Akishino-dera Temple (秋篠寺)

Akishino-dera Temple is a temple which is located in Akishino-cho, Nara City, Nara. The principal Buddhist image is Yakushi Nyorai and its founder is said to be Zenshu. It has no other name. It originally belonged to Hosso sect, Shingon sect and Jodo sect, but now is independent. Akishino-dera Temple is famous for the statue of Gigeiten and the main hall designated as a national treasure.

Origin and History

It is located northwest of Nara urban district and north of Saidai-ji Temple (in Nara City). They say that Zenshu who was a priest of Hososhu (one of Nanto Rokushu (the six sects of Buddhism which flourished in ancient Nara)) founded Akishino-dera Temple in the Nara period or that the Akishino clan, a local powerful family, founded it, but its exact founding date and circumstances are not clear. In an article that Emperor Konin donated one hundred jikifu to Akishino-dera Temple in 780 in "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued), Akishino-dera Temple appears first in the literature (Jikifu was a salary or a maintaining allowance for temples, and one jikifu was worth taxes levied on one household). "Nihon Koki" (Later Chronicle of Japan) says the Buddhist service of the thirty fifth days after death for Emperor Kanmu was held at Akishino-dera Temple and it was apparently deeply related with the imperial family.

Main cathedrals except for a lecture hall of Akishino-dera Temple was burned down in 1135. The existing main hall which is located on a place where an old lecture hall was placed was rebuilt in the Kamakura period. It originally belonged to Hosso sect, Shingon sect and Jodo sect, but now is independent.

Inside the Temple Grounds

An entrance for seeing is the east gate while the main gate is the south gate. There still remain foundation stones, the ruins of the golden hall and the east and west towers, in the wooded area between the south gate and the main hall.

The Main Hall (A National Treasure)

This was built in the Kamakura period and is one of representative Japanese-style Buddhist temples at that time. It is covered with a hipped, traditional tiled roof. No veranda is wrapped around it and it has doma (dirt floor). It has five openings (latticed doors or windows) between pillars in the facade. Its structure is simple and the building looks architecture in the Nara period although it was rebuilt in the Kamakura period. Placed are the principal Buddhist image, Yakushi Sanzon-zo (Triad Image of Yakushi Buddha) (an important cultural property), Junishinsho-zo (statue of Twelve Heavenly Generals), standing statue of Jizo Bodhisattva (an important cultural property), standing statue of Taishakuten (an important cultural property), and standing statue of Gigeiten (an important cultural property).

Cultural Property

National Treasure

The main hall

as stated previously.

Important Cultural Property

A standing statue known as Gigeiten-ryuzo

It stands on the observers' left of the Buddhist alter in the main hall. Its meditative facial expression and elegant posture have attracted people. Its head was made with the dry lacquer method in the Nara period while its body was remade of wood in the Kamakura period, but the statue is well-balanced without any feeling of strangeness. This statue is almost only one example of old sculpture of "Gigeiten" in Japan and it is not clear whether Gigeiten is a real name of the statue. Akishino-dera Temple has three more statues whose heads were made with the dry lacquer method in the Nara period and whose bodies were made of wood in the Kamakura period.

Yakushi Sanzon-zo

It is the principal image in the main hall. Yakushi Nyorai in the center is a statue made of natural timber while Nikko and Gakko bodhisattvas in both sides are colored statues, and they are not apparently a set of three Buddhist statues as their styles are different, but they all were made in the Heian period (Some says the Buddhist statue in the center was made in the Kamakura period or later).

Standing statue of Taishakuten

Its head was made with the dry lacquer method in the Nara period while its body was made of wood in the Kamakura period. It is placed in the main hall.

Standing statue of Bonten

Its head was made with the dry lacquer method in the Nara period while its body was made of wood in the Kamakura period. It has been deposited in Nara National Museum.

A standing statue known as Kudatsu Bosatsu.

Its head was made with the dry lacquer method in the Nara period while its body was made of wood in the Kamakura period. It has been deposited in Nara National Museum.

Wooden Jizo Bosatsu-ryuzo (wooden standing statue of the Guardian Deity of Travellers and Children)

It was made in the Heian period. It is placed in the main hall.
(It was designated as an important cultural property in 1909.)

Wooden standing statue of Jizo Bosatsu

It was made in the Heian period. It is deposited in Kyoto National Museum. It was designated as an important cultural property in 1906.

Mokuzo Juichimen Kannon-ryuzo (wooden standing statue of Eleven-faced Kannon)

It was made in the Heian period. It has been deposited in Tokyo National Museum.

The remains of a statue made with the hollow dry lacquer method (eight dry lacquered parts and two wood frames).

It was made in the Heian period. It has been deposited in Nara National Museum.

Wooden standing statue of Daigensui Myoo

It was made in the Kamakura period. It is placed in Daigen hall in the west of the main hall. It is a rare work as a statue of Daigensui Myoo. It is a Funnu-zo (the statue of Terrible Countenance) which has six arms and around which snakes are wrapped, and it was made in the time when Akishino-dera Temple belonged to the Shingon sect of esoteric Buddhism. It is a hidden Buddhist statue which is exhibited only on June 6.