The family temple of the Date clan with a history going back over 1100 years
At the beginning of the Heian Era in the year 828, the priest Jikaku Daishi Ennin founded a temple in Matsushima with the help of 3000 students and monks. Afterwards, with the changes in authority, there came changes in patrons and even denominations as the temple continued to survive, but in the year 1600, the military commander Masamune Date built a castle in Sendai, and with the construction of the town, construction of temples and shrines proceeded. One of those temples would become Zuigan-ji Temple which would be rebuilt and completed in 5 years in 1609. With the temple coming under the Date clan’s protection, it would usher in a halcyon age. In the middle of the 1800s, even with the looming crisis over the expulsion of Buddhism from Japan, there were efforts to save the temple so that even now its impressive and magnificent appearance has been retained as the family temple of the Dates.
The legacy of the magnificent Momoyama culture
Masamune Date put all of his passion into Zuigan-ji Temple by using only the finest building materials and inviting 130 skilled workmen to complete the gorgeous masterpiece that is the main hall. Date, who is said to have had an excellent aesthetic sense, was influenced by Momoyama culture which had blossomed in Kyoto and Osaka while he was living there during the Sengoku Era, and he apparently brought that sense with him to the Tohoku region. The interior of the main hall of Zuigan-ji brought out the best in Momoyama art, and it is imbued with luxurious and vivid colors using gold for areas such as the ceilings, the fusuma sliding doors, the wooden panel carvings above the doors and the pictures on the sliding partitions. The main hall and the Kuri temple kitchen have been designated as National Treasures and are open to the public.
Zuigan-ji’s treasure hall, Seiryu-den
The Seiryu-den, which was opened in 1995, was built to preserve and display Zuigan-ji Temple’s collected artifacts and is open to the general public. As the main collection, there are displays such as the paintings on the room partitions of the main hall which are National Important Cultural Properties that underwent a 10-year restoration, portraits of the Date clan lords over the generations, writings, bowls, portraits of the chief priests, and writings & books related to Matsushima. Approximately 30000 artifacts are displayed in permanent and special exhibition rooms depending on the season and under occasional themes.