The first temple on this site, Daidenbo-in, was built in 1133 by the monk Kakubun, with the support of the then Emperor, Toba. Nothing of this temple remains today.
In 1593 shogun Toyotomi Hudeyoshi, best remembered by some as a despotic general and persecutor of Christian missionaries, requested the monk Ogo to build a new temple (Seigan-ji) here to commemorate the death of his mother. The good monk complied.
As with nearly all of Koyasan’s wooden buildings, the temple has been, to varying degrees, destroyed by fire on a number of occasions.
Speaking of which, while a layer of snow prevented me from fully admiring the cedar bark tiled roof, I was able to see one of the temple’s ‘ Tensuioke’ or rain barrels (pictured above) sitting on top of one of the temple roofs. These barrels accumulate water which, in the event of fire, is used to dampen the roof and hopefully prevent it catching fire from flying sparks.
To-day the temple’s main entrance gate is the oldest structure on the site, dating back to 1593. The nearby ornate Shoro or bell tower probably dates from the 1600s.
Most of the temple buildings, with their many beautiful and intricate wooden carvings, which we see today date from the 1860s. The main temple was renamed Kongobu-ji (Peak of the Vajra) in 1869. The adjoining temple, Kozan-ji, used for administrative purposes, was later merged with Kongobu-ji.
While Danjo Garan, which Kobo Diashi established in 816 as the base for Shingon Buddhism, remains the main centre of the religion with its collection of smaller temples, meeting halls, etc Kongobu-ji became, and remains, the head temple of the Shingon Buddhism, presiding over 4,000 temples and 12 million followers nationwide and overseas.
My limited time in Koyasan only allowed me to explore the front courtyard and admire the exterior of the main buildings.
Much of the temple including the Ohiroma (Main Hall), with its beautiful gilded paintings and sliding screen doors painted by the great Edo-era painter Kano Tanyu (1602-1674), and the Banryutei Rock Garden, the largest rock garden in Japan, is open to visitors and I wish I had had time to visit these. Next time.
Daily – 8:30 to 17:00 (entry until 16:30)
500 yen (20% discount if you have a Koyasan-World Heritage Ticket)
Entry is included in a 2000 yen Combination Ticket also available.
Address: 132 Koyasan, Koyasan
Directions: Town Centre