Yukinodera, or formally named Ryuoji Temple and locally called Nodera, at the foot of Mt. Yukinoyama (308 m) in Ryuo Town in Shiga Prefecture is a temple of the Tendai sect. The principal object of worship is Yakushi Nyorai. It was founded as Yukinodera Temple by Priest Gyoki in the middle of Nara period (710-794). In the later periods, however, the temple buildings were destroyed by fire many times and it was renamed Ryuoji Temple when restored in the Heian period (794-1192).
With the legend of a beautiful woman, who was actually a snake, the bell at the temple is well-known to local people since old days. The statues of Juni Shinso, the twelve heavenly generals, surrounding the principal object of worship are collectively designated as a national Important Cultural Property.
A lot of people visit this temple in hope of recovery from asthma on August 15 on the old calendar, when Hechima-kaji (Gourd Ritual) is performed.
Reizanji Temple located in Shimizu Ouchi, Shimizu-ku, Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Pref. is a temple of the Kogi Shingon (old Shingon) sect. The temple is said to have been established by Priest Gyoki in 749. The main hall houses the principal image, the standing statue of Senju Kannon (Kannon with 1,000 arms), which is said to have been carved by Priest Gyoki. It has been worshipped by people as one of the Seven Kannon in Suruga province (present-day Shizuoka Pref.) and friendlily called “Kannon-san at Ouchi.”
The temple used to be located on the eastern side of the mountain but it was relocated to the present place during the Shogyo era (1332-1334). Going up the winding mountain path called “Thirty-three Curves,” you will get to Nio-mon Gate at the entrance, which is supposed to have been built at the end of the Muromachi period (the 16th century). It is one of the oldest structures in the prefecture and nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property.
The best time to see this temple is early spring, when the mountain path to the temple is lined with cherry trees in full bloom. After visiting Reizanji Temple, it is worth hiking thirty minutes further to Ipponmatsu Park at the summit.
Yakuoin Yukiji Temple located in Takao-machi, Hachioji City, Tokyo is one of the three Daihonzan (head) temples of the Chizan school of the Shingon sect in the Kanto region. The main objects of worship are Yakushi Nyorai and Izuna Gongen. The temple is the 5th fudasho-temple of the Kanto 91 Pilgrimage to Yakushi Nyorai, the 8th of the Kanto 36 Sites Sacred to Fudo Myoo and the 68th of the Tama 88 Holy Sites. As many as 2,500 ancient documents are preserved at this temple.
It is said that the temple was founded in 744 by the monk Gyoki under the order of Emperor Shomu. As the statue of Yakushi Nyorai was placed at the foundation, the temple has been called Yakuoin. Later, a priest from Mt. Daigo in Kyoto founded a mountain practice ashram to worship Izuna Gongen, the deity who is believed to be residing in Mt. Iizuna in Nagano Prefecture. In the Edo period, an organization of mountain practitioners named “Takao-kou” was formed. Since then the temple has been the center of Takao Shugendo practice up to the present time.
Gyoki was a Japanese Buddhism priest of Nara period. He was a charismatic monk of the ancient Japanese Buddhism. He was called by the honorific title of Gyoki Bosatsu (Bodhisattva Gyoki).
Gyoki was born in Kawachi province (present-day Osaka Prefecture) in 668. He studied Buddhism under the priest Dosho of hokoji Temple in Asuka, and took Buddhist vows at the age of 15. He also studied civil engineering under Dosho. Advocating hat Buddhism should be independent of the regal power, he propagated Buddhism for salvation of the suffering people. He also contributed to social welfare like building temples, roads, bridges, irrigation reservoirs. The Imperia court was afraid of his overwhelming influence on common people and clamped down on his activities blaming that he had violated the law to regulate priests and nuns.
However, when Emperor Shomu asked Gyoki to help raise funds to build Daibutsu (a great Buddha statue) in Nara, Gyoki accepted the emperor’s request, and immediately began fund-raising campaigns. He was recognized by the Imperia court and was given a rank of Daisojo (the Great Priest). At the age of 80, he had passed away at Sugawaradera Temple in Nara in 749 just before the consecrating ceremony for the statue took place.
The legends about Gyoki Bosatsu are referred to in many books such as “the Nihon Ryoiki,” “the Honcho Hokke Kenki” and “the Nihon Ojo Gokurakuki.” It is said that he might have drawn the oldest Japanese map, “Gyoki-zu.”
Hozoji in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, is a temple of the Seizan-Fukakusa school of the Jodo sect. The principal object of worship is Amida Nyorai. It is the 12th temple of the Mikawa Pilgrimage to the 33 Holy Place of Kannon and the 35th temple of the Mikawa Shin-Shikoku Holy Places.
It was founded by Priest Gyoki in 701 as Nisonzan Shusshoji Temple, a temple of the Hoso sect of Buddhism. The temple was converted to a Jodo sect temple by the priest Kyoku Ryugei in 1385 and renamed Hozoji.
It is said that Tokugawa Ieyasu trained himself at this temple when young. His personal mementoes, the well from which he drew water for calligraphy and the grave of his eldest daughter Kame-hime remain at the temple.
There is a grave of Kondo Isami, the commander of the Shinsengumi, in the precinct. In 1868, Kondo Isami was executed and his head was on public display at the Sanjo Ohashi Bridge in Kyoto. A unit member of the Shinsengumi, Saito Hajime, seized it and asked the priest Sonku Giten to hold a memorial service for him. When Giten moved to Okazaki, he brought the head with him and buried it at this temple.
Yanaizu Kokuzoson is a temple in Tsuyama-cho Yanaizu, Tome City, Miyagi Prefecture. Together with Fukuman Kokuzoson at Enzoji Temple in Yanaizu-machi, Fukushima Prefecture and the one at Shokoan Temple in Yanai City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, this Kukuzoson is counted as one of Japan’s Three Finest Kokuzoson.
Yanaizu Kokuzoson was founded in 726, when Priest Gyoki, who had been traveling all over the country preaching and carrying out civil engineering works, visited this place and carved out the image of Kokuzo Bosatsu, praying for peace and stability of the country. The temple is widely known as one of the few most historic temples in the Tohoku region.
The Grand Festival held from 12th to 13th in April and October every year is visited by a lot of worshipper from inside and outside the prefecture. It features the meal serving ritual called Kenzen Procession and the Goma fire ritual.
At noon, a procession of the priests and the temple laymen carrying trays with delicacies from sea and mountains leaves the Kuri (priests’ quarters) for the main hall to dedicate a meal to the principal object of worship, Kokuzo Bosatsu. After the procession, the Goma fire ritual is performed, in which a lot of Gomagi (prayer sticks) with people’s written prayers for family safety, traffic safety and passing entrance examinations and so on, are burned with holy fire. All the attendants quietly offer their prayers to Bosatsu.
Terashita Kannon is a temple located in Akabonai, Hashikami-cho, Sannohe-gun, Aomori Prefecture. The principal object of worship is Sho Kannon. It was founded in the Kamakura period (1192-1333) as the 1st Holy Place of 33 Kannon Pilgrimage in Oshu Nukabe.
In the Kannon Hall surrounded with dense forest of cedar trees, a statue of Kannon, 65 cm tall, which is said to have been carved out from Japanese judas wood by a high priest Gyoki in 724.
It is believed that if you worship 33 Kannon statues of this temple, you will receive the same benefit as you visit 33 Kannon Holy Places in Kinki. As the idea of Shinbutsu Shugo (fusion of Shinto and Buddhism) has been practiced in this area, Ushioyama Shrine is located in the precinct. Today it is visited by a lot of pilgrims, who quietly offer prayers in the precinct.
The waterfall in back of the main hall was the training ashram for mountain practitioners in the old days. Local people have come to worship and take this water as the miracle water to give perpetual youth and longevity. It was selected as the prefecture’s fine water by the governor in 1989.
Unpoji Temple in Enzan Kamihagihara, Koshu City, Yamanashi Prefecture is a temple of the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect. Its sango (the name of the mountain where the temple is located) is Sakeishizan. It is said that the temple was founded in 745. Legend has it that when the monk Gyoki was perform the ascetic practices in this mountain, a stone was struck by a thunder and it was split in two, from which the image of Juichimen Kannon (Kannon with eleven faces) appeared. Gyoki carved this image on the bark of a nearby tree and made it the principal object of worship.
The temple buildings were all reconstructed during the Warring States period (1493-1573) by Takeda Nobutora, the 18th head of the Takeda clan. The Hondo (main hall), Kuri (the priest’s quarters) and Shin (the reception room) are all designated as National Important Cultural Properties. Japans oldest Rising Sun flag and the Sun Tzu’s flag, or commonly known as the Furinkazan battle flag, and Suwa Jingoki flag (the flag on which the name of the war god Suwa Myojin is written) are preserved and displayed in the treasure house, which shows that the temple had a close connection with the Takeda clan. In the precinct is a 100-year-old cherry tree called “Mine-no-sakura (a cherry tree in the peak),” which produces bright pink flowers in spring.