Kiko-ji Temple (喜光寺)
Kiko-ji Temple is a Buddhist temple belonging to the Hossoshu sect (the Dharma Characteristics Sect) which is situated in Sugahara-cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture. Its sango (literally, "mountain name", a title prefixed to the name of a Buddhist temple), is Seiryozan. Its honzon (the principal image of Buddha) is Amida Nyorai, the Buddha who resides in the Western Pure Land. They say Gyoki, a high-ranked priest in the Nara period, died here. It is the associate head temple of Yakushi-ji Temple.
The temple is said to have been founded by Gyoki, a priest in the Nara period who engaged in welfare activities such as building bridges, and who also contributed to the raising of the Great Buddha of Todai-ji Temple. One of the most important documents for the study of Gyoki, "Gyoki Nenpu" (The Gyoki Chronicle), which was completed in 1175, explains that the predecessor of Kiko-ji Temple, Sugawara-dera Temple, was originally the house of TERA no Fuhitomaru, who donated it to Gyoki, and the building became one of 49 temples built by Gyoki. Gyoki died at the temple at the age of 82 in 749, and was buried in a grave at Chikurin-ji Temple in Ikoma (Ikoma City).
However, another historical source, "Sugawara-dera Kibun Ikaijo" (The Instructions Handed Down in Sugawara-dera Temple), records that the temple was founded on the order of Empress Genmei. When it was built, it was called 'Sugawara-dera' as it was located in Sugawara-no-sato (Sugawara Village), which is the supposed birthplace of SUGAWARA no Michizane. The anecdote relates how an inexplicable sacred light came from the temple's honzon when Emperor Shomu came to pray, and that he expressed his pleasure by changing the temple's name from 'Sugawara-ji' to 'Kiko-ji ('ki' means 'pleased', and 'ko' means 'light'). "Shoku Nihongi" (The Chronicle of Japan Continued) says that the Haji clan living in the area was given the surname of Sugawara by Emperor Kanmu in 782.
In the Middle Ages (from the end of the twelfth century to the end of sixteenth century in Japanese history), Kiko-ji Temple became a branch temple of Kofuku-ji Temple, and more precisely, it belonged to Ichijo-in (a temple where priests from families of emperors' chief advisors lived), a sub-temple of Kofuku-ji Temple.
In the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States in Japan), the construction of Kiko-ji Temple was almost completely burned down during the fighting, but it was later rebuilt.
The Hondo (Main Hall) is an Important Cultural Property. Reconstructed in the Muromachi Period, the one-story building with additional eaves on the outer walls is said to have been built one-tenth the size of the Daibutsu-den (Great Buddha Hall) of Todai-ji Temple, and as a result of this the hondo is also called 'A trial of the Great Buddha's Hall'.
The Nandaimon (Great South Gate) was destroyed by fire again after its reconstruction, but it is to be rebuilt in 2010, after a gap of 450 years.
It is a 12-minute walk from Ama-ga-tsuji Station on the Kintetsu Kashihara Line.