When you come to the parking area before Kongobuji Temple, the first gate you drive by is the main gate, and is the oldest building in Kongobuji, and since being rebuilt in Bunroku 2 (1593), it still stands today.
If you look to your right, there is a small entrance. This side gate is generally used solely for monks. In the past, the only people who could enter and exit from this front gate were the emperor, royalty, and the chief priests of Koyasan. This is not much related to general visitors, but, strict rules exist concerning the entrance and exit from the door.
Tensuioke (Rain Barrel)
The roof of Kongobuji Temple is a thatchwork of countless layers of cyprus bark tiles (hiwadabuki). On top of the roof are buckets These are called “Tensuioke” or “rain barrels.”
These regularly accumulate water, and in the occurrence of a fire, the water in the bucket will spread and dampen the roofs so that it will not catch fire from flying sparks. Even a little bit does the part of preventing fires.
Kyozo (Scripture Storehouse)
Passing through the gate, on the left side, is the Kyozo (scripture storehouse), which was contributed by the Igawa-ya of Osaka Tenma collectively with the Shakasanzon (Gautama Siddhartha & attendants) in March of Empou 7 (1679). As the Koyozo is a place for storing important articles, even in the outbreak of a fire, it was built separate from the Shuden (Main Hall) for safety.
Shoro (Bell Tower)
The bell tower which can been seen on the right when passing through the gate was the bell tower of the Seiganji Temple prior to Kongobuji Temple. From the structure, it is thought that after a large fire in the first year of the Man’en era (1860), that the main hall and other buildings were rebuilt in the first year of the first year of the Genji era (1864).
Due to its hakama goshi gabled roof, with three longitudinal columns and two latitudinal beams, it has been designated as a prefectural cultural property.
Daigenkan and Kogenkan
If you are looking at the bell tower and then look back, an enclosed entrance can be seen. As it is the equivalent to the front door of Kongobuji Temple, it is called the main entrance, or Daigenkan. This gate, as with the previous main entrance, is can be only used by the Emperor, the imperial family, and Koyasan high officials.
If you further pass through Daigenkan, there is one more entrance. This is called the Kogenkan, or small entrance, and is solely used by the superclass (Joko) of Koyasan. General priests used this to enter and exit in the past, but in the present, it is used as a general visit entrance.
Ohiroma and Jibutsuma
As the Ohiroma (Main Hall) is a place for holding important ceremonies and Buddhist memorial services, the February Joraku-e (Memorial service for the Buddha’s Nirvana) and the April Buddha’s birthday celebration (Flower festival) are held here. On the sliding screens there are pictures of gunkaku (flocks of cranes) and pines, conveyed by the brush of Kano Hogen Motonobu (1476-1559).
The front interior Jibutsu exactly merits the Buddhist family chapels in the homes of everyone’s families. Enshrining the very Kobo Daishi himself, on both sides are displayed the mortuary tablets for successive generations of Emperors of Japan as well as mortuary tablets for successive generations of Chief Abbots.
Umenoma (Plum Room)
The picture on the sliding screens is “Baigetsu Ryusui (Plum, Moon, and Stream),” painted by Kano Tanyusai Morinobu (1602-1674). It is called the Plum Room due to the illustrations painted on the walls.
Yanaginoma (Willow Room)
Because “Ryurozu” (Willow Tree and Heron) by Yamamoto Tansai is painted in this room, is is known as the Yanaginoma, or “Willow Room.” This tatami room is the site of the suicide of Toyotomi Hidetsugu, second generation Kampaku (chief imperial advisor), in Bonroku 4 (1595), it is also known as the “Hidetsugu suicide room”
*Please see the Reihokan “Yomoyama Chronicle” (new window) which details the relationship between Hidetsugu and Koyasan.
Temple Annex (Betsuden)
The Betsuden is a construction built in the Momoyama style at the time of the memorial service for the 1100 years since the Gonyujo (calm contemplation) and death of Kobo Daishi in Showa 9 (1934), and was used as a resting area for general followers until Showa 58 (1983).
This reception hall was until previously used by the main assembly for the sect of the temple, and as the west side is a square plane running long from south to north, there are 4 rooms lined up on each the west and east sides. The images painted on the fusuma are works of aspiration for many Moriyama masters, so on the west side, the fours seasons are depicted continuously running through flowers, and on the east side, scenery from Kobo Daishi’s visit to China until the beginning of Koyasan are depicted.
New Temple Annex (Shin Betsuden)
In Showa 59, (1984), at the time of the 1150 years since the Gonyujo (calm contemplation) and death of Kobo Daishi, it was established as reception locations for the many temple visitors It is made of reinforced concrete, but in addition to this temple’s buddhist statue, the gabled roof is quite impressive, and can be made into two rooms of 91 tatami and 78 tatami, but when the partition is removed, it can quickly be changed to 169 tatami.
Ordinarily, serving as a tea room and a resting place for worshipers, on occasions, it is the venue for sermons for the priests.
Banryutei Rock Garden
Just as with the Shin Betsuden, this garden was made at the time of the 1150 years since the Gonyujo (calm contemplation) and death of Kobo Daishi. The 2,340 square meter rock garden is the largest in Japan.
In this rock garden, portrayed are a male on the left and two female dragons face each other, protecting the Okuden.
The stones representing the dragons are granite from Shikoku, the place of Kobo Daishi’s birth, but the white river sand representing the sea of clouds comes from Kyoto.
This building is a room for noble visitors, and was built at the time of the 1100 year memorial of the Gonyujo (calm contemplation) and death of Kobo Daishi in Showa 9 (1934). Originally, in this place after holy monk Mokujiko Ogo’s Kozanji Temple until the Okuden and Betsuden were built, there were the Koyasan University and Middle school.
The on the fusuna is the epic “Yukiyama Kashin,” depicting the Himalayas and the Himalayan rhododendron, by Master Koyo Ishigaki. Regretably, as the master passed away before its completion, the images on the bottom of the Okuden are not completed, and with this one section not completed, presently the last work of Master Koyo Ishigaki before his death.
Shin Shoin and Shin Shoan (private)
The tearoom in one corner of the Banryutei Rock Garden was donated by Konosuke Matsushita in Showa 40 (1964) at the time of the mass commemorating 1150 years since the founding of Koyasan, and as a donation from Konosuke Matsushita, it was given the name “Shin Shoan” by former Prime Minister Eisaku Saito. There are three rooms, of 8,6, and 4 tatami respectively, and at the front is full tearoom structure.
Also, at the time of the Kokusho Kokutai in Showa 46 (1971), this building serves as lodging for Their Majesties Showa Emperor and Empress, and in Heisei 15 (2003), Her Imperial Highness (at that time) Sayako Kuroda also lodged here.
Ajikan is a form of meditation by esoteric Shingon Buddhists, and is meant to attain the integrity of the Buddha.
The Ajikan Dojo was constructed in Showa 42 (1967) due to a great contribution from Kongobuji Temple’s 401st High Priest Ryuzui Nakai.
Presently, a course called “Ajikan Kyoshitsu” is held, and many people study here.
*Those interested in Ajikan, please go to Ajikan page.へ
Shoin Jodan no Ma
Previously, when the the Emperor and the former Emperor were mountain hiking, it was used as a reception room, and currently, it is used for Koyasan’s major ceremonies.
In this Jodan no Ma, the best of the interior decoration is used, with the walls completely covered in gold leaf, and the ceiling is woven coffered in the Shoin-zukuri style. On the right side of the Jodan, behind small tasseled fusuna, is the Musha Kakushi, a room on the other other side of the sliding door.
The garden in front of the Jodan no ma is told to have been made in the Edo period, and it was said that at the time, around a pond, stood the Koyarokuboku (Six trees of Koya): Japanese cedar, Japanese cypress, pine, yew plum pine, hemlock, and fir. Asebi (Japanese andromeda flowers) and shakunage (rhododendron) could also be seen, and one’s mind could be calmed by the natural simplicity.
From mid-spring, the rhododendron bloom red and white, and when the rainy season nears, the protected forest green tree frog lays its eggs surrounding the pond. In the autumn, it is colored with fall colors, and before long, in winter, the whole ground becomes covered in snow. It is a garden which one can view scenery from season to season.
Previously, a resting area for the Imperial family, currently, it is exclusively used for ceremonial purposes. For protection against the cold, there is a fireplace in the tatami room, and in the winter, wood is collected and burned for heat.
The picture on the fusuma was done by the brush of celebrated Toeki Unkoku (1590-1644) as Sesshu, and son Toji Unkoku (1615-1671). This place was, along with Jodan no ma, the most supreme room in Koyasan.
Chigonoma (Page Room)
This room is along the lines of the Musha Kakushi linked to the Jodan no ma, and was a room for nightwatches who accompanied the Emperor. Afterwards, it was enshrined the Bodhisattva handed down from the house of former Count Soeshima. The painting on the fusuma was painted by Kano Tansai.
*Please go to Reihokan “Yomoyama Chronicles” (new window) for he full description of the Bodhisattva.
Tsuchimuro (Earth Room)
This room, among the hearth, is called the Tsuchimuro (Earth room). This means a room that was built coated with earth, or soil. As you know, Koyasan is a place with very harsh winter. As a scheme to trap heat, a room coated in soil was made with a fireplace in the middle, and enhances heat retention as much as possible and endures the winter cold.
The fireplace stands with 4 pillars to the ceiling and a wall, and is able to release the smoke out of the ceiling. A small shelf was built in the fire box, celebrating Saraswati. However, the history of this has not been passed down.
Since the Edo period, this has been a place for meals for a great number of monks. The columns and beams are also completely black with soot. At the water drinking area, spring water is collected in a tank made of Koyasan plum pine, and a large kamado (cooking stove) is used. In the area used to heat coals, large chimneys are arranged as a means of fire prevention.
Food is preserved on a rack hanging down from the ceiling. By hanging from the ceiling, ventilation is controlled, and furthermore, by hanging paper, it prevents invasion from rodents.
There are 3 large iron kettles, each capable of cooking 98 kilograms of rice. If all three kettles are used, a group of about 2000 people can be fed. It was used at the time of year-end mochi pounding until the Around Showa 50 (1975). Just above the kettles, a paper lantern is hung, praising the name of the kitchen’s god Sanbokojin.