Kojima-dera (Kojima-dera Temple) (子嶋寺)

Kojima-dera Temple is a temple of the Shingon sect located in Takatori-cho, Takaichi-gun, Nara Prefecture. The sango (literally, "mountain name"), which is the title prefixed to the name of a Buddhist temple is Kojimasan (Houonzan). The principal image at a temple is Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana). The temple legend says the founder of the temple is a monk, Houon.

It is famous for Ryokai mandara (mandala of the Two Realms) or Kojima mandala which was created in the middle of the Heian period and has been designated a national treasure. Kiyomizu-dera Temple known as 'Kyomizu no butai (the stage of Kiyomizu) was reportedly founded by the monk of Kojima-dera Temple, Enchin. Historically, Kojima-dera Temple played an important role having a training hall for Kojima school of the Shingon sect since the middle of the Heian period. It is one of Yamato Shichifukujin or the Seven Deities of Good Fortune in Yamato (Shinkisan Chogo Sonshi-ji Temple, Kume-dera Temple, Kojima-dera Temple, Ofusa Kannon-ji Temple, Tanzan-jinja Shrine, Taima-dera Temple Nakanobo and Abe Monjuin).


Although it is said it was founded before the Nara period, there are several views about the time of foundation and circumstances behind it. The current Kojima-dera Temple is located near Tsubosakayama station of Kintetsu line. However, as some historical materials suggested the name, 'Kojimasan-dera', its original location seems to have been between mountains. It fell into a decline in the middle of the Heian period, but a monk, Shingo, who served in Kofuku-ji Temple, revitalized it.
Its jigo (literally, 'temple name'), which is the title given to a Buddhist temple, was Kojima-dera or Kojimayama-dera Temple in early times, but after its revitalization by Shingo, it was changed to 'Kankaku-ji Temple.'
In modern times, it was changed to 'Senju-in' and then it became 'Kojima-dera' again. The name of the place around Kojima-dera Temple, 'Oaza Kankaku-ji, Takatori-cho,' originates in the previous jigo.

The prevailing view about circumstances behind its foundation was written in some materials such as Yoshinosan Hoon den (the record of Hoon Daishi of the Yoshino-san Temple) of "Genko Shakusho" (History of Buddhism of the Genko era) and Hoon den of "Honcho Kosoden" (biography of high ranking monks). These materials described that in 760, a monk, Hoon, founded Kojimasan-dera Temple 'near Kojima Shrine' in Takaichi-gun Yamoto no kuni (Yamato Province) by order from the Emperor Koken. This 'Kojima Shrine' seems to indicate present-day Kojima Shrine located in Shimokojima, Takatori-cho (the south of Kojima-dera). The temple legend described the temple was founded in 752. On the other hand, the article of November, 644 (this was the year before the Taika Reforms) of "Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) suggested that SOGA no Emishi founded Hokonoki-dera Temple on Mt. Oniho. So, there is another view that this 'Hokonoki-dera Temple' was the predecessor of Kojima-dera Temple. According to this view, the foundation of Kojima-dera Temple dates back more than one century from the date the temple legend suggested. Additionally, 'Nagaoka tenno Bosatsu den' (life of the Emperor Nagaoka Bodhisattva) in "Enryaku so roku" (the record of monks in Enryaku) described that in the end of the eighth century, the Emperor Kanmu founded Kojimasan-dera Temple at Mt. Nie (Niho?) in Nanjin. Mt. Oniho is considered to be either present-day Nyudani, Takatori-cho or Nyudani, Asuka-cho.

Since the Heian period

During the early Heian period, it was thriving as a Kannon reijo (sacred place with Kannon statue) following Hase-dera Temple and Tsubosaka-dera Temple. The second chief priest of Kojima-dera Temple, Enchin, and SAKANOUE no Tamuramaro founded Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto as a branch temple of Kojima-dera Temple. According to tradition about the foundation of Kiyomizu-dera Temple described in some historical materials such as "Konjaku Monogatari" (The Tale of Times Now Past), a monk of Kojima-dera Temple, Enchin, founded Kiyomizu-dera Temple to enshrine Senju Kannon (Thousand armed Avalokitesvara) after he had a nightmare and went to Otowa no taki Falls (it was described as '小島山寺' not 'Kojima-dera Temple' in "Konjaku Monogatari").

Several materials indicate 'Kojimasan-dera Temple' (literally, Kojima Mountain Temple); therefore, the original Kojima-dera Temple is considered to have been located in mountains. There is a temple named Kannon-in Temple located in mountains in the southeast of Kojima-dera Temple (Kamikoshima, Takatori-cho). Its sango is 'Kojimayama' and its history of the foundation is similar to Kojima-dera Temple. Therefore, it is considered to be deeply related to Kojima-dera Temple and the original Kojima-dera Temple at the time of the foundation is considered to have been located around there.

According to "Kojimasan Kankaku-ji Engi" (The history of the Kojimasan Kankaku-ji Temple) (completed in the middle of the Edo period), Kojima-dera Temple was on the decline in the middle of the Heian period. However, in 983, a monk of Kofuku-ji Temple, Shingyo, entered the temple, revitalized it, founding 'Kankaku-ji Temple' as a branch temple of Kojima-dera Temple at the bottom of the mountain and started the Kojima school of the Shingon sect.
Around this time, Kojima-dera Temple, where monks practiced Hasshu Kengaku (learning eight Buddhist sects together) putting the Hosso sect as a main school, was thriving as a training place for the Shingon sect and it was named 'Kankaku-ji Temple.'
"Kojimasan Kankaku-ji Engi"also suggested that in its prime time, Kojima-dera Temple (Kankaku-ji Temple) had twenty-one branches and a huge precinct straddling present-day Takatori-cho and Asuka-mura. According to "Mido Kanpakuki" (the diary of FUJIWARA no Michinaga), Michinaga visited this temple in 1007.

Although Kojima-dera Temple was involved in the disturbances of war during the Muromachi period and ebbed away, the lord of the Takatori Domain (the lord of Takatori Castle), the Honda clan, revitalized it. Since the modern times, it was controlled by Kofuku-ji Temple Ichijo-in and under the patronage of the Honda clan and the Uemura clan. Its jigo was Kojimasan Senju-in in the modern times. The existing hondo (the main hall) was built by a monk, Keno, who came from Tsubosaka-dera Temple in 1848, in the end of the Edo period.

Since Haibutsu kishaku (a movement that abolishes Buddhism and destroyed Buddhist temples, images and text) in the Meiji period, it declined again because it lost patronage and the monks were driven out for some time.
However, it was revitalized by local volunteers and in 1903, it was renamed from Senju-in into 'Kojima-dera Temple.'


It was built in 1848.

Sanmon (temple gate)
Its sanmon was Takatori Castle's Ninomon (the second gate), which was brought over to the site, and it is the only remnant of Takatori Castle.

National Treasure

Konayajikingindeie ryokaimandarazu (The picture which paints the Ryokai Mandala, which means the wisdom world and the mercy world, with gold color and silver color, on the dark blue twill cloth)
It is one of the most important Ryokai Mandala-zu (Drawing of Ryokai Mandara), being a match for Takao mandara preserved in Shingo-ji Temple in Kyoto. It is said that Shingyo (monk), who was considered to have revitalized Kojima-dera Temple, received it in reward for praying for the return of the Emperor Ichijo's health.
(deposited in Nara National Museum)

Important Cultural Property

Mokuzo Juichimen Kannon Ryuzo (wooden standing statue of eleven-faced kannon)
(deposited in Tokyo National Museum)


Get off Kintetsu Yoshino Line at Tsubosakayama Station and walk.

[Original Japanese]