.2 centimeters in height and the remaining eight statues that stand four on the left and four on the right measure approximately 140 centimeters in height. All of the eight right and left flanking statues are essentially the same but closer inspection reveals subtle differences. The central statue forms the upper grade-lower birth mudra (hand gesture), while the other eight statues form the upper grade-upper birth mudra. All nine statues have been crafted using the yosegi-zukuri technique in which the main part is made out of two or more pieces of wood. The statues are covered in gold leaf on Japanese lacquer.

Wooden statues of the Four Heavenly Kings: Stand from 167.0 to 169.7 centimeters in height. Crafted using the yosegi-zukuri technique. Covered in gold leaf on Japanese lacquer. Colored. Decorated with systematically arranged gold foil shapes. Created during the latter part of the Heian period. Much of the original colored patterns remain. Of the four statues, that of Virupaksa has been deposited at Tokyo National Museum and that of Vaisravana has been deposited at Kyoto National Museum.

Important Cultural Properties

Wooden standing statue of Sri-mahadevi housed within a miniature shrine: Enshrined within the main hall. The statue stands at 90.0 centimeters in height. It is made of Japanese cypress and has a hollow cavity carved inside to prevent the wood from cracking. Colored. Decorated systematically arranged gold foil shapes. It also includes printed images of Kichijoten (59 in total) placed within the statue and an incomplete leather fitting on the miniature shrine (8 pieces). Despite the statue's elegant Heian period Imperial style, "Joruri-ji Ruki no Koto" states that it was in fact created in 1212 during the Kamakura period. The statue is a magnificently crafted piece with both the solemn dignity of a venerated Buddhist image and a beauty that is reminiscent of a real woman. This hidden statue is enshrined within the miniature shrine so that it sits to the left of the central statue of the nine Amitabha statues as faced from the front, and is only revealed at certain times during spring, autumn and in January (displayed from January 1 - 15, March 21 - May 20, October 1 - November 30). The Buddhist images adorning the doors of the miniature shrine that houses this statue are valuable as examples of Kamakura period painting. However, the miniature shrine doors at Joruri-ji Temple are reproductions as the originals were removed during the early Meiji era and came to be owned by Tokyo University of the Arts. The central, left and right doors depict Brahma, Sakra and the Four Heavenly Kings respectively, and the rear wall depicts four disciples centered around Benzaiten.

Wooden standing statue of Ksitigarbha: Stands at 157.6 centimeters in height. Created during the Heian period. It has been carved from a single piece of Japanese cypress wood. The eyes are carved directly into the surface. Colored. It is in the Yada style (does not hold a khakkhara staff in his right hand). It is enshrined to the right of the nine Amitabha statues as faced from the front. He is commonly known as Koyasu Jizo (Child-given Jizo).

Wooden standing statue of Ksitigarbha: Stands at 97.0 centimeters in height. Yada style. Heian period. Deposited at Tokyo National Museum.

Wooden statues of Acala and two children: The central statue measures 99.5 centimeters in height. Crafted Japanese cypress wood using the yosegi-zukuri technique. Crystal eyes. Colored. Decorated with systematically arranged gold foil shapes. Housed in the right of the main hall. Kamakura period.

Wooden standing statue of Hayagriva: stands 106.3 centimeters in height. The eyes are carved directly into the surface. Colored. Four faces, three eyes, eight arms. Created in 1241. Deposited at Nara National Museum.

Wooden sedentary statue of Bhaisajyaguru: Housed within the three-storey pagoda. 85.7 centimeters in height. Made from a single piece of wood and has a hollow cavity carved inside to prevent the wood from cracking. The eyes are carved directly into the surface.
The principal image at the time of the temples construction. Created during the Heian period. Only put on public display on the 8th of every month, on the days of the spring and autumnal equinox and from January 1 - 3.

Paintings by Hatsushige on the 16 walls of the three-storey pagoda: The images of the sixteen Arhats are valuable as examples of Heian period art. The pillar features a late Kamakura period painting depicting standing images of the guardian deities of the eight directions.

2 stone lanterns: the period of the Northern and Southern Courts. Stand in front of the main hall and three-storey pagoda. Granite. Hexagonal (Hannya-ji Temple style).
The one in front of the pagoda is carved with an inscription reading 'Created on the January 11, 1366, prayer for all sentient beings of the universe offered by Preceptor Sukezane.'

Joruri-ji Ruki no Koto: the period of the Northern and Southern Courts. Including 'Joruri-ji engi' (history of Joruri-ji Temple).


Garden (Historic Site and Special Place of Scenic Beauty)

Painted Buddhist altar equipment. 11 items. Adorn shumidan (An altar made of fine timber, generally with paneling, hame) in the main hall. Cultural Properties Registered by Kyoto Prefecture.


Take a Nara Kotsu Bus from Kamo Station of JR Yamato Line (Kyoto Prefecture) to 'Joruriji-mae' bus stop.

Take a Nara Kotsu Bus from Nara Station of JR Yamato Line or Kintetsu Nara Station to 'Joruriji-mae' bus stop.

[Original Japanese]