Shorin-ji Temple (聖林寺)
Shorin-ji Temple is a temple of the Muro-ji school of Shingon sect located in Sakurai City, Nara Prefecture. Its sango (literally, "mountain name"), which is the title prefixed to a Buddhist temple, is Ryoon-zan, its honzon (the principle image of Buddha) is Jizo Bosatsu, and the founder is known as Joe. It is known to store a national treasure, the standing statue of eleven-faced Kannon (Goddess of Mercy).
Shorin-ji Temple is located in the slightly higher area in the south part of Sakurai City which commands a view of the Nara basin to the north and the south. Tradition says that Joe, the first son of FUJIWARA no Kamatari, founded this temple as a branch temple of Myoraku-ji Temple (present Tanzan-jinja Shrine) in 712. Tanzan-jinja Shrine, which is the successor of Myoraku-ji Temple, is located in the mountains to the far south of this temple.
A great part of the history of Shorin-ji Temple up until the modern times remains unclear, but it is thought that it had close relations with Omiwa-jinja Shirine along with Myoraku-ji Temple. It is said that Shoryo Genshin transferred the Henjo-in Temple of Mt. Miwa to this place and restored it in the Edo period.
In the middle of Edo period, the current honzon, the statue of Koyasu Enmei Jizo Bosatsu, was made and the temple flourished as a prayer temple for pregnancy and smooth delivery. This statue of Jizo was made at the solicitation of a priest called Bunshun Teigen from the people in various areas in the Genroku era (1688 to 1703) to promote the safe delivery of babies for women. Before the Edict of Separation of Shinto and Buddhism in 1868 in the Meiji period, the standing statue of eleven-faced Kannon Bosatsu was transferred from Daigorin-ji Temple, which was a jingu-ji temple (a temple associated with a shrine) of Omiwa-jinja shrine, to Shorin-ji-Temple.
Buildings and structures
Hondo (main temple) — the seated statue of Koyasu Enmei Jizo is enshrined here. Kannon-do Hall (a temple dedicated to Kannon) (Daihiden) — the standing statue of eleven-faced Kannon is enshrined and a tablet written by Ryokei ONISHI, the former chief abbot of Kiyomizu-dera Temple, is placed.
Standing statue of Mokushin Kanshitsu (wood-core dry lacquer) Eleven-faced Kannon (National treasure)
It is about 209 cm in height. It is a statue made in the end of the Nara period, using a technique called Mokushin-kanshitsu, in which first the base shape is carved on wood and then the base is coated with kokuso-urusnhi (Japanese lacquer mixed with wood chips, etc.). As mentioned above, it is the statue transferred from Daigorin-ji Temple, a jingu-ji temple of Omiwa-jinja Shrine. Ernest FENOLLOSA, a philosopher and art researcher, highly praised this statue when he came to Japan in the Meiji period. Tetsuro WATSUJI also praised this statue in "Koji Junrei (Pilgrimages to Ancient Temples)" (published in 1919) as the best work of the Tempyo sculptures (sculptures made around the Tempyo era). However, there are pros and cons on this statue; for instance, Koichi MACHIDA, an art historian, said that this statue is a conventional work of the end of the Tempyo period and not such a masterpiece as FENOLLOSA and WATSUJI extolled. The halo of this statue fragmented, so it was taken away and deposited in the Nara National Museum.
Stone seated statue of Jizo Bosatsu — the honzo of Shorin-ji Temple. It is a colored stone statue made in the Edo period. It is called Koyasu Enmei Jizo and known as a Jizo to pray for impregnation.
Take a Nara Kotsu bus (bound for Tonomine, Tanzan-jinja Shrine) at 'Sakurai Station' (Nara Prefecture) on West Japan Railway Company Sakurai Line or Kintetsu Osaka Line, get off at 'Shorin-ji mae,' and walk for 5 minutes.
Hours: 9AM to 4:30 PM, Entrance fee: 400 yen