Sai-ji Temple (西寺)

Sai-ji Temple is believed to have stood in present-day Karahashi, Minami Ward, Kyoto City, and was one of the two first governmental temples permitted to be constructed within the city of Heian-kyo by the order of Emperor Kanmu in 796.

At this time, Suzaku Oji Avenue extended from Rajo-mon gate, with To-ji Temple (lit. East Temple) sting on the east side and Sai-ji Temple (lit. West Temple) standing on the west side.

Sai-ji Temple and To-ji Temple are thought to have been of approximately the same size and believed to have contained a Sogosho (office of the Buddhist ecclesiastical authority). The temple is thought to have gone into decline as Shubin, the priest of Sai-ji Temple, grew weaker. After almost all of the buildings were destroyed by fire in the year 990, another fire struck in 1233 and the temple fell into ruin.

In 1921, the temple was designated a national historic site as 'Sai-ji Ato' (Sai-ji Temple Ruins). Excavations that started in 1959 uncovered the remains of structures including the main hall, corridors, the priests' living quarters, the dining hall and Nandai-mon gate, with those that were not included in the original historic site designation being added in 1966. A dirt mound was determined to be the remains of the lecture hall. Together with To-ji Temple, Sai-ji Temple is considered important as it allows the scale of Heian-kyo City to be understood.

All that remains is part of the main hall's foundation stone that was unearthed in excavations, and the area is now the site of an elementary school and the Karahashi Saiji Municipal Park that is the remains of the lecture hall. Near to Karahashi Saiji Park, in Karahashi Hiragaki-cho, Minami Ward stands a small temple that has inherited the name 'Sai-ji Temple'.