Kosho-ji Temple (興正寺)

Kosho-ji Temple is a Jodo shin shu (True Pure Land Sect Buddhism) temple located in Shimogyo-ku Ward, Kyoto City, Kyoto Prefecture. Its honorific mountain prefix is Entonzan. It is located on the south of Nishi Hongan-ji Temple. Kosho-ji Temple was formerly an associated temple of Nishi Hongan-ji Temple but became independent as the head of the Kosho school of the Shinshu sect in 1876. The temple is served by chief priests of the Hanazono family. Kosho-ji Temple has a large temple hall as the head temple, and it can be mistaken as a part of majestic Nishi Hongan-ji Temple apparently, which is located in the north of Kosho-ji Temple. While Goeido (hall dedicated to the sect founder) of Nishi Hongan-ji Temple is so large, the hall of Kosho-ji Temple looks relatively small, however, it is quite magnificent.

Origin and History

In 1205, the practice of exclusive nenbutsu was forbidden and the sect founder Shinran was exiled to Echigo Province, but was pardoned in 1211.

According to temple legend, Shinran returned to Kyoto in 1212, the year after he was pardoned, and established a temple named 'Kosho-ji' in Yamashina-go of Yamashiro Province, which he then left in the charge of his disciple Shinbutsu-shonin (the second head priest) before setting off to Kanto to disseminate the teaching of Amida Buddha's original vow.

However, there is little basis for the assumption that Shinran founded Kosho-ji Temple in Yamashina, as well as the fact that Shinbutsu was already responsible for Senji-ji Temple in Shimotsuke Province (present day Tochigi Prefecture) at the time of Shinran's journey to Kanto for the dissemination, and the likely theory claims that Shinran travelled directly to Kanto from Echigo.

In the first stage of the legend of Kosho-ji Temple, Ryogen, believed as the seventh head priest, said it was built by Shinran, however, it is said that Ryogen in fact relocated Shinran's lodge at Kyoto's Gojo Nishinotoin and converted it into a temple around 1321. The temple was named 'Kosho-ji' (興正寺) after 'Koryu Shobo' (興隆正法, lit. Spreading the noble and correct Dharma) of Emperer Juntoku's order, which was associated with Prince Shotoku, and operated as a center for the dissemination of Shinshu sect nenbutsu. Around 1328, Ryogen relocated the temple as a basis of the preaching activities to Shirutani (or Shibutani) of Kyoto (in the area where Kyoto National Museum now stands), the former Buddhism-oriented place, and he put his efforts into promulgating the teachings throughout western Japan using a sacred light inscription of the name of Amida Buddha, a pictorial genealogy and Kyomyo-cho (a document with many names listed).

Around this time, the temple was given the name 'Amida Bukko-ji' (lit. Amida Buddha's Light) by Emperor Godaigo. This name was derived from a dream that Emperor Godaigo had in which he saw a beam of light shining from the southeast where the wooden statue of Amitabha stolen from Kosho-ji Temple later appeared, and this miraculous event is also said to have been connected to the decision to relocate the temple to Shibutani in Kyoto from Yamashina.

Later moved into Higashiyama in Kyoto, the more prosperous Bukko-ji Temple became, the stricter Enryaku-ji Temple of Tendai sect suppressed on it. During the time of Kokyo, the thirteenth head priest, the temple's buildings were burned down by embroiled in the Onin War. In 1481, Kyogo (later renamed Renkyo), who was to succeed as the fourteenth head priest, became devoted to Rennyo of Hongan-ji Temple and established a new 'Kosho-ji Temple' in Nishino of Yamashina before returning to Hongan-ji Temple that was in Yamashina at the time along with influential branch temples. The remaining Bukko-ji Temple rapidly went into decline and Hongan-ji Temple rose to prominence instead.

Renkyo put great effort into preaching their nenbutsu teachings with Rennyo of Hongan-ji Temple, but in August, 1532, both Yamashina Hongan-ji Temple and Kosho-ji Temple were burned down by fires of war. In 1569, Kenson, the second son of Kennyo of Hongan-ji Temple, joined the priesthood of Kosho-ji Temple and was appointed associated chief priest of Ishiyama Hongan-ji Temple. Luckily the image of Shinran was saved and fifteenth chief priest Renshu enshrined it at the Jodo Shin shu Kosho-ji Temple along with the grand Tendai Sect Tenma Hongan-ji Temple with its large buildings in Tenma of Osaka in 1585.

In 1591, during the time of seventeenth chief priest Kenson (head priest of Hongan-ji Temple and the second son of Kennyo), Kosho-ji Temple and Hongan-ji Temple were moved to their current locations in Shimogyo-ku Ward, Kyoto City as part of Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI's Kyoto city plan. This was the site of Konko-ji Temple (Ichiya dojo (place of Buddhist practice or meditation)), the head temple of the Ichiya school of the Jishu sect.

Since Renkyo, both Kosho-ji and Hongan-ji operated as a single temple, but in 1876 the twenty-seventh head priest Honjaku resolved to adhere to the Koryu Shobo and declared Kosho-ji Temple an independent temple of the Kosho school of Shinshu sect. However, quite a lot of branch temples of Kosho-ji Temple remained affiliated with Hongan-ji school. Construction of the main hall took 128 years to complete and the magnificent building was considered to be one of the Three Great Architectural Structures of Japan along with the mausoleum at Tosho-gu Shrine in Nikko and the Sanmon gate at Chion-in Temple, but almost the entire temple complex, including the main hall, was burned to the ground in an accidental fire in November 1902.

The twenty-eighth head priest Honjo soon began rebuilding work and the current temple complex was completed on the same site in 1912.

Subsidiary buildings

Goeido (hall dedicated to the sect founder)

Amida-do Hall (temple hall having an enshrined image of Amitabha)

Shoro (a bell tower)

Kyozo (sutra repository)

Sanmon gate

Amida-mon gate

Koshokaikan (Lodgings for Kosho-ji Temple)

Fujin Kaikan (women's hall)

Kenshu Hall (study hall)

Temple office