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The Saimyōji Temple


The Saimyōji Temple Brief History
 
The temple Saimyōji was founded in 834, during the Heian period (794–1185), by the holy priest Sanshū at the imperial command of the emperor Nimmyō. It flourished throughout the Heian, Kamakura, and Muromachi periods (eighth through sixteenth centuries) as a place of prayer and training for the search for enlightenment and is said to have included 17 Buddha halls and 300 priestsf lodgings. According to tradition, the shogun Minamoto no Yoritomo once visited the temple to pray for victory in battle.

During the Warring States period (1467–1568), immediately after burning the temple Enryakuji, on Mount Hiei, the warlord Oda Nobunaga set fire to the Saimyōji as well. Fortunately, however, the main hall (Japanfs first designated national treasure), the three-story pagoda, and the Nitenmon gate escaped the conflagration to survive to the present.

During the Edo period (1603–1868), owing to the efforts of high priests Tenkai and Kōkai, the lord Mochizuki Etchū no Kami Yūkan restored the Saimyōji as a temple for prayer and training.
 
 
Architecture
Main Hall (Ruriden): Designated National Treasure
 

Built by master carpenters of the Hida region in the early part of the Kamakura period (1185–1333), the Main Hall is in the pure Japanese architectural style. No nails are used in its construction. It is roofed with Japanese-cypress-bark shingles and preserves examples of such Kamakura-style architectural features as the so-called frog-leg carved wooden supports and distinctive lattice patterns.

 
 
Three-story Pagoda: Designated National Treasure
 

Built by master carpenters of the Hida region in the late part of the Kamakura period (1185–1333), the pagoda, which is in the pure Japanese architectural style, is made entirely of Japanese cypress (hinoki) and employs no nails. It is roofed with Japanese-cypress-bark shingles.
The walls of the first level are covered in murals by painters of the Kosè school illustrating the Lotus Sutra (Hokekyo), the 32 bodhisattvas attendant on Vairocana Buddha (Dainichi Nyorai), and hosoge floral arabesques, all in brilliant colors. They are said to be the only Kamakura-period murals in the country. (Pagoda height: 23.7 meters.)

 
 
Nitenmon Gate: Designated Important Cultural Property
Built in the Muromachi period (1336–1573), the shingle-roofed Nitenmon gate is of the so-called hakkyaku-mon style with four main support posts and eight smaller subsidiary support posts.
 
 
Temple Treasures
Honzon Yakushi Nyorai (Principal Image: Buddha of Medicine and Healing): Designated Important Cultural Property, Heian period (794–1185)
 
 
 
 

Shaka Nyorai (Shakyamuni Buddha): Designated Important Cultural Property, Kamakura period (1185–1333)
 
 
 
 

Fudō Myō-ō (Acala) and two dōji (attendant boys): Designated Important Cultural Property, Heian period (794–1185); attributed to Chishō Daishi
 
 
 
 

Nitennō-Komoku-ten and Tamon-ten (two of the Four Guardian Kings): Designated Important Cultural Property, Heian period (794–1185)
 
 
 
 

Nikkō Bosatsu and Gakkō Bosatsu (Bodhisattvas of Solar and Lunar Radiance): Designated Municipal Cultural Property, Kamakura period (1185–1333)
 
 
 
 

Juni Shinshō (Twelve Divine Generals): Designated Prefectural Cultural Property, Kamakura period (1185–1333); attributed to a disciple of the famous sculptor Unkei
 
 
 
 

Sanzon Amida Nyorai (Amida Triad): Designated Municipal Cultural Property, Kamakura period (1185–1333); attributed to Anami (Kaikei)
 
 
 
 

Statue of the High Priest Gansan Daishi: Designated Municipal Cultural Property, Muromachi period (1336–1573)
 
 
 
 

Statue of the Buddhist Goddess Benzaiten: Designated Municipal Cultural Property, Muromachi period (1336–1573)
 
 
 
 

Statue of the Buddhist Monk Shinran Shōnin: Kamakura period (1185–1333)

 
 
 
 
Many other examples of Buddhist sculpture.
 
 
 
 
Scenic garden: Hōrai Tei : Designated National Garden
The garden features standing stones representing the Yakushi-Buddha Triad–Yakushi Nyorai and the Nikkō and Gakkō bodhisattvas–as well as a stone grouping representing the Twelve Divine Generals. One of the islands in the Shinji-ike Pond represents an origami crane; another represents a tortoise. The garden also features a lantern by Ishiya Midaroku.

 
 
Natural Monument: Saimyōji Fudanzakura Cherry Tree: Prefectural Cultural Property
This ornamental alpine cherry tree blooms in spring, autumn, and winter. A winter variety of the early-blooming line of cherries known as a Higanzakura, it is approximately 250 years old.

 
 
Annual Events
The 8th day of each month Yakushi Goma Ceremony
January 8 First Yakushi Grand Hannya Ceremony (Hatsu Yakushi Dai Hannya-E)
February 3 Setsubun Festival (Setsubun-E, the Day Before the Beginning of Spring Ceremony)
May 8 Anniversary of the Buddhafs Birth (Bussho-E)
August 18 Day of Appreciation for the Bodhisattva Kannon
September 8 Yakushi Nyorai Festival Day (Yakushi Nyorai En-nichi-E)
December 8 Perpetual Sutra Chanting (Eitaikyokuyō)


 
Access
ByTrain
By sightseeing taxi to the Saimyōji from the Kawase, Hikone, or Maibara stations on the JR line.
 
ByCar
Take the Meishin Expressway to the gKotō-sanzan Smart ICh or the gHikone ICh then change to Route 307.
 
 
Saimyōji Temple
(Kotō-sanzan Saimyōji)
26, Ikedera, Kōra-cho, Inugami-gun, Shiga Prefecture 522-0254
TEL: 0749-38-4008
FAX: 0749-38-4388

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