There are two famous temples named “Nishi Honganji Temple/Higashi Honganji Temple” at a distance of 5 minutes walking north from Kyoto station. Both are the head temple of Jodo Shinshu sect, each of which has about 10,000 branch temples. They are Japanese top-level Buddhist temples.
Next to Nishi Honganji Temple, there is a temple called Koshoji Temple (本山興正寺). Koshoji is also a head temple of the Jodo Shinshu sect which has big main halls. However, the next temple is so big, there are few tourists at this temple.
I am a monk belonging to Koshoji. I will guide the highlight of this temple for tourists interested in Koshoji Temple.
Koshoji Temple History
Monk Shinran (親鸞)
Koshoji temple was founded by the famous Buddhist Monk Shinran. He is a person about 800 years ago from now. (AD 1173~1262)
Shinran became a Buddhist monk at 9 years old, and practice of Buddhism at Hieizan. Hieizan was a temple like a university of Japanese Buddhism. It has a history of 1200 years and it is registered as a world heritage site.
Shinran studied Profound Buddhism, and practiced Hard Buddhist training for 20 years. He went down the mountain by a divine revelation from Prince Shotoku. He met Honen and began to believe deeply about the teachings of Amida Buddha (Amida Nyorai). They were repressed and banished from Kyoto, but they continued missionary work in various places.
Their activities were accepted by the people. Even in modern times Jodo Shinshu became a Buddhist sect with the largest number of believers in Japan.
Jodo Shinshu Buddhism
Jodo Shinshu Buddhism is a teaching widely accepted by farmers and merchants. Even though we are living a human life (eat meat · drink alcohol · get married etc.), it is a teaching that all people can be saved.
Jodo Shinshu is the teaching of Amida Buddha. Even if it is poor, woman, criminal, uneducated person, it is a teaching saved by trusting the wish of Amida Buddha from the bottom of my heart. There are no special training or strict rules.
There are 10 traditional Jodo Shinshu sects founded by Shinran. Koshoji Temple sect is one of them, and Shinran’s disciples conveys the temple.
Brief History of Koshoji Temple
- 1212Shinran built a temple in the eastern part of Kyoto.
- 1328Transfer the temple around the current Kyoto National Museum.
- 1481In order to act with Monk Rennyo of Honganji, build a temple to the original location.
- 1532Building burned and moved to Osaka.
- 1591Move to the present place with Nishi Honganji. The three sons of Honganji was the head monks of Higashi Honganji, Koshoji and Nishi Honganji.
- 1876Koshoji is separated from Honganji and recognized as a Kosho Sect.
The Buildings of Koshoji
Koshoji Temple is the head temple of the Kosho sect of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism that enshrines Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata). There are nearly 500 temples belonging to Koshoji. Because it is a temple that represents sects, the building is also big.
The Goei-Do (御影堂)
The building on the left is called the Goei-Do (御影堂). It is 33 meters wide, 41 meters deep and 28 meters high, the largest hall in this temple. The Shinran statue of the Jodo Shinshu sect founder has been enshrined in the front. It is a black wood carving statue, and it is considered to be 40 years old.
The Amida-Do (阿弥陀堂)
The building on the right is called the Amida-Do (阿弥陀堂). The height is about the same as ths Goei-do, but the area is about half. An important statue of Amida Buddha of Jodo Shinshu has been enshrined in the front.
Recommended view points
Unfortunately for a few years We will not enter the Goei-Do. Now, Shinran’s statue has been transferred to the Amida-Do. It is very rare. In the head temples there are few cases where the statues of Sect Founder and Buddha are placed in the same space. It is enshrined in a special arrangement just now.
The Two Gates
There are two gates in Koshoji. The front gate of Amida-Do is Amidado gate (阿弥陀堂門) and the front gate of Goei-Do is named Sanmon (三門). The name of Sanmon becomes difficult contents, so refrain from explaining here.
The Bell Tower
The Bell Tower is in the corner of Southeast. In 1774 the Empress Doward was donated along with the temple bell to hold a memorial service of the 116th Momozono Emperor. It is the oldest existing building in Koshoji.
Although it is not normally open to the public, anyone can ring freely from 10 pm on December 31 until the new year.
The Kyozo (sutra repository)
The Kyozo has been stored the valuable goods, such as a book of sutra and successive head monks. Built in 1848, it has the name of Hohozo (法宝蔵). It is the name given by the 121st Komei Emperor.
The Kosho Kaikan was once used as a accommodation for monks and travelers. However, the deterioration of the building has become a problem, and in March 2019 the restaurant also retreated and it became unusable. We are planning to demolish the current building and build a new secure hotel.
The Temple Office
There is a building of the temple office, between the Amidado gate and Sanmon. The monks (staff) of Koshoji are working. No one will be good at English and Chinese. Response other than Japanese is bad.
The Jihyo of Koshoji
The Jihyo (寺標) is placed in front of the gate to inform people of the name of the temple. It is engraved with “本山興正寺”. Honzan (本山) means the main temple that controls the branch temples.
Koshoji Temple Fees & Hours & Location Map
- Admission Fees: Entry to the main grounds and the buildings is free. Photography is permitted inside the Koshoji temple.
- Opening Hours: from 6:00 to 17:00
- Closed: No closing days
- Access: The Koshoji temple is located 10 minute walk north of Kyoto Station. The Koshoji is located south of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Nishi Honganji.
- Address: Horikawa-dori, Shichijo-agaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto City, 600-8261
- Tel.: +81-(0)75-371-0075
- Fax.: +81-(0)75-371-8509
- Official Website: http://www.koshoji.or.jp/index.php (english not available)