Once you enter a temple passing through the Sanmon gate, you may feel a crisp atmosphere of being in the sanctuary of the Buddha. Buddhism has developed through the advocacy of new doctrines in response to the demands of the times.

World Heitage Sites

Todaiji Temple

Located directly to the east of the Heijo-kyo palace, what did Emperor Shomu aim for by the establishment of Todaiji? How deeply did Shomu want Buddhism's support?

Byodoin Temple

The Phonex Hall or Hou-ou-do of Byodoin Temple in Kyoto (平等院鳳凰堂)

A supreme court noble, Fujiwara Yorimichi's dearest wish seemed to be realized at Phonix Hall. What was his earnest wish? Why did he build Byodo-in Temple?

Sanjyusangen-do Hall

Emperor Go-Shirakawa built it to pray for the safety and prosperity of the nation and its people. The number Sanjyusan(33) represents Kannon’s 33 incarnations.

Chuson-ji & Motsu-ji

The Konjikido Golden Hall of Hiraizumi Chusonji Temple in Iwate built by Lord Oshu Fujiwara Kiyohira_平泉中尊寺金色堂

Fujiwara Kiyohira's aspiration for a peaceful Tohoku by establishing the Buddhist Pure Land with two temples in Hiraizumi after decades of battles. In 2024, Chuson-ji marks the 900th Anniversary of Its Construction.

Horyuji Temple

Horyuji Temple Five Story Pagoda_法隆寺五重塔

The world's oldest wooden temple was built by Prince Umayado, who established Japan with Emperor Suiko and MInister Soga based on Buddhism.

Saihoji (Moss Temple)

Saihoji Moss Temple_西芳寺(苔寺)

This enchanting temple boasts a 5,000 square meter garden adorned with approximately 120 distinct varieties of moss, creating an exquisite tapestry that resembles a lush green carpet.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple

A court noble Shogun, Sakanoue-no-Tamuramaro pacified the Tohoku region with the blessing of Kannon's divine power of Kiyomizu-dera Temple

Daigoji Temple

After enjoying the cherry blossom viewing party at Daigoji, Hideyoshi constructed a sophisticated garden for Emperor Goyozei for his visit.

Three Greate Pavillions in Kyoto

Kinkakuji (Golden Pavillion)

Kinkakuji (Golden Pavillion) in Kyoto_金閣寺

Golden Pavillion's three-story architecture represents, from the top down, Buddhism, Samurai, and Court Nobles. Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu's power is expressed.

Ginkakuji (Silver Pavillion)

Ginkakuji Temple was a Moon-Viewing Temple built by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. He failed his politics but was vital in establishing the Higashiyama "Wabi-Sabi" Culture.

Hiun Pavillion

New Buddhism schools

Koyasan Kongobuji

Koyasan Kongobuji_高野山金剛峰寺_世界遺産

Koyasan is founded by Kukai. Why is it believed that Kukai is alive? What did Kukai wish for?

Koyasan Okunoin

Koyasan Okuno-in Gravestones along ceader trees_高野山奥の院

Why are there so many gravestones laid along the approach to Okunoin? Because they are awaiting Maitreya.

Hieizan Enryakuji

Enryakuji Temple on Mt.Hiei, World Heritage_比叡山延暦寺,世界遺産

The Eternal light has illuminated the world for over 1200 years. What's the hidden story that exists?

Chionin Temple

Chioin-in is the head temple of the Jodo Sect founded by Honen. The Sanmon is the largest wooden gate in Japan, located in Kyoto.

Shorenin Temple

Camphor trees in front of the gate invite you to enter the temple. It sheltered revolutionary Honen and Shinran Buddhists. What was their belief?

Osaka Honganji Temple

Honganji was split into the East & West Temples through the 10-year-long battle against a warlord, Oda Nobunaga. How did they survive and why split?

Yoshizaki Temple

Rennyo Buddhist of Jodo Shinshu sect in front of Yoshizaki Gobo Temple

Rennyo Buddhist statue in front of Yoshizaki Temple ruin. How did Rennnyo rebuild the Jodo Shinshu Sect in Buddhism? His strategy and tactics are amazing.

Kenninji Temple

Wind God and Thunder God Screens at Kenninji Temple_建仁寺_風神雷神図屏風

Buddhist Yosai built Kenninji as a center for the study of the three sects of Tendai, Shingon Esoteric, and Zen Buddhism. Why three?

Honpoji Temple

Hon’ami Kōetsu, a follower of the Hokke school of Nichiren Buddhism and a superior artist created its garden as its big patron. One stone and Lotus flowerbed expresses Nichi-Ren.

Temples of Turning Points in History

Asukadera Temple

Asukadera is the first full-scale Buddhist temple in Japan to promote the establishment of an independent nation based on Buddhist teaching, led by Emperor Suiko, Prince Umayado, and General Soga Umako

Daikakuji Temple

Daikakuji Temple_大覚寺

Daikakuji was originally a beloved detached villa of Emperor Saga, who laid the foundation for the nation in the early Heian period with Kukai's support. Noble elegance in every corner. Imperial Court Culture began here.

Konkai Komyoji Temple

Konkai Komyoji Temple_金戒光明寺

The sunset view offers a beautiful vermilion spectacle. It's similar to the strongest swordsmen, Shinsengumi's martyrs for the declining Tokugawa Shogunate.

The Evolution of Buddhism

The Beginning of Japanese Buddhism

Horyuji Temple in Nara (World Heritage Site) (法隆寺五重塔)
Horyuji Five Story Pagoda

Buddhism was introduced officially in Japan in 538 (or 552) through the Korean peninsula. Buddhism started in the Asuka province of Nara prefecture in the 6th century by three key persons; Empress Suiko, Minister Soga Umako, and Prince Umayado. Working together, they aimed to establish the Ritsu-Ryo-code-based nation with Buddhism as its foundation and to be an independent nation without being a tributary nation of the Sui dynasty. Many temples were built in Nara including Asukadera Temple, Japan's first large temple complex, Horyuji Temple, the oldest wooden structure in Japan, Tennoji Temple, and more.

Stabilize chaos with Buddhism (Kegon sect)

The Great Buddha at Todai-ji Temple in Nara
Great Buddha

Suffering from earthquakes, eclipses, a smallpox epidemic, and numerous political upheavals during the Nara period (710-794), Emperor Shomu took measures to stabilize and protect the nation with the help of the Buddha. Therefore, he built the Todaiji Temple and Great Buddha, in the center of the capital. With Todaiji as the head temple, he established provincial temples called Kokubunji and Kokubuninji in about 60 regions throughout Japan, to pacify and protect the nation by spreading Kegon Buddhism to every corner of the country. In a sense, it was a Buddhist network of Todaiji at the top connected with these provincial temples. As the monks pursued and implemented strict doctrines, including theories and precepts, politics and Buddhism became closely aligned.

Elite Saicho and Genius Kukai paved the way for Saving People (Tendai and Shingon sects)

Enryakuji Temple on Mt.Hiei (比叡山延暦寺)
Enryakuji Temple on Mt.Hiei
Koyasan Konpon Daito (高野山 根本大塔)
Konpon Daito on Mt. Koya

In the Heian period (794-1185), politically Buddhism had become powerful. Two young monks, Saicho and Kukai, think about the necessity of Buddhism to save not only the nation but also the people and society itself a little more. After studying Buddhism in the Tang Dynasty, they each entered into ascetic training in the deep mountains, Saicho established the Tendai sect on Mount Hiei and Kukai established Shingon esoteric Buddhism on Mount Koya. Saicho formulated the unique theory that "all mountains, rivers, plants, and trees become fully realized Buddhas," In other words, all things such as even flowers in the field can become Buddhas. He was involved in a heated debate with the sects in Nara, led by Todaiji Temple, and died with a broken heart, unable to establish his own Kaidan (ordination platform) while he was still alive. On the other hand, Kukai cherished the idea of "Sokushin-Jobutsu," or that being born in this world is itself a Buddha. Kukai's Shingon Esoteric Buddhism was supported by emperors and aristocrats who sought benefits in this world (such as healing illnesses and dispelling vengeful spirits). Under the patronage of Emperor Saga, he was granted Mount Koya to build its complex. He also established a three-dimensional mandala at Toji Temple near the Heian-Kyo capital, which is an easy-to-understand expression of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism.

Intently chanting, then anyone can be saved(Jodo and Jodo Shinshu sects)

Byodoin Temple, The Phonex Hall or Hou-ou-do of in Kyoto_平等院鳳凰堂
Byodoin Temple

Around the middle of the Heian period (794-1185), the pessimism called "mappo" was widely believed that the power of Buddha had weakened and people could not be saved in this world, putting people in a state of fear. Wishing for rebirth in the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss, the aristocrats began to build temples one by one. One famous temple is the Byodoin Temple in Kyoto. As the Genpei War broke out in 1180, the battles were expanded through the nation. Adding famine, "live in hell and die in hell" was the daily life for many people such as farmers. "mappo" had become a reality. Under such situations, Honen founded the Jodo sect and Shinran did the Jodo Shinsu sect as the "Buddhism of salvation". Its doctrine is that people could be saved by Buddhist chanting. The head temple of the Jodo sect is Chion-in, and the head temple of the Honganji school of the Jodo Shinshu sect is Nishi Honganji, the head temple of the Otani school is Higashi Honganji, both located in Kyoto since they have been split into the east and west temples.

Blooming of Buddhism of Zen for Samurai (Soto and Rinzai sects)

During the Kamakura period (1185-1333), when samurai warriors rose to the forefront of politics, Yosai and Dogen returned to Japan after studying Zen Buddhism in the Sung Dynasty. Yosai founded the Rinzai sect, which was associated with the samurai regimes of the Kamakura and Muromachi Shogunates. Five great temples were established in Kyoto and Kamakura, respectively (*). Its doctrine is that the human mind is pure, beautiful, and great. Therefore he promoted Zazen (Zen sitting meditation) to recover this great mind we have forgotten in our daily lives. On the other hand, Soto Zen, founded by Dogen, believed that sitting (zazen) itself was a form of enlightenment and found the same value in daily activities. Eiheiji Temple was built as the practice center. After studying with Dogen, Keizan spread Dogen’s teachings and opened the Sojiji Temple. With this, Eiheiji and Sojiji stand as the two head temples of the Soto sect.

(*) Kyoto; Nanzen-ji, Tenryu-ji, Shokoku-ji, Kennjn-ji, Tofuku-ji, and Manju-ji / Kamakura; Kencho-ji, Engaku-ji, Jufuku-ji, Jochi-ji, and Jomyo-ji