Kannonsho-ji Temple (観音正寺)
Kannonsho-ji Temple is a temple of the Tendai sect located in Azuchi-cho, Gamo County, Shiga Prefecture. Sango (literally, "mountain name"), which is the title prefixed to the name of a Buddhist temple, is Kinugasa-san. The principal image is Senju Kannon. It is the 32nd of 33 pilgrimage temples in Saigoku (Kinki area).
It is located on the east coast of Lake Biwa near the top of Mt. Kinugasa, which is 433 meters above sea level. Tradition says that the temple started in 605 (the age of Empress Suiko), when Prince Shotoku visited here and enshrined a self-carved statue of Senju-kannon. Prince Shotoku is said to have erected a temple at a wish of a 'mermaid' he met when he visited here. The mermaid's previous life was as a fisherman and she was suffering for her occupation, killing life, when she was born again as a mermaid. There was a mummy that was said to be her in the temple, but it was burnt in the fire in 1993.
It goes without saying that 'Prince Shotoku erected it at the mermaid's wish' is a story what the future generations made up. However, it is remarkable that the eastern region of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture is spotted with some other temples that are said to have been founded by Prince Shotoku such as Chomei-ji Temple (Omihachiman City), Ishido-ji Temple (Higashiomi City), and Hyakusai-ji Temple (Higashiomi City) and many of them have some connection with foreign visitors who settled there.
On Mt. Kinugasa, where Kannonsho-ji Temple is located, there was Kannonji-jo Castle, which was the castle of Sasaki-Rokkaku clan who had ruled the southern half of Omi Province since the Muromachi period, and the temple prospered under the patronage of the Sasaki-Rokkaku clan. Kannonji-jo Castle fell to the Nobunaga ODA's army in 1568. Several years later, Kannonsho-ji Temple, which had a connection with the Sasaki-Rokkaku clan was also burnt down due to a fire attack. It was during 1596-1615 that the temple was revived.
The main building of Kannonsho-ji Temple was burnt down due to an accidental fire in 1993. As it was in the mountains where the transportation system was inconvenient and so the fire fighting was difficult, the principal image, the standing statue of Senju Kannon, which had been designated as an important cultural property, was also burnt down. The main building, which is wooden irimoya-zukuri style, was rebuilt in 2004. The newly completed principal image, a seated statue of Senju Kannon, was made by a sculptor of Buddhist statues, Myokei MATSUMOTO. In contrast to the former principal image, which was a standing statue of less than one meter in height, the new one is a 3.56 meter height gigantic seated statue and the height including its halo is 6.3 meters. The statue is made of sandalwood that was imported from India and weighs 23 tons. Sandalwood was banned from export but allowed to export to Japan as a special measure after many rounds of negotiation by the chief priest of Kannonsho-ji Temple, who visited India over 20 times for that.
2 Ishidera, Azuchi-cho, Gamo County, Shiga Prefecture