Shokoku-ji Temple (相国寺)

Shokoku-ji temple in Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto City is the head temple of the Rinzai sect Shokoku-ji School of Zen Buddhism.
The honorific mountain prefix is Mannen-za' but it is more specifically referred to as 'Mannen-zan Shokokujo Tenzen-ji Temple.'
The kaiki (patron of a temple in its founding) was Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA, the kaizan (the founder of a temple) was Muso Soseki and the temple is dedicated to Shaka Nyorai. It is connected to the Ashikaga Shogun family and the Fushimi-no-Miya family, and was the second of the Kyoto-Gozan. Shokoku-ji temple was at the center of Gozan Literature and was home to the artist monks Shubun and Sesshu. In addition, Kyoto's famous sites Kinkaku-ji Temple (Rokuon-ji Temple) and Ginkaku-ji Temple (Jisho-ji Temple) are external sub-temples of Shokoku-ji Temple.

Origin and History

In 1382 Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA, third Shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate, vowed to establish the largest Buddhist cathedral on land adjacent to the Hana no Gosho (Flower Palace). It was completed 10 years later in 1392. Yoshimitsu requested that Tenryu-ji Temple Zen master Shunoku Myoha (1311-1388) serve as kaisan (founding priest) but Shunoku Myoha declined. Shunoku assumed the post of second chief priest on the condition that his uncle, and also his teacher, High Priest Muso Soseki (1275-1351), be posthumously named kaisan. This is how Muso Soseki came to be named as kaisan despite the fact that he died 30 years before Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA even vowed to establish the cathedral. Shunoku Myoha also died in 1388 without seeing the completion of Shokoku-ji Temple.

Shokoku-ji Temple was one of Kyoto's largest Zen Buddhist temples and was a central location of Gozan Literature but has also been completely destroyed by fire on numerous occasions. The entire temple was destroyed by fire two years after its completion (1394). Yoshimitsu's Shichiju Daito tower was destroyed by fire several years after its completion but at over 106 m its record as the tallest building in Japan remained unbroken for approximately 530 years until the completion of the steel tower of the Yosami radio transmitting station (250 m) in 1929. The temple was again completely destroyed by fire after Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA's death (1425). In 1467, Shokoku-ji temple became the camp for the Hosokawa clan during the Onin War and was burnt down. In 1551, the site was once again ravaged by fire when it became embroiled in a dispute between the Kanrei (Shogun's Deputy) Hosokawa family and Miyoshi family. By this time it had suffered destruction by fire on no less than 4 occasions. In 1584, the individual regarded as the father of Shokoku-ji Temple's restoration, Seisho Jotai, assumed the position of chief priest and began renovations. The Hatto (lecture hall) that remains today was built during this time. Another fire broke out in 1620 and almost all structures with the exception of the lecture hall were completely destroyed in the Great Fire of Temmei in 1788. Most of the structures remaining today were rebuilt during the Bunka era of the early 19th century.


The temple precinct is located to the north of Kyoto Imperial Palace, adjacent to Doshisha University. In its heyday, the grounds of Shokoku-ji Temple extended to Teramachi-dori Street in the east, Omiya-dori Street in the west, Ichijo-dori Street in the south and Kami-goryo-jinja Shrine in the north. After being destroyed by fire during the Onin War, Sam-mon gate and the butsu-den (Buddha hall) were not rebuilt, with the Hatto (lecture hall) serving as the butsu-den (hall in which the object of worship is enshrined).

Hatto (important cultural property) - Also known as 'Muido' and rebuilt in 1605 using funds donated by Hideyori TOYOTOMI. It is the oldest example of hatto architecture in Japan. The dragon painting on the ceiling was created by Mitsunobu KANO.
Clapping hands at specific locations causes vibrations, which have led to it being referred to as the 'roaring dragon.'

Kaisanto (Kaisando) - A hall houses an image of kaisan (founding priest) Muso Soseki that was relocated a palace of Emperor Momozono's wife, Kyoraimonin, and reconstructed in 1807.

Abbot's chamber - Rebuilt in 1807.

Kuri (kitchen and accommodation) - Also rebuilt in 1807.

Jotenkaku Museum - This institution was opened in 1984 and exhibits the cultural properties of Shokoku-ji Temple and affiliated temples (such as Kinkaku-ji Temple).

Semmyo (bathing house) - First built around 1400, the current structure was rebuilt in 1596. It is believed that individuals would have a sauna while bathing by pouring hot water over themselves with a ladle.

Cultural Properties

National Treasures

Bokuseki (black ink brush writing by Zen priests) created by Mugaku Sogen entitled Choraku-ji Ichio ni Atauru no Gego (November 1, 1279)

Important Cultural Properties

Hondo (Hatto) entrance hallway
Ink on paper six-panel screen by Tohaku HASEGAWA depicting monkeys and a bamboo forest
Color on silk by Shinchu RIKU depicting the sixteen arhats, 16 haba (6.048 m)
Color on silk by Bunsei depicting cranes, 2 haba (0.756 m)
Ink and light color on silk by Rinryo depicting the Chinese phoenix
Color on paper inscribed by Zekkai Chushin depicting mountains and water
Text of a dialogue between Shigen Sogen and Koho Kennichi.
The Ten Bulls (attributed to Zekkai Chushin), 10 haba (3.78 m)
An imperial writ
Overseas trade license granted by the Shogunate
Plan of the boundaries of the former site of Huko-in Temple


Take the Karasuma Line of the Kyoto City Subway to Imadegawa Station and walk for 5 minutes.

[Original Japanese]