Number 2Kongōshō-ji temple
History of the temple
Mount Asama stands tall in the eastern part of Ise. The top of the mountain has always been a special place of worship for common folk. They would welcome the Sun as it rises in the morning and shines giving growing energy to all things alive.
In ancient times in Japan, the Imperial Court of Yamato was searching for a place to worship their Ancestral Spirit – Goddess of the Sun Amaterasu. It was finally in the time of reign of Emperor Suinin (29-70) when the place for a shrine, later known as Ise Shrine, has been decided at the bottom of the Mount Asama. The shrine was built beside the clear waters of Isuzu river. A poem in Man’yōshū (the oldest collection of Japanese poetry from 759) called that place a land which welcomes the rising sun.
In the times of Emperor Kinmei (509-571) a holy priest named Gyōdai has built a hermitage on Mount Asama where he devoted himself to Buddhist practices. Emperor Shōmu (701-756) donated statues of Bodhisattva Kokuzō (Bodhisattva of Wisdom), Uhō dōji (lt. divine rain-making boy = Goddess Amaterasu), Myōjō tenshi (God of a Morning Star), Buddha Hakuji (Ama no Mihashira = God of the Wind) and gave a temple a proper shape. Kongōshō-ji being in the north-east direction (kimon – unlucky direction) from Ise Shrine was officially acknowledged as a part of the shrine’s complex. It was given a role of a guardian, who would protect Ise Shrine from bad luck, demons and disasters.
Kongōshōji got its name from Kūkai (Kōbō Daishi, 774-835, the founder of Shingon sect) in 825, who climbed the mountain and visited the temple.
Since 17th and 18th Century there is a saying: If you are visiting Ise Shrine – go to Mount Asama too, if you don’t visit Mount Asama then your pilgrimage is only half way done. Even nowadays it is well known among pilgrims who come to Ise.
Shōhōzan Kannon-in is on the right side of Kongōshōji temple. It belongs to Zen Buddhist sect. Kannon Hall has a size of 5 ken and 4 men and is a separate building. Temple number 2 of Ise Pilgrimage.
When you climb Mount Asama you will see it truly is the Pure Land.
Rinzai Nanzen-ji branch