A unique temple providing relief to people regardless of their religious affiliation
Built about 1400 years ago, Zenko-ji Temple has garnered wide worship as a base for the hearts of the people. Founded in Japan before Buddhism was split into different sects, it has become famous as a temple that doesn’t ascribe to one particular denomination. Also, it became well known nationwide during the Heian Era as a temple that rescued women which was unusual in Old Buddhism when temples wouldn’t allow women to enter. Regardless of social position or gender, a visit to Zenko-ji would mean that anyone could rise to Heaven, and even now, it is visited by young and old and by men and women from all over Japan.
The main hall that represents the architecture in the middle of the Edo Era
The No. 1 highlight of Zenko-ji is the principal image of Buddha, Ikkou Sanzon Amida Nyorai, which is enshrined in the Hondo main hall. The Daigaran temple edifice which has an entrance width of 24m and a depth of 54m has been designated as a National Treasure. As a wooden structure, it boasts a scale on a national level that marks it alongside Nara’s Todai-ji’s Great Buddha Hall and Kyoto’s Sanjusangendo Temple. Since ancient times, it was a custom associated with a visit to Zenko-ji for the many visitors to stay at the main hall (inner temple) that lasted until the middle of the Meiji Era but no longer exists. In the inner temple which boasts a size of about 250㎡, the vestiges of those times can be glimpsed.
Zenko-ji’s Gokaicho ceremony held every 7 years
Zenko-ji is most famous for its Gokaicho ceremony that is held every 7 years. The ceremony takes place over about 50 days ranging from early April to late May. In place of the principal image of Buddha that is never shown, a replica known as the Maedachi Honzon which is normally enshrined in a repository is opened to the public. During the period of the Gokaicho, a sacred pillar is established in front of the main hall, and many worshipers gather at the pillar to touch it. With a thread attached to the image, this pillar is linked to the Maedachi Honzon. For this reason, when the pillar is touched, it is believed that an act of piety has been performed similar to directly touching the Maedachi Honzon itself.