Nara Temples: Hokkeji Temple
Hokkeji Temple 法華寺
Hokkeji Temple was converted into a nunnery in 782 by the Empress Komyo (701-760) on the grounds of the residence of her father, Fujiwara Fubito. The temple was originally meant to pray for her father's repose.
An ardent follower of Buddhism, the Empress Komyo had previously been responsible for the building of the five-storied pagoda at Kofukuji. Her husband, the Emperor Shomu (701-756) was the man behind the creation of the great Todaiji Temple in Nara Park.
When first completed, Hokkeji was much larger with two pagodas, many halls and two gates. Now the temple has a much more rural and intimate feel.
History of Hokkeji Temple
Hokkeji Temple was founded to serve as the chief nunnery of the new religion of Buddhism in Japan.
The temple was severely damaged by conflict in 1180 and again during the Sengoku Period (1467-1603) and the buildings we see today date from the 16th century when the temple was repaired with financial help from Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his mother Lady Yodo in 1601.
Hokkeji Temple Buildings
The Main Hall of Hokkeji Temple houses an eleven-headed statue of Kannon surrounded by the four Shitenno (the Four Heavenly Kings or devas). The sandalwood image is believed to show the face of the Empress Komyo and to have been carved by a sculptor from India. The lovely scent of the wood is still present in the room.
The Hondo also contains three large heads of statues that are again thought to date to the 8th century. Another noteworthy statue in the Main Hall is that of Yuima-koji (Vimalakirti), a wealthy patron of the historical Buddha, done in dry lacquer, and considered one of the finest of its type in Japan.
The grounds of the temple contain the main or south gate (Nan-mon) and the belfry both completed in 1601, thanks to the beneficence of Hideyoshi. A small pond stands between the bell tower and the Hondo.
The reconstructed bath house is a copy of the original that was established to serve the sick and poor as part of the Empress Komyo's charitable works at Hokkeji.
The small Momoyama Period garden is said to recall the gardens of the Imperial Palace (Gosho) in Kyoto. It has a small pond and stone bridge and is beautiful in May when its irises are in full bloom. The various plants and flowers are all neatly labeled with wooden signs.
An Edo Period farm house with a thatched roof also stands in the grounds and was transported here in 1961.
Tel: 0742 33 2261
Admission: 500 yen.
Hokkeji sells small dog charms which relate back to such charms made by the Empress Komyo said to help women in childbirth and protect from evil.
Hokkeji is west of JR Nara Station and Kintetsu Nara Station and the easiest way to reach the temple is to take a number #12 or #14 Nara bus from either station. Yamato-Saidaiji Station is about two kilometers to the west also on the #12 or #14 bus route.
Access - how to get to Nara
Airport limousine services to Kansai International Airport and Itami Airport or JR train and change at Tennoji Station in Osaka.
Access to Osaka on JR West (about 45 minutes on the express) or Kintetsu Line from Namba and Tsuruhashi. Access to Kyoto on either Kintetsu Railways (35 minutes on the Super Express Tokyu) or JR West (40 minutes on the Miyakojima Express).
Tourist Information Center
Nara City Tourist Information Office
Tel: 0742 24 4858
Kintetsu Nara Station