Matsuo-dera Temple (Yamatokoriyama City) (松尾寺 (大和郡山市))

Sango (literally, "mountain name," which is the title prefixed to the name of a Buddhist temple): Matsuo-san or Fudaraku-san
Religious sect of Buddhism: Daigo school of the Shingon sect
Status of a Buddhist temple: Bekkaku-honzan (quasi-head temple)
Principal image: Senju Kannon (the Thousand-armed Buddhist Goddess of Mercy)
Year of foundation: reportedly in 718
Founder: reportedly by Imperial Prince Toneri
Formal name
Another names: Matsuno-o-dera or Matsuno-o-san.
Fudasho (temples where amulets are collected)
Cultural property: Hondo (main hall), Mokuzo Daikokuten ryuzo (a wooden standing statue of the God of Wealth) (National Important Cultural Property), and Mokuzo Senju Kannon ryuzo (a wooden standing statue of the Thousand-armed Buddhist Goddess of Mercy) (Cultural Property designated by Nara Prefecture)

The Matsuo-dera Temple is the Bekkaku-honzan temple of the Daigo school of the Singon sect, located in Yamatokoriyama City, Nara Prefecture. Sango (literally, "mountain name," which is the tilte prefixed to the name of a Buddhist temple) is Matsuo-san or Fudaraku-san. The principal image is Senju Kannon (the Thousand-armed Buddhist Goddess of Mercy). Reportedly, the temple was founded by Imperial Prince Toneri. It is well-known as Japan's oldest apotropaic temple; it is alive with many visitors at the first day of the Horse in February and March. Having a rose garden inside the precincts, it is also known as a place for beautiful roses.
In addition, the temple is also called 'Matsuno-o-dera' or 'Matsuno-o-san.'

History

It was a mountain temple located halfway up Mt. Matsuo (Nara Prefecture) near the southern tip of Yata-kyuryo Hills. According to "Yakuyoke Kannon Raiyuki" (the origin of a apotropaic deity of mercy) written in 1606 and "Matsuo-dera Engi" (the origin of the Matsuo-dera Temple) written in 1676, Imperial Prince Toneri, Emperor Tenmu's son, built the temple in 718 to drive away evil spirits at his critical age of 42, and to pray for the successful completion of 'Nihonshoki' (Chronicles of Japan). Additionally, the Tomyo-ji Temple (Yata-cho, Yamatokoriyama City) located on Yata-kyuryo Hills to the north of the Matsuo-dera Temple is also believed to be founded by Imperial Prince Toneri.

The article on July 21, 782 in "Shoku Nihongi" (Chronicle of Japan Continued) contains the mention of a priest of 'Matsuo-yama-dera' named Sonkyo of 101 years old. Since old roof-tiles and the remains of buildings traced back to the Nara period were discovered from the precincts of the Matsuo-san-jinja Shrine, which is the guardian god located near the top of Mt. Matsuo, it is almost certain that the temple was built in the Nara period.

In the Medieval Period, it was under the control of the Ichijo-in Temple, a branch temple of the Kofuku-ji Temple, and also regarded as a branch temple of the Horyu-ji Temple.
(The Matsuo-dera Temple is located to the north of the Horyu-ji Temple; there is an approach to Mt. Matsuo from the back of the Sai-in of the Horyu-ji Temple.)

The existing main hall, which was destroyed by fire in 1277, was rebuilt in 1337, and its principal image, Senju Kannon, was a work of the Kamakura period. In 1953, when the main hall was taking apart and reparing, remains of a burnt Buddhist statue were found from the attic, which is considered to be the former principal image worshiped before the fire of 1277.

The Matsuo-dera Temple flourished as a base for the Tozan school of Shugendo (mountaineering asceticism). The Tozan School' is a mountaineering asceticism of the Shingon Sect, whose head temple is the Sanbo-in Temple, a branch temple of the Daigo-ji Temple; Mt. Kinpusen in Yoshino is its main training place. It is also an opposite of 'the Honzan School' whose main temple is the Shogoin monzeki Temple. The Tozan school organized 'the Shodaisendatsu group' with Shodaisendatsu (the highest rank of Yamabushi [mountain priests]) as the central figure; a lot of ancient documents concerning the Shodaisendatsu group of the Tozan school remain in the Matsuo-dera Temple.

Buildings and Structures

Hondo (main hall) (Important Cultural Property)

It is a valuable remnants of a large-scale Buddhist temple rebuilt in 1337, which is relatively-simple, based on the Japanese-style architecture. This also adopted the Buddhist-style architecture, which is called Shin-wayo (the new Japanese-style architecture).

Three-story pagoda

It was built one step higher than the main buildings of the temple such as Hondo. The existing pagoda was rebuilt in 1888; old materials were used for some parts.

Other buildings are as follows: Gyoja-do (En no Gyoja Reiseki Fudasho [temples for pilgrimage in connection with EN no Ozuno]) where the statue of EN no Ozuno, the founder of Shugendo, is enshrined; Shichifukujin-do, where the statue of Daikokuten (the God of Wealth) is enshrined; and Amida-do.

Important Cultural Properties

Hondo (main hall)

Mokuzo Daikokuten ryuzo (a wooden standing statue of the God of Wealth)

A work of the Kamakura period. The statue is not like Daikokuten, the god of fortune familiar in recent years, but more like an Indian god of war named Mahakala with a strained expression; it is also known as the three major Daikokuten statues in Japan.

Mokuzo Juichimen Kannon ryuzo (a wooden standing statue of the Eleven-faced Buddhist Goddess of Mercy): the late Heian period (deposited by Nara National Museum)

Kenpon choshoku Shaka Hachidai Bosatsu-zo (a color painting on silk of the Eight Major Bodhisattvas: the Goryeo period (deposited by Nara National Museum)

Kenpon choshoku Amida Shoju raigo-zu (a color painting on silk depicting the descent of Amitabha and Bodhisattvas (deposited by Nara National Museum)

Cultural Property designated by Nara Prefecture

Mokuzo Senju Kannon ryuzo (a wooden standing statue of the Thousand-armed Buddhist Goddess of Mercy)

It is enshrined in the main hall as the principal image. It is well-known as Yakuyoke Kannon (an apotropaic Goddess of Mercy), becoming the focus of people's worship.
A work of the Kamakura period
(As it is a Buddhist statue which is usually kept hidden from the public, it is exhibited only on November 3 each year.)

Kondo kanaguso yamabushi oi (a wooden case embellished with gilt gold in which a Buddhist statue is placed) (deposited by Nara National Museum)

Access

By Nara Kotsu Bus (for Yadayama) from (JR) Yamatoji Line Yamato-Koizumi Station; 30-minute walk from 'Matsuo-dera guchi' busstop

By Nara Kotsu Bus (for Izumihara-cho) from Kintetsu Kashihara Line Kintetsu Koriyama Station; 40-minute walk from 'Izumihara-cho' busstop