Kaju-ji Temple (勧修寺)

Kaju-ji Temple is a Monzeki Temple (a temple of high rank where members of imperial family and nobility enter the priesthood) located in Yamashina Ward, Kyoto City. It is the head temple of the Yamashina school of the Shingon Sect. Its honorific mountain prefix is Mt. Kikko. The temple's kaiki (founding patron) was Emperor Daigo, the kaizan (first chief priest) was Shoshun and the principal image is the Thousand-armed Cannon. It has a deep connection to the Imperial family and the Fujiwara clan.
The temple's name can be pronounced as both 'Kanshu-ji Temple' and 'Kaju-ji Temple' but its official name is 'Kaju-ji Temple.'
On the other hand, in the names of various areas of Yamashina Ward, these three characters and are pronounced 'Kanshu-ji.'


According to texts such as "Kaju-ji engi", in the year 900 Emperor Daigo ordered Udaijin (Minister of the Right) FUJIWARA no Sadakata, the brother of his mother FUJIWARA no Inshi (or Taneko) who passed away at a young age, to convert the remains of her grandfather Iyamasu MIYAJI's estate into a temple in her memory. The temple was named "Kaju-ji" after the posthumous Buddhist name of Taneko's father (Emperor Daigo's maternal grandfather), FUJIWARA no Takafuji. The first head priest was a Hosso Sect monk named Shoshun Ritsushi from Todai-ji Temple. Kaju-ji Temple prospered as a Monzeki Temple served by Cloistered Imperial Princes but was destroyed by fire in a conflict that took place in 1470 and went into decline before being restored with the aid of the Tokugawa clan and Imperial family during the Edo period.

MIYAJI no Iyamasu was the Dairyo (chief magistrate of a district) in charge of Uji county in Yamashiro Province (present-day Yamashina Ward, Kyoto City). His daughter, MIYAJI no Resshi, married Minister of the Interior FUJIWARA no Takafuji who was a descendant of the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan. The couple gave birth to Taneko who would go on to become the wife of Emperor Uda and the mother of Emperor Daigo. Takafuji's descendants are known as the Kajuji-ryu (Kajuji lineage) after the name of the temple. The story of the romance between Takafuji and Resshi is told in "Konjaku Monogatarishu" (lit. Anthology of Tales from the Past) (described below).

As described above, the year of the temple's founding is generally considered to be 900 but there are alternative theories. Kaju-ji Temple was classified as a Jogaku-ji Temple (one of the temples next to national temples in rank) in the year 905, but a Daijo-Kanpu document of the time mentions that it was 'constructed before the birth of the Empress (Taneko) ' which would place the year of its founding before her death in the year 896.

It is stated above that Kaju-ji Temple became classified as a Jogaku-ji Temple in the year 905 and was restored with the assistance of the Imperial family and the Fujiwara clan. In the year 1110, the temple's seventh Chori (head administrator) Kanshin (1084-1153), who was the 8th generation descendant of FUJIWARA no Takafuji and the son of FUJIWARA no Tamefusa, held the positions of To-ji choja (the chief abbot of To-ji Temple) and Todai-ji betto (the head priest of Todai-ji Temple). Kanshin, who was also known as 'Kaju-ji Homu,' engaged in Shingon Esoteric Buddhism and is considered to be the founder of the Kajuji-ryu, a branch of the Ono school of the Shingon Sect.

The Middle Ages

Kaju-ji Temple became a Monzeki Temple during the period of the Northern and Southern Courts after Cloistered Imperial Prince Kanin (1309-1376), the seventh son of Emperor Gofushimi, became the 15th Chori, and the temple was served by Cloistered Imperial Princes or priestly Imperial Princes until the end of the Edo period. During the middle ages, Kaju-ji Temple controlled the present-day Kaju-ji area of Yamashina Ward, Kyoto City in addition to possessing expansive areas of land in other areas, and prospered as a temple that was both central to the Shingon Sect's Ono-ryu sub-school and enjoyed connections to the Imperial family. According to the 'Kaju-ji Jiryo Mokuroku' (Kaju-ji Temple Estate Index) of 1336, the temple possessed 18 manors including Gunke in Kaga Province and others in Mikawa Province and Bizen Province.

The temple was later destroyed by fire in 1470 during the Onin War. The size of the precincts was decreased in size when Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI constructed the Fushimi Kaido road, and its scale gradually declined over the years. It was in 1682 when Cloistered Imperial Prince Saishin, the son of Emperor Reigen, became the 29th Chori that the temple was restored. The temple's territory was increased to 1,012 koku as a reward when Cloistered Imperial Prince Saishin was successful in restoring the Great Buddha Hall of Todai-ji Temple. Surviving buildings including the hon-do (main hall), shinden (emperor's residence) and shoin (drawing room) are the former residences of emperors such as Emperor Reigen and Emperor Meisho that were granted to the temple. Cloistered Imperial Prince Sonko, who succeeded Cloistered Imperial Prince Saishin as 30th Chori, was of the Fushiminomiya family. As Cloistered Imperial Prince Sonko's aunt, Princess Sananomiya Masako was the wife of Kishu Domain Shogun Yoshimune TOKUGAWA, approximately 100 temples in Kii Province became branch temples of Kaju-ji Temple. The Gokoku-in sub-temple of Kimii-dera Temple, famous as a site of the 33 Temple Kansai Kannon Pilgrimage, is now independent from the Shingon Sect but was originally a branch temple of Kaju-ji Temple. The 32nd Chori, the priestly Imperial Prince Saihan, was also of the Fushiminomiya family but he quit the priesthood and became Imperial Prince Yamashinanomiya Akira.

Modern Era

Following the Meiji period, the various schools of the Shingon Sect repeatedly became opposed to one another, formed new schools and merged. Even after the Omuro school, Daigo school, Daikakuji school and others separated, Kaju-ji Temple remained part of the Shingon Sect but became independent and divided into the Yamashina school, Ono school, Toji school and Sennyuji school in 1907. Kaju-ji Temple became the head temple of the Yamashina school. During the Second World War, enactment of the Religious Organizations Law led to the unification of the different schools of each Buddhist sect and the schools of the Shingon Sect were completely united but the temple once again became independent as the Yamashina school in 1952.

The Story of FUJIWARA no Takafuji and MIYAJI no Resshi

"Konjaku Monogatarishu" tells the following story of the romance between Takafuji and Resshi. FUJIWARA no Takafuji was a descendant of the Northern House of the Fujiwara clan and interested in falconry. When Takafuji went to Minami Yamashina (Yamashina Ward, Kyoto City) to practice falconry and it began to rain, he took shelter at the residence of MIYAJI no Iyamasu. After Iyamasu insisted that he spend the night, he fell in love with his daughter (Resshi) at first sight and they exchanged marriage vows on that very night. Yoshikado, the father of Takafuji had been worried that his son had not returned home and the next day he became enraged; forbidding his from going out to practice falconry ever again. Following this, Takafuji did not have any contact with Resshi for a long time. Then, six years later, the couple was finally reunited. Resshi had with her a daughter. The child was conceived when she spent the night with Takafuji six years earlier. It was this daughter, FUJIWARA no Inshi (or Taneko), who went on to become the wife of Emperor Uda and the mother of Emperor Daigo.

Temple Precincts

The tsuijibei (earthen walls with plastered and tiled roofs that stand atop a stone-faced embankment) that line both sides of the path leading to the Sanmon gate display the temple's Monzeki status. On the east side of the precincts stand the shinden (emperor's residence), shoin (drawing room), godai-do (hall dedicated to the five guardian kings) and hon-do (main hall). On the west side is a garden centered around the Himuro-ike Pond which is overlooked by the multi-storey Kannon-do (hall dedicated to Kannon).

Shinden (emperor's residence): The former residence of Emperor Meisho that was granted to the temple in 1697. The hip-and-gable roof features square tiles that undulate from concave to convex. The interior is in the shoin-zukuri style (traditional style of Japanese residential architecture).

Shoin (drawing room): The former residence of Emperor Gosai that was granted to the temple in 1686 (as with the former residence of Emperor Meisho). Features a hip-and-gable shingled roof and a set of staggered shelves known as 'Kaju-ji dana' in the first room. The partition and wall paintings are believed to be the works of Mitsuoki TOSA and Mitsunari TOSA but some theories claim them to be Kano school pieces.
The lantern in the garden in front of the shoin is said to have been donated by Mitsukuni TOKUGAWA and is known as 'Kajuji-gata Toro.'

Hon-do (main hall): The temporary residence of the maid of honor of Emperor Reigen that was granted to the temple in 1672 and originally belonged to the Konoe family. The principal image statue of the Thousand-armed Kannon is said to be the same size as Emperor Daigo but the extant statue was created during the Muromachi period.

The garden is a pond garden known as "Kaju-ji Hyochien." The central pond, named Himuro-ike Pond, is known for its water lilies, and during the Heian period, the ice that formed on the pond would be presented to the imperial court on the second day of the first month and its thickness would be used to predict the success of the harvest.

Cultural Properties

Important Cultural Properties
Shoin (drawing room)
Lotus Flower Makie Sutra Box
Ninnokyo Ryohi Sho (Ryohi's commentary on the Benevolent Kings Sutra)
Kongocho Yuga Sutra Volumes One and Two (designated in 2007)

The National Treasure 'Embroidery illustrating of Sakyamuni Preaching' (created during the Nara period or Chinese Tang Dynasty) now in the possession of the Nara National Museum originally belonged to Kaju-ji Temple but fell under national ownership after the Second World War.

Temple Crest (Sect Crest)

Double-flowering chrysanthemum


Kanzangakuin Yamashina Library

Kaju-ji Temple Monzeki Steward and Samurai

Kaju-ji Temple Monzeki Steward
The Asai family
Kagenori ASAI (Jugoinoge (Junior Fifth Rank, Lower Grade), the governor of Mutsu Province)
Kaju-ji Temple Monzeki Samurai
Daionhogi (Jurokuinojo (Junior Sixth Rank, Upper Grade), the governor of Dewa Province)


27-6 Kanshu-ji Niodomachi, Yamashina Ward, Kyoto City

[Original Japanese]