Kongorin-ji Temple (金剛輪寺)
Kongorin-ji Temple is a temple of the Tendai Sect in Aisho-cho, Echi-gun, Shiga Prefecture. Its Sango (literally, "mountain name", which is the title prefixed to the name of a Buddhist temple), is Mt. Shoho. It's also called Matsuo-ji Temple after its location. The principal image is Sho Kannon, and Gyogi is said to have founded this temple. It is one of 'the three mountains in Eastern Biwa Lake' along with Saimyo-ji Temple (Kora-cho) and Hyakusai-ji Temple.
Kongorin-ji Temple is located east of Lake Biwa on the west mountainside of the Suzuka mountain range and is said to have been founded by a priest of the Nara period: Gyogi. Gyogi hailed from Ebara, Kawachi Province (present-day Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture), and is said to have built many temples, mainly in Kawachi where he was born. He was also devoted to social work such as building bridges, controlling floods, and irrigating, and received an enormous amount of support from the people as a result. There are many temples, which are said to have been founded by Gyogi, in various places around present-day Osaka Prefecture and Nara Prefecture, and this Kongorin-ji Temple is one of them. Gyogi built a temple at this site in either 737 or 741, according to conflicting historical documents.
Later, a high priest of Tendai sect: Jikaku Daishi Ennin is believed to have revived the temple in the first half of the Heian period (848-851), so the temple regards him as its reviver. The legend surrounding Gyogi founding the temple is questionable, but the temple was originally just a small hall where Kannon was enshrined. In the Heian period, the temple came under the influence of Enryaku-ji Temple on Mt. Hiei like many other temples in Omi Province and was developed as a temple of the Tendai sect. The location of the temple was called Hatagawa Village before a municipal merger in the Showa period, so the temple is thought to have a relationship with the Hata clan who came from abroad.
The history of Kongorin-ji Temple from the Heian period to the Medieval Period is unknown, but many Buddhist statues made in between the latter half of the Heian period and the Kamakura period remain in the temple. The existing main hall was built in 1288 with support by the Governor of Omi Province, Yoritsuna SASAKI and may have been of considerable size. Hyakusai-ji Temple, one of 'the three mountains in Eastern Biwa Lake,' was totally destroyed by a fire caused by Nobunaga ODA's army, and Kongorin-ji Temple was also damaged but the existing main hall and three-storied pagoda escaped the fire thanks to efforts by its priests. A theory says that it was overlooked by the army and escaped the fire because the main temple buildings, including the main hall, where the inner part were far from the main gate and the main priest's residence and the several hundred meter stone steps came between them.
Right after the main gate which faces west, there is a sub-temple: Joshoan on the left, and after going up stone steps a little, the main priest's residence: Myojuin is also on the left. Niten-mon Gate, the main hall, and the three-storied pagoda are located several hundred meters up the stone steps from Myojuin. Many priests' residence used to stand in a line along these stone steps.
The main hall (national treasure)
The main hall is a Japanese-style Buddha hall with Irimoya-zukuri (half-hipped) roof covered with cypress bark shingles, and is designated a national treasure as a typical Tendai Buddha hall in the Medieval period. Judging from the inscription "1288" on a metal fitting of Shumidan (an altar made of fine timber, generally with paneling, hame), the hall itself seems to have been built at that time. Zushi (a cupboard-like case with double doors) in which the principal image is enshrined is also designated a national treasure because it is attached to the main hall. The principal image: the standing statue of Sho-Kannon is withheld from public view like many other principal images of Tendai temples in Shiga Prefecture. The statue's body was carved crudely as it looks unfinished at first glance, though if one ignores the fact that it was made by Gyogi or not, it may have been carved by a practitioner who was not a professional sculptor of Buddhist statues.
Niten-mon Gate (important cultural property)
According to its style, it was built at the end of the Muromachi period. Originally, it was a two-storied gate, but its second story was removed in early modern times.
Three-storied pagoda (important cultural property)
The three-storied pagoda stands on the left (north) of the main hall on a raised area. A temple legend says it was built in 1246 in the Kamakura period; however judging from its style, it seems to have been built from the period of the Northern and Southern Courts to the Muromachi period. Although it escaped being burned down by Nobunaga ODA, after early modern times, it went into ruin, so only the first and second stories remained, and the third story was no more. The present pagoda was restored to make up for the missing part from 1975 to 1978.
Myojuin is the main priest's residence of Kongorin-ji Temple. It has a Chisen Kaiyu style garden (a style of Japanese garden with a path around a central pond and spring) that was improved from the Momoyama period to the Edo period. Shoin (a drawing and reception room), an entrance, and Kuri (the priest's living quarters or the kitchen of a temple) were destroyed by a fire in 1977, so the present buildings were rebuilt. Moreover Myojuin has Goma-do Hall (built in 1711) and a teahouse: Suiunkaku (built in 1854-1860), which escaped the aforementioned fire.
The main hall
Important cultural properties
The three-storied pagoda
The wooden sitting statue of Amida Nyorai - made in 1222
The wooden sitting statue of Amida Nyorai
The wooden standing statue of Eleven-faced Kannon
The wooden standing statues of Fudomyoo and Bishamonten
The wooden standing statue of Shitenno
The wooden seated statue of Jikei-taishi – made in 1286
It is entrusted to Tokyo National Museum.
The wooden seated statue of Jikei-taishi - made in 1288
The wooden seated statue of Amida Nyorai - owned by Joshoan
The wooden statue of Fudomyoo and two children- owned by Joshoan
The wooden statue of Daikokuten in a semi-lotus position - owned by Myojuin
Dokei (copper Buddhist ritual gong)
Three pieces of Kondo Renge Karakusamon Sukashibori Keman (Buddhist floral decorations)
Places of scenic beauty
874 Matsuoji, Aisho-cho, Echi-gun, Shiga Prefecture
By taxi: 15 minutes drive from JR Inae Station, or 25 minutes from JR Hikone Station
By car: 15 minutes drive via Route 307 from Yokaichi Interchange of Meishin Expressway, or 20 minutes from Hikone Interchange
By bus: Take Kano line of Hikonekanko Bus from JR Inae Station or Toyosato Station on Ohmi Railway (only weekday)
Aisho Museum of History and Culture - next to the temple