Todai-ji Temple Nigatsu-do is located inside the vast Todai-ji Temple complex in Nara City, Nara Prefecture, just north of Hokke-do. Since it is highly significant historically,
it was designated as a national treasure in 2005.
Formally named Kannon-do, it became known as Nigatsu-do (hall of the second month) because it holds the Shuuni-e religious ceremony every February of the lunar calendar.
The temple was built in 752 and the first Shuuni-e was celebrated the same year, an annual tradition that has continued until now without interruption.
In 1667, Nigatsu-do was destroyed by a fire caused by Otaimatsu, a fire-carrying ritual that is part of the Shuuni-e ceremony. Two years later, it was restored to what it is today.
The principal images of Budda are two statues: Oogannon and Kogannon, both of which are Juuichimen Kannon, or eleven-headed gods. These Buddha statues are not shown to the public.
Nigatsu-do is an impressive and serene presence that enchants visitors with its more than 1200 years history.
The Todai-ji Temple Omizutori or Water Drawing Ceremony is one of the rituals that takes place during Shuuni-e religious services at Nigatsu-do, located inside the Todai-ji Temple complex. Because it is regarded as the most significant, the Omizutori ceremony has become almost synonymous with the Shuuni-e services. These are held for two weeks, beginning with the first day of March.
Shuuni-e is formally called “Juuichimen-keka-hou” (which, translated literally, means eleven headed repentance). It is a memorial service in which priests at the Todai-ji temple forgive people’s sins and pray to Juichimen Kannon, the eleven-headed goddess and principal image of Budda at Nigatsu-do for the nation’s peace and prosperity.
Shuuni-e is said to have been started by a Priest named Jichu in Februrary of 752. This is even prior to Daibutsu Kaigen, another well known ceremony at the Todaiji-Temple that was first held in April of the same year. Since then, it has been continued for more than 1,200 years without any interruption.
In the Omizutori ceremony, priests scoop up sacred water from the Wakasai Well at midnight on March 12th and present it to the Kannon. The other famous ceremony is Otaimatsu in which priests carry burning torches and run through the balcony of Nigatsu-do.
Omizutoi is also a ceremony to bring Spring to the people of Nara. By the time the ceremony is finished, the cherry trees have begun to blossom and Spring has arrived.
Fukurinji Temple located beside the east end of the Biwako Ohashi Bridge in the outskirts of Moriyama City, Shiga Prefecture, was founded by the priest Saicho, the founder of the Tendai sect of Buddhism, in the Heian period (794-1192). It is the 4th temple of Kokoku Holy Places of Juichimen Kannon.
The principal object of worship, the statue of Juichimen Kannon (11-Headed Kannon), is about 1.8 m tall wooden and colored secret Buddha. With the moonlight-shaped halo on its back, it stands on the five-colored lotus base. Its slender and tall shape with plump cheeks, round shoulders and breasts and beautiful garment lines is often compared to a noble person of the Tenpyo culture. It is designated as a national Important Cultural Property.
The two stone pagodas on the right side of the precinct were dedicated by Sasaki Takatsuna, a Kamakura-period warrior born in this town. These pagodas are though to be the Sutra pagodas and also designated as a national Important Cultural Property. The both pagodas have kosama (a decorative motif which is curved like a bowl at the base) on the four sides. Standing for 800 years, the statues of Buddha carved on one side have become dim and the finial at the top are missing.
Akeno Kannondo Hall in Yanagisawa Akeno in Numazu City, Shizuoka Prefecture, is a hall housing Juichimen Kanzeon (Kannon with 11 faces). The hall and the Kanzeon statue are designated as tangible cultural properties of the city.
It is said that the hall was originally one of the structures composing a temple founded by Priest Gyoki in 732. The principal object of worship, the statue of Juichimen Kanzeon, is said to have been carved by Gyoki himself in the manner called “Itto-Sanrei (three bows for one carving).” The temple was known as the 13th temple of Suruga Ikkoku 30 Holy Places and the 15th Holy Place of Yokomichi Pilgrimage. Presently, the hall is administered by Kodaiji Temple, a temple of the Shingon sect, in the same town.
The present hall is said to have been reconstructed in 1637 under the supervision of Hidari Jingoro, a sculptor and carpenter in the Edo period. The picture of a dragon is drawn on the ceiling in Chinese style, while the front wall has a picture of a heavenly maiden.
In the precinct are the Kaya tree (Torreya nucifera (Linn.) Sieb. et Zucc), 9 m in circumference at the height of eye and the Nagi tree (Podocarpus nagi Zoll. et Moritzi), 3.72 m in circumference at the height of eye, both of which are designated natural monuments of the city.
It is said that this temple was founded in 794 by the priest Saicho, the founder of the Tendai sect of Buddhism, as the east gate of Hieizan Enryakuji Temple, which had been constructed 6 years before as the headquarters of the sect. When Emperor Kanmu visited the temple, he named it Hieizan Tomonin Moriyamadera, which means the temple guarding the east gate of Mt. Hiei.
During the Edo period (1603-1868), the temple was used as the lodge for Joseon Royal Embassies, the Joseon envoys intermittently sent to Tokugawa Shogunate of Japan. In 1986, the main hall and Kuri (the priests’ quarters) were burned down by a fire. The statue of Juichimen Kannon (Kannon with 11 faces) housed in the main hall was also destroyed by fire. The main hall was reconstructed and the statue was restored to its original form in 1990.
The statue of Fudo Myoo, which is the principal object of worship in Goma Hall and survived the fire undamaged, and the five-story stone pagoda in the corner of the precinct are designated as national Important Cultural Properties. Together with other art objects, they tell us of the temple’s 1,200 year history.
Chokoji Temple in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, is a Bekkaku (a kind of title, which literally means “special”) temple of the Tofukuji school of the Rinzai sect of Buddhism. The principal object of worship is Juichimen Kanzeon Bosatsu (Kannon with 11 faces). Its mountain name is Shuunzan.
The temple was founded in 1335 by Nakajo Hidenaga, the castellan of Koromo Castle, as his family temple. The temple thrived in the early Muromachi period (1336-1573) possessing the precinct of 545 meters from north to south and 436 meters from east to west, where as many as 18 branch temples were built. After the Onin War (1457), when the Nakajo clan declined, the temple also lost its power. It was attacked by Oda Nobunaga and destroyed by fire in 1567. However, the temple was immediately restored by a retainer of Nobunaga, Yogo Masakatsu.
Chokoji Temple possesses several cultural properties, one of which is the portrait of Nobunaga. It was painted by Kano Motohide by the order of Yogo Masakatsu after his master’s death. The picture is now designated as a cultural property by the national government.
Konpoji Temple, or popularly called Nonodake Kannon, is located at the top of Mt. Nonodake, known as a holy mountain since the ancient times. Konpoji is the 9th of Oshu Holy Place of 33 Kannon. The principal image of worship is Juichimen Kannon (Kannon with 11 faces). Together with Tomiyama Kannon in Matsushima Town and Makiyama Kannon in Ishinomaki City, it is counted as one of the three holy Kannon in the Tohoku region.
Konpoji Temple was founded in 770 by the order of Emperor Konin. The Kannon Hall was constructed by Sakanoue Tamuramaro in 802 after he had conquered the Emishi. As the mountain was often wrapped in a dense fog, the temple was named Mugakusan (literally meaning “Fog Mountain”) Shofukuji Temple. In 849, when Jikaku Daishi visited this place on his missionary tour, he extended a temple building and renamed it Muizan Konpoji Temple.
Going up the steep stone steps, you will get to the eight-legged temple gate, in which two Nio statues are placed. Interestingly, they have cute round eyes. In the precinct stand historic and stately buildings including Hondo (the main hall), the Goma Hall, the Monju Hall, the Amida Hall and the Kannon Hall. The Kannon Hall was destroyed by fire twice in the past and the present building was constructed in 1851.
Mizusawadera, or popularly called Mizusawa Kannon (Mizusawa, Ikaho-machi, Shibukawa City, Gunma Prefecture) is a historic temple of the Tendai sect. It is the 16th temple of Bando Pilgrimage to the 33 Holy Places of Kannon. The principal object of worship is Juichimen Senju Kannon Bosatsu (Kannon with 11 faces and 1,000 arms).
It is said that the temple was founded about 1,300 years ago by Priest Ekan from Goguryeo under the order of Empress Suiko and Emperor Jito and built by Takamitsu Chujo, the provincial governor. According to the temple record, it used to be a magnificent temple enshrining as many as 1,200 images of Buddha housed in more than 33 temple halls including the halls of Kon-do, Ko-do, Jogyo-do and Kanjo-do, the sutra library,, the bell tower and the Tahoto pagoda.
Rokkaku-do (the Hexagon Hall) constructed in the Genroku era (1688-1703) is a two-story pagoda that has a very unique structure, where the 6 images of Jizo Bosatsu are placed on the rotating platform.
The statues of Shaka Triad and other precious statues and paintings are displayed and open to the public in Shaka-do (the Shakamuni Hall), which was constructed in 2001.