Zenjo-ji Temple (Ujitawara-cho) (禅定寺 (宇治田原町))

Zenjo-ji Temple is one of the temples of the Soto sect, that is located in Zenjo-ji, Ujitawara-cho, Tsuzuki County, Kyoto Prefecture. Its sango (literally, "mountain name"), which is the title prefixed to the name of a Buddhist temple, is Fudarakusan, and its Ingo (name of temple's title) is Kannon Myochi In. Kaisan (founder of a temple as the first chief priest) was Heisu. Zenjo-ji Temple has an Eleven-faced Kannon (Goddess of Mercy) enshrined as the honzon (principal image of Buddha). Zenjo-ji Temple is located in a suburb of Ujitawara-cho, near the border of Shiga Prefecture. Although this temple has become a Zen temple (a temple belonging to the Zen sect) of the Soto Sect after the early-modern times, it was originally a branch temple of Todai-ji Temple and deeply associated with Byodoin Temple and the FUJIWARA Sekkan-ke (the families which produced regents), and has a group of Buddhist statues such as the Honzon standing statue of an Eleven-faced Kannon dating back to the Heian period.


Running along a tributary of the Yodo-gawa River and Tahara-gawa River, from Uji towards Ishiyama in Omi (Shiga Prefecture), Zenjo-ji Temple is located along the road of a mountain village near the border of Shiga Prefecture. This area was called Kuwari-go (village) before the mid Heian period, and it is said that there used to be a former Zenjo-ji Temple, Kuwari-ji Temple.

According to "The Chronological List of the Construction of Zenjo-ji Temple" that has been handed down in this temple, Zenjo-ji Temple was erected by the monk Heisu who served as Betto (the head priest and administrator of a Buddhist temple) of Todai-ji Temple. Construction of the temple started in 987, by accepting FUJIWARA no Kaneie as a believer in Buddhism. Then, construction on the Hondo (main hall) was started in 991 and completed in 995 (during this time, Kaneie died in 990). According to "Records of the rice fields and vegetable fields belonging to Zenjo-ji Temple" which was written several years later in 1001, Zenjo-ji Temple had 1000 hectares of somayama (timber forest) and fields in its home town of Tahara-go as well as jiryo (temple estate) in other regions. In 1071, after the rice fields and vegetable fields belonging to Zenjo-ji Temple were donated to Byodoin Temple, Zenjo-ji Temple became a branch temple of Byodoin Temple (until then, Zenjo-ji Temple was a branch temple of Shoboin Temple in Todai-ji Temple that was erected by Heisu).

In this way, Zenjo-ji Temple flourished through the Heian period by accepting nobles such as FUJIWARA no Michinaga and FUJIWARA no Yorimichi (a son of Michinaga and erector of Byodoin Temple) as believers in Buddhism and based on its broad ryoji. Management of the temple was supported by ryomin (people of the domain) belonging to the temple, called Yoriudo.

According to the documents remaining in the temple, Zenjo-ji Temple in the medieval period often disputed with its neighbors over village borders, especially, a dispute about the mountain border with Sotsuka-no-sho Manor (present Oishisotsuka-cho, Otsu City) of the estate of the Kujo family (Saisho kongo in ryo), was well known for disputing endlessly from the medieval period to the end of the Edo period.

The temple declined in the Sengoku period (period of warring states), however, after entering the early-modern times, Soko GESSHU, a restorer of Taijo-ji Temple in Kaga (Kanazawa City) entered into the temple in 1680, and the temple was restored by support from the Honda family, the principal retainer of the Kaga Domain. Since then, the religious Doctrine was changed to the Soto sect.

Cultural properties

Important Cultural Property
Eleven-faced wooden Kannon ryuzo (wooden standing statue of Eleven-faced Kannon)
Height: 286 cm
The trace of early Heian period style can be seen from the well-rounded figure of the statue, however the facial expression is Japanese style, carving of clothes is gentle and it seems that this is a work around the end of the 10th century, the time when Zenjo-ji Temple was erected. The following Buddha statues are also works in the mid Heian period to the late Heian period.

Wooden-Nikkobosatsu and Gakkobosatsu-ryuzo
Wooden standing statue of Shitenno (Four guardian kings)
Mokuzo Monju Bosatsu Kishi zo
Wooden statue of Jizo Bosatsu in the hanka (half-lotus) position
Zenjo-ji tahata chumon (Vol. 1), Records of the rice fields and vegetable fields belonging to Zenjo-ji Temple postscript (Vol. 1)
Zenjo-ji Temple Documents 125 copies (Four volumes of tsuketari (attachments, appurtenances))


100 Zenjo-ji Shochi, Ujitawara-cho, Tsuzuki County, Kyoto Prefecture

Take the Keihan Uji Bus for Rokuenzaka/Industrial complexes from Keihan Uji Station or Kintetsu Shintanabe Station, and get off at Ichu-mae. A 20-minute walk after getting off at Ichu-mae. Take the Keihan Uji Bus for Ichu-mae from JR Ishiyama Station and get off at Zenjo-ji Temple (two round trip services a day).

[Original Japanese]