Number 11Kinchōkoku-ji temple
History of the temple
Chōkoku temple is 3 and half ri south from Matsusaka. Hase in Niu lies within Sana village in Taki district but because it is beside Mount Niu, many mistakenly regard it as a part of the same village. It is said that the temple was founded by Emperor Kōkō (830-887). The main statue is a 2 jō high Jūichimen Kannon (Eleven-Faced Kannon) carved by an unknown sculptor. It stands in a tile-roofed hall which is 6 by 7 ken. The hall resides at the top of the mountain, 20 chō in the north-east direction from Niu. The temple is called Kinchōkoku-ji (Close Chōkoku-ji) and it is a temple number 11 of Ise Pilgrimage.
Hase-dera temple in Yamato and Kinchōkoku-ji not only stand along the same road, but also follow the same Buddhist path.
According to the passed down story Kinchōkoku-ji, which originally was called Niusan Kōmyō-ji, was built in 885 by Iitaka-no-sukune Morouji (Buddhist name: Kanshō), a member of a powerful clan. He gathered donations for the construction from his close family and relatives, later to also receive farmland from other powerful clans of Iino, Taki and Watarai.
The main statue was made in 11th Century and is a 6.6m (21ft 7.84in) high wooden statue of standing Jūichimen Kannon (Eleven-Faced Kannon). It was designated as National Treasure (Important Cultural Property) on the 20th of August 1913. It is believed that the statue was enshrined in this temple thanks to the efforts of Gonzō (754-827), a monk who was one of the Kūkai’s (Kōbō Daishi, 774-835, the founder of Shingon sect) teachers. According to the legend the statue of Kannon in Kinchōkoku-ji, Kannon of Hase-dera temple in Nara and Kannon of Hase-dera in Kamakura were all carved from the same tree. All three of them are referred to as Japanese Three Kannons (Nihon San Kannon). The statue’s detailed measurements starting from the size of the face, length of the arms and other 13 parts are written down in Kinchōkoku-ji Shizaichō (designated as Important Cultural Property), a record of temple’s possessions transcribed in 958. It states: one statue of Jūichimen Kannon, covered in gold, height 1 jō 8 shaku.
Together with the end of Heian period (794-1192) the founding clan Iitaka lost its power and so did the temple. Between the years of 1504 and 1520 it was revived by a monk called Shinkai (?-1595). Since 1575 the temple received land from many lords of the province, among them: Kitabatake Nobuoki (also known as Oda Nobukatsu, 1558-1630), Gamō Ujisato (1556-1595) and Makimura Toshisada (1546-1593). The temple prospered and seven sub-temples were built within its precinct. During the times of the next abbot Shōson (?-1653), the temple received 0.496ha (1.22ac) of farmlands from the lord of Tamaru Castle Inaba Michitō (1570-1608) in 1608, and from the lord of Tsu Castle Tōdō Takatora (1556-1630) in 1617. Thanks to Shōson’s efforts in 1648 a temple bell was casted and hanged in the newly constructed bell tower.
In Edo period the land was producing 5 koku (0.75t) of rice. In 1661 the previous lord of Kishū Domain – Tokugawa Yorinobu (1602-1671) visited the temple and ordered reconstruction of the Main Hall. In the middle of the construction works a fire broke out from the carpenter’s shack. The workers tried their best to put the fire out but despite their efforts, it spread and was getting close to the Main Hall. Kaiyō, the temple’s abbot, prayed with his whole heart to Goddess Kannon worshiped at the temple. Then suddenly a strong wind started to blow and the fire changed its direction eventually leaving the Main Hall untouched. According to the records, the construction was finished in 1663.
In the August of 1690 due to heavy rain a landslide occurred at the mountain behind the Main Hall. The building was damaged but the main statue of Kannon was speared once again. It was once more rebuilt in 1694 by an abbot Kaishun. During this time the official name of the temple was also changed to Kinchōkoku-ji. For the next 300 years the Main Hall has been standing in the same place and except for roof repairs done in the middle of the 20th Century it remains untouched to this day.
Kinchōkoku-ji has also one more building – a Visitor Hall in which a statue of Dainichi Nyorai (Great Illuminating Buddha) is being worshiped. It is 94cm (3ft1in) high and was made in the 10th Century. It is the first main statue of this temple, from the times when it was still called Kōmyō-ji. The statue of Dainichi Nyorai is designated as the Town’s Cultural Property.
The temple’s current name Kinchōkoku-ji is combined from two parts: Kin – meaning close, Chōkoku-ji which can also be read as Hase-dera. There are two theories explaining why it is called “Closer Chōkoku-ji”. The first appears in the official history of Taki town: There is one more Chōkoku-ji temple in Hase village of Anō district (currently Hase district in Tsu city) which is called Enchōkoku-ji – “Far Chōkoku-ji”. Far and close may refer to the distance to Hase-dera in Yamato (Nara). One more theory is presented in the official leaflet given at Kinchōkoku-ji temple: Character for “close” was attached to the name to state that this Chōkoku-ji (Hase-dera) is the one which is closer to the Ise Shrine.
Shingon Yamashina branch