Chogaku-ji Temple (長岳寺)

Chogaku-ji Temple is a temple of the Koyasan Shingon sect located in Yanagimoto-cho,Tenri City, Nara Prefecture. Its sango (literally, "mountain name"), which is the title prefixed to the name of a Buddhist temple, is Kamanokuchisan, the principal image is Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata), and its founder is said to be Kukai (Kobo Daishi). It is designated as the 19th site of the 25 Sacred Sites of Kansai Floral Temples (temples famous for beautiful flowers in the Kansai area). It lies approximately halfway through Yamanobe-no-michi Road, which is said to be the oldest historic road in Japan. It is also known by the name of Kamaguchi Daishi.

History

Reputedly, this temple was founded by Kukai (Kobo Daishi) in 824 at the imperial order of Emperor Junna as a jingu-ji temple (a temple associated with a shrine) of Oyamato-jinja Shrine. It had as many as 48 sub-temples at the peak.

Precincts and Buildings

The precincts are as large as approximately 40,000m2 in area, where a road called Hachijuhakkasho (eighty-eight)-michi (road) runs around and extends to Oku-no-in (an inner sanctuary) nestled halfway up Mt. Ryuo.

Hondo (main hall) – a building rebuilt in 1783, where the standing statues of Tamonten and Zochoten are enshrined.

Romon (a two-storied gate) – an Important Cultural Property of Japan. It is a kind of gate called shoro-mon (a belfry gate) because a bell used to hang from the top of the upper story, and it is the oldest bell gate in Japan. The lower story was built in the Muromachi period through the Azuchi-Momoyama period, while the upper story was built in the Heian period. According to the temple's legend, the tower has existed from the very beginning when Kukai founded the temple, but commonly it is thought that even the upper story does not date back to the time in which Kukai lived and that actually the tower was built around the end of the Heian period.

Kuri (namely, the former Jizo-in's hondo and kuri [the priests' living quarters and the kitchen of a temple]) – an Important Cultural Property of Japan. This is the remain of former Jizo-in and the only building that is left among the 48 sub-temples which existed at the peak. It was built in 1630 to 1631 but shows the mode of the Shoin style (a traditional Japanese style of residential architecture) which developed in the Muromachi period.

Daishido – the building reputedly built in 1645, where the statue of Kukai, the founder of this temple, is enshrined.

Gochido – an Important Cultural Property of Japan. It was built in the Kamakura period. It exists several hundred meters away from the precinct. Although Gochido (五智堂) is referred to as "do (堂)," a word used to mean a temple, shrine or hall, it is actually a very small, square-shaped building with all four sides of only 1 ken (approx. 1.8m) in length and has no fixtures and no walls, and it holds the images of Gochi Nyorai on the upper part of the central strut of the building. It is also called "Kasa (umbrella)-do" because of its shape or "Mamen (the front)-do" because all four sides equally look like the front of the building.

Haido - built in front of the Daishido.
Shodo
Daimon - rebuilt in 1640. Thirteen-story pagoda - a stone pagoda of the Kamakura period. Daisekkanbutsu – a great Buddhist image which is 2 meters in height, sculpted on the ancient stone coffin.

Cultural Properties

Important Cultural Properties of Japan
Romon
Gochido
Enmyoden (the former hondo [main hall] of Jizo-in)
Former kuri (the priests' living quarters and the kitchen of a temple) of Jizo-in
Wooden statues of Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata) and both-sides attendants - it was revealed from the inscription stored inside the statues that they were produced in 1151, at the end of the Heian period. At the time, the style called Jocho, in which mainly delicacy and elegance were expressed in Buddhist images, prevailed, yet these statues rather express massiveness and realism and do not seem to follow the Jocho style; therefore, it is said that they were indicative of an incoming mode that was becoming dominant during the Kamakura period. The design of the three statues, particularly of the both-sides attendants that sit in half-lotus position with one leg hanging down, is reminiscent of the statues made in the Nara period, and thus it can be an indication of the reestablishment of the ancient style from the Nara period. Also, these statues are known as the oldest example to use crystal inlays for eyes of a statue (the technique called 'gyokugan' in Japanese) among the statues whose production dates have been identified so far.

The wooden statue of Tamonten and standing statue of Zochoten – works made in the middle of the Heian period.

Cultural properties designated by Nara Prefecture
The embroidery that describes the standing Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata) (deposited in Nara National Museum)

Others
Gokuraku Jigoku zu (picture of Buddhists' paradise and hell)
It is a series of nine pictures of hell, drawn by Sanraku KANO approximately 400 years ago in the Azuchi-Momoyama period. Each scene is wonderfully depicted with great precision.

Miroku daisekkanbutsu (a statue of Miroku [Maitreya] sculpted on stone)
This is a stone statue of Buddha close to 2 meters in height, sculpted on the stone that was part of an ancient coffin. In the precincts, there are many stone statues produced in the Kamakura period through the Edo period.

Notes
Somen (Japanese vermicelli) that is cooked and served to visitors at the kuri of the temple is popularly known.

Access

From Yanagimoto Station of JR Sakurai Line, walk eastward for 20 minutes

Vicinity

Mausoleum of Emperor Sujin
Mausoleum of Emperor Keiko
Tashiraka no Himemiko Fusumada burial mound
Kushiyama Tumulus
Kurozuka Tumulus
Tenri Municipal Kurozuka Tumulus Museum
Nishiyamazuka Tumulus