Kairyuo-ji Temple (海龍王寺)

Kairyuo-ji Temple is a Buddhist temple of the Shingon Ritsu sect located in Hokkejikita-machi, Nara City, Nara Prefecture. Its principal image is Eleven-faced Kannon (Goddess of Mercy). This temple is also known as Sumi-dera Temple since it was built at the northeastern corner ("Sumi" means a corner) of FUJIWARA no Fuhito residence.


Kairyuo-ji Temple is located to the east of the Heijo-kyu Palace Site and next to the northeastern side of Hokke-ji Temple also known as Sokokubun-ni-ji Temple. In the past, the area of Hokke-ji Temple and Kairyuo-ji Temple belonged to the residence of FUJIWARA no Fuhito, who is an ancestor of the Fujiwara Clan. After Fuhito's death, his daughter Empress Komyo inherited the residence, which became Kogogu (an Empress's Palace), and then it became Miya-dera Temple (Hokke-ji Temple later) in 745.

Kairyuo-ji Temple is called 'Sumi-dera' or 'Sumi(no)-in' in the records of the Nara period including the "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued) and the Shosoin Monjo (document collection of the Nara period kept in Shoso-in Temple). The existence of 'Sumi-dera' Temple in 737 can be confirmed in the Shosoin Monjo. It is said that the temple was named 'Sumi-dera' as it was located at the northeastern corner of the FUJIWARA no Fuhito residence (there are many documents which explain that 'it was because the temple was located at the northeastern corner of Heijo-kyo [the ancient capital of Japan in current Nara],' but this explanation seems to be unreasonable due to their locations).

It is said that 'Sumi-dera' Temple was founded for a priest called Genbo in accordance with the wish of the Empress Komyo, but the exact timing of its foundation and its background are unclear since they are not written in historiography. In addition, old roof tiles used in the Asuka period through the first half of the Nara period were excavated from the Kaioryu-ji Temple precincts, which indicated that some preceding buildings might exist before the capital relocation to Heijo-kyo. The site of Kairyuo-ji Temple is located outside Heijo-kyo's orderly Jobo (blocks with grid of streets and avenues), and Higashi-nibo-oji Road, which was one of streets running from the north to the south in Heijo-kyo, detours to the east to keep the precincts of Kairyuo-ji Temple (the current roads trace back to it). This means the roads were made after the temple was built.

The results of excavation and research show that there were three Kon-do Halls (main halls of a Buddhist temple), which are Chukon-do Hall, Higashi-Kondo Hall, and Saikon-do Hall, at Kairyuo-ji Temple in the Nara period, although they were small-sized. Although the location and the size of the existing Saikon-do Hall are the same as those of the Nara period, most of the main components of the hall were replaced with new ones in the Kamakura period due to the repair, which could be also called reconstruction, in the Kamakura period.

The temple history in the Heian period is not so clear, but it seems that Kairyuo-ji Temple was under the control of Kofuku-ji Temple. In the Kamakura period, Eison, the founder of the Shingon Ritsu sect, lived in the temple from 1236 to 1238 for its recovery.

It is unkown when the temple name Kairyuo-ji came into use, but the first appearance of the name 'Kairyuo-ji' was in the document called "Shichidaiji Junrei Shiki" (The Private Journal of a Pilgrimage to the Seven Great Temples), which is the records of Chikamichi OE's pilgrimage to several temples in Nara in 1140.


The hondo (main hall) was reconstructed in 1666, in the Edo period.

The Saikon-do Hall (an image hall situated to the west of a pagoda in temple grounds designated as an important cultural property) was built in the Nara period (largely repaired in the Kamakura period), and this enshrines a five-storied small pagoda.

The kyozo (sutra repository designated as an important cultural property) is said to have been built by Eison, a priest of Saidai-ji Temple (in Nara City) in the Kamakura period.

The Sanmon gate (temple gate) and the Tsuijibei (a mud wall with a roof) were built in the Muromachi period.

National Treasures

Five-storied small pagoda
This is enshrined in the Saikon-do Hall. This is a four meter-tall small-sized pagoda, and this has been enshrined inside the building since its foundation. Its style is similar to the three-storied pagoda of Yakushi-ji Temple, and this is an essential building in the study of the architectural style of the Nara period because there are few examples of buildings of the Nara period.

Important Cultural Properties

Saikon-do Hall
Kyozo (sutra repository)
The Wooden Eleven-faced Kannon ryuzo (wooden standing statue of Eleven-faced Kannon) is a statue made in the Kamakura period which later became the principal image of Kairyuo-ji Temple.

The Wooden Monjubosatsu ritsuzo (standing image of Manjusri [bodhisattva]) is said to have been created by Kaikei in the Kamakura period.

The Colored Picture of Bishamonten Painted on a Silk Canvas was painted in the Kamakura period, and this is deposited in Nara National Museum

The Wooden Jimon Chokugan (imperial scroll) is said to be a Shinkan (imperial letter) of Emperor Shomu.

The Tokin-Sharito (plated stupa), which was named in July, 1290, is deposited in Nara National Museum.

Other Cultural Properties

Kairyu-o-kyo (the sutra on the king of the sea dragons) was made in the Nara period, and this is deposited to Nara National Museum.

The Sumi-dera Shingyo (sumi-dera temple sutra) was made in the Nara period, and this is deposited in Nara National Museum. It is said the sutra was copied by Kukai, but in fact, it was copied in the Nara period, which was before Kukai's time.

Hokke-kyo (Lotus Sutra) was made in the Kamakura period.


Take a Nara Kotsu Bus (bound for Saidaiji Station and Koku-jieitai [Japan Air Self-Defense Force]) from Nara Station of JR Kansai Main Line or Nara Station of Kintetsu Line and get off at 'Hokke-ji' (Temple). Take a Nara Kotsu Bus (bound for JR Nara Station and Shiratsuchi-cho) from Yamato-Saidaiji Station of Kinki Nippon Railway and get off at 'Hokke-ji' (Temple).


897, Hokkejikitamachi, Nara City, 630-8001

[Original Japanese]