Ama-dera (nunnery temple) (尼寺)

Ama-dera (also pronounced Ni-ji) is the temple whose chief priest is bikuni (female Buddhist disciple) (ama (a nun)).

History

It is said that the first nunnery temple in Japan was Sakurai-ji Temple (the predecessor of Toyura-dera Temple) where Zenshin-ni, who is said to be the first nun of Japan, had lived.

It is said that Prince Shotoku opened four nunnery temples including Tachibana-dera Temple and Gyogi also founded nunnery temples.

Although Emperor Shomu built Kokubun-ni-ji Temple with Hokke-ji Temple as a Grand Head Temple in the Nara period, women could not become nuns officially due to prohibition of women's Jukai (handing down the precepts) at Kaidan (Buddhist ordination platform) placed in Japan around the same time and nunnery temples including Kokubun-niji Temple immediately disappeared.

In 818, official documents issued by Daijokan (Grand Council of State) permitted men to enter the nunnery temples which forbid the entrance of men only during the daytime. It is said that this change also suggests the transition of nunnery temples to become temples with male priests.

Nuns came to be officially admitted again during the Kamakura period when the Ritsu sect and Zen sect permitted women to hand down the precepts to followers from their ordination platform.

Yoshimitsu ASHIKAGA of Muromachi bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) installed Ama-dera/Niji gozan and modeled it after the Gozan system (the selection system of temples of the five highest ranks).

In addition, aside from Ama-dera/Niji-gozan, the temples called Bikuni-gosho and Ama-monzeki also came about, which accepted the daughters of Imperial Family or Sekkan-ke (the families which produced regents).