Rokuharamitsu-ji Temple (六波羅蜜寺)

Rokuharamitsu-ji Temple is a temple of the Chisan branch of the Shingon Sect located in Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City. Its honorific mountain prefix is Fudarakusan. The principal image is the eleven-face Kannon. The temple was founded by Kuya. It is the 17th sacred place of the 33 temple Kansai Kannon Pilgrimage.

Origin and History

The temple originated from a training hall dedicated to the eleven-face Kannon founded in the year 951 (in the mid-Heian period) by monk Kuya ICHIHIJIRI who was known for chanting the name of Buddha while beating a bell and dancing, and was called Saiko-ji Temple at first. As the plague spread throughout Kyoto, it is said that Kuya put the Kannon statue on a wagon which he pulled as he walked around helping people, chanting the name of Buddha and distributing tea to the sick. In the year 963, Kuya assembled 600 monks on the bank of the Kamo-gawa River (Yodo-gawa water system) and held a large-scale commemoration ceremony of Daihannya sutras, which some theories consider the establishment of Saiko-ji Temple. At that time, the bank of the Kamo-gawa River was a funeral site where remains of the dead were left.

After the death of Kuya, a monk from Mt. Hiei named Chusin renovated the temple as a Tendai branch temple and renamed it Rokuharamitsu-ji Temple in the year 977. From then on it served as a Tendai Sect temple before becoming a branch of the Shingon Sect Chishaku-in Temple in the Momoyama period. At the end of the Heian period, TAIRA no Kiyomori of the Taira family built a mansion named Rokuhara-kan in the area. The Rokuhara Tandai agency was also established in the area by the Kamakura Shogunate.

The name is based on the Buddhist Rokuharamitsu (the Six Perfections), but there are those who believe the origin to lie in the ancient name of the area 'Rokuhara.'

An alternative character for 'mitsu' of the name of Rokuharamitsu-ji Temple has also been commonly used but this is incorrect.


Until the Edo period, the temple included a monastery but the precinct was greatly reduced due to the Haibutsu kishaku (anti-Buddhist movement) of the Meiji Restoration. The now narrow precinct is surrounded by houses and its only main buildings are the Hon-do (main hall - an Important Cultural Property dating from the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan)) and the treasure hall.

The main hall is a Tendai Sect style building rebuilt in 1363 with the Gejin (outer place of worship for public people), which has a wooden-floor, separated from the Naijin (inner sanctum), which has Shihanjiki Doma (squared masonry jointed dirt floor) on the lower level, by wooden lattice shutters.

Cultural Properties

The temple's National Treasures include portraits and statues that are highly regarded within the world of Japanese sculpture such as the statue of the principal image, the statue of Kuya Jonin, the statue of TAIRA no Kiyomori and a sitting statue of the bodhisattva Ksitigarbha considered to be an original piece by Unkei. Except the principal image, all other Buddhist treasures are housed within the treasure hall (open to the public).

National Treasures

Wooden standing statue of the eleven-face Kannon - Heian period. This 10th century style piece is believed to have been, as the legend tells, the principal image of Saiko-ji Temple built by Kuya in the year 951. It is housed within a miniature shrine in the center of the main hall and is only unveiled once in the year of the dragon every 12 years. Despite its height of 258 cm, the head, body and limbs are all carved from a single piece of wood. It has a gentle expression and is highly representative of the transitional period of Japanese style carving that took place from before the beginning of to just after the end of the Heian period. It is also an extremely valuable historic piece and was designated a National Treasure in 1999.

Important Cultural Properties

Hon-do (main hall)

Wooden standing statue of Kuya Jonin

Crafted in the Kamakura period by Kosho, the fourth son of Unkei. There are many statues of that depict monks sitting down, but this statue shows Kuya walking in straw sandals. It vividly depicts Kuya walking through the plague-ridden streets of Kyoto sounding a bell and chanting the name of Buddha while praying for an end to the epidemic. Kuya is shown wearing the bell around his neck, holding the wooden bell hammer with which to hit it in his right hand, and clutching a staff with a deer horn on the top in his left hand. Six miniature statues of Amidabha Buddha are being emitted from Kuya's mouth. The six Amida Buddhas symbolize the six words of the 'Na Mu A Mi Da Butsu' chant and serve to visually represent his chanting of the Buddha's name. The six miniature statues are connected by wire.

Wooden sitting statue of a Buddhist monk (TAIRA no Kiyomori)

Kamakura period
A statue of a Buddhist monk, taken to be TAIRA no Kiyomori, holding scriptures.

Wooden sitting statue of the bodhisattva Ksitigarbha

Kamakura period
There is no inscription but the statue is believed to be an original piece by Unkei due to its origin and style. It was brought from Unkei's family temple, Jizo Jurin-in Temple. Believed to be an Unkei piece due to its intellectual graceful expression and the sharp craftsmanship of the clothing.

Wooden sitting statues of Unkei and Tankei

Kamakura period
Statues of the best known father and son Buddhist statue makers in the history of Japanese Buddhist statuary. Each statue displays its own personality with the determined young Tankei and the old master Unkei who looks hale and hearty despite his age. They were received from Jizo Jurin-in Temple along with the above-mentioned Wooden sitting statue of the bodhisattva Ksitigarbha.

Wooden standing statues of the Four Heavenly Kings - Heian period
Along with the eleven-face Kannon statue principal image, these pieces are remains from the time of the temple's founding by Kuya. Of the four statues, those of Dhrtarastra and Virudhaka are housed in the treasure hall, while those of Virupaksa and Vaisravana are deposited at Kyoto National Museum. Only the statue of Virudhaka is an addition made in the Kamakura period.

Wooden sitting statue of Bhaisajyaguru

Heian period
Exhibits the Tendai style and is believed to date from the period of renovation carried out by Chushin.

Wooden standing statue of the bodhisattva Ksitigarbha

Heian period
Enshrined within Rokuhara Ksitigarbha Hall.
The statue, which holds hair in its left hand, is known as the 'Wig-wearing Ksitigarbha.'
It has been renowned since ancient times, even being referred to in "Konjaku Monogatarishu" (Anthology of Tales from the Past).

Wooden sitting statue of Kobo-daishi.

Kamakura period
Created by Kaikei's student Chokai.

Wooden sitting statue of Yama

Kamakura period

Wooden standing statue of Lakshmi

Kamakura period

In addition, the temple is in possession of Important Tangible Folk Cultural Properties which include a mud pagoda, Obuku-chawan (tea ceremony bowl for New Year's Shugicha), wooden printing blocks and over 2100 materials related to the Mando-e (Buddhist lantern festival).


Rokuro-cho, Gojo-dori Yamato-oji-agaru, Higashi-iru, Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture (also written 'Rokuro-cho, 2 chome, Matsubara-dori Yamato-oji Higashi-iru')

7 minutes walk from Kyoto City Bus/Keihan Bus stop Kiyomizu-michi

Nearby Amulet-issuing Offices
Saikoku thirty-three sacred places (Kansai Kannon Pilgrimage)
16 - Kiyomizu-dera Temple, 17 - Rokuharamitsu-ji Temple, 18 - Choho-ji Temple

[Original Japanese]