Pagoda, To-ji Temple

Pagoda, To-ji Temple

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Toji Temple in Kyoto: Access and attractions

Kyoto is a city steeped in history. It is home to 17 of the 22 UNESCO World Heritage Sites declared in Japan. Entering certain areas of this modern city is like stepping back in time.

Toji Temple is one of those sites. It is home to a the tallest wooden pagoda in Japan. Its name means “East Temple” in Japanese, and it was founded in 796. At one time there was also a “West Temple,” called Saiji, but today only its sister, Toji, remains.

In spring, the temple grounds are a favored spot for viewing cherry blossoms, including a huge, photo-worthy weeping cherry. Check out this travel guide to see all that Toji Temple has to offer.

The Restoration of the East Pagoda, Yakushi-ji’s National Treasure

With its 1,300 years of history, this is a temple situated in western Nara City, established by the emperor at the time (Emperor Tenmu) to pray for the recovery of the sick empress.

In this long history, many halls of the temple have been lost through by natural disasters and man-made calamities.
Even amidst all of that, the East Pagoda is the only building that has remained just as it was when the temple was first established, and captivates many people even today.
Registered as a national treasure, the East Pagoda has undergone a complete restoration since 2009, and will have a ceremony celebrating the completion of the restoration in April, 2020.

We will soon be able to see the East Pagoda completely. There are six roofs, but the first, third, and fifth from the bottom are small roofs called “mokoshi”, decorative roofs to protect from rain. On the inside it is actually three levels stacked on one another, so it is a three-tiered pagoda.
The weaving balance of the roofs is very rhythmical, and it is famous for being described as “frozen music” by the American philosopher and art researcher, Ernesto Fenollosa, in the Meiji period.

For Buddhist pagodas built in Japan in the Edo period or earlier, the East Pagoda is proud to rank 4th in height, after the five-tiered pagoda in Kyoto’s To-ji Temple, the five-tiered pagoda in Nara’s Kohfuku-ji Temple, and the five-tiered pagoda in Kyoto’s Daigo-ji Temple.

The Suien finial at the very top is over 180 centimeters in size and made of bronze. Part of the finial are four panels pointed in the east, west, south, and north, with carvings of the god Hiten dancing in the sky. Just one of those panels weighs approximately 100kg and they sit at the very top of the pagoda.

The Suien finial that has protected the pagoda since it was established has experienced some wear and tear and probably won’t last for another 1,300 years. With safety in mind, it is being replaced the “Heisei Period Suien”.
*Heisei is an era of Japanese history, a way of counting years unique to Japan. It is the era of the previous emperor, currently retired.

Watching over future generation, becoming a new part of Yakushi-ji Temple history, we just might be witnesses to all of this.

Longhua Pagoda

The seven-storied, 40.4 meters high Longhua Pagoda stands in front of the Longhua Temple, the brick body and the wooden staircases make up its main structure. Each storey is smaller than the storey below, and all the levels are encircled by balconies and banisters. Bells on each corner of the octagonal eaves make cheerful and lively sounds as the wind passes by. The pagoda has been rebuilt several times, but the style of the Song Dynasty still remains to today.

In late spring, when the peaches in Longhua Park are in full blossom and the temple fair (on the 3rd March, lunar calendar) is under way, large numbers of visitors and pilgrims will come and the Longhua Temple will become a place of great hustle and bustle.

●Toji Komeko Waffle, Matcha 「東寺米粉ワッフル 抹茶」

This waffle is made using rice flour and a generous amount of aromatic matcha. It’s not too sweet and has a moist and firm texture. There is only a limited number available each day because they are made by hand.

●Toji Temple (Gift shop on the temple grounds)

Kinkaku-ji Temple, Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji Temple is one of the most visually striking temples in Japan and a favourite from our 3 days in Kyoto.

Known as the Golden Pavilion, two levels of this Zen Buddhist temple are covered in gold leaf. Its gilded exterior attracts crowds of tourists who come to see Kinkaku-ji’s glittering reflection in the large pond it overlooks.

Kinkaku-ji was first built in the late 14 th century as a retirement villa for shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu. It was converted to a temple after his death but burned down numerous times. The pavilion that stands today is an exact replica built in 1955.

Kinkaku-ji Temple was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 as part of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto.

Different Pagodas in Japan

The Japanese Pagoda Tree

The Japanese Pagoda tree, or the Sophora japonica, is a tree species which has deciduous leaves and flowers. It got its name probably because its fruits look like strings of beans with a pointed tip &ndash a similar looking figure to a pagoda tower.

In history, this tree actually originated from China instead of Japan. It has been a culture in early China to use this tree in temple entrances and in village edges, perhaps as a means of protection. However, it has gained its role as an ornamental tree when early horticulturists have used this tree in decorating traditional Japanese gardens &ndash the prime destination to view it during its shedding season. Its flowers are beautiful during the late summer months.

Japanese Pagoda Tree leaves

The leaves of this tree are small and bladed. They usually make a really beautiful sight during the autumn months because, at maturity, the leaves fall off on their own. This kind of tree is very common even outside of Japan as a decorative element to line up streets, parking lots, and the like.

What is special about this tree is that it has a multitude of medicinal properties which range from being anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, to being a diuretic and purgative. Some studies have shown that it has properties of the fruit can be anti-cancer, anti-tumor, and even anti-obesity. On the other hand, it must not be taken by a pregnant woman as it may cause harm to the unborn child.

The Japanese Pagoda Lantern

Also known as a toro, the Japanese pagoda lantern is a traditional designed outdoor lighting which is used in oriental gardening. These pagoda lanterns have the hanging type and the platform type. The hanging ones are usually tied to the eaves of the roof or are hung in branches. The platform type, as its name suggests, is laid on a pedestal. These are more common and are used as ornamentation in Japanese gardens and courtyards.

For the Japanese, lanterns play very important roles. For instance, lanterns are believed to guide the spirits home during the Obon Festival and back again to their resting place when the celebration ends. It is also usually used to light up pathways that lead to the main buildings of worship in temples as in the Buddhist religion these are considered as offerings to Buddha.

The Japanese Pagoda Statue: Japanese Pagoda Garden Ornament

Traditional gardens are usually designed to mimic landscapes and landmarks. They are usually built and designed to look like smaller or scaled versions of important sights in Japan. For instance, a temple in one city in Japan can mimic a larger temple somewhere else in the county. To do this, they can re-create the buildings and main halls. However, the pagodas are hard to re-create this is why they just make small scaled statues in the size and shape of a pagoda.

Many temples in Japan have pagoda statues, some homes have them as well. What is interesting is that some lanterns in Japan are designed to look like miniature pagodas. These are usually made of stone and rock. Other pagoda statues are made from wood and metal, which are of higher price and quality because of its rareness. There are places in Japan to have these pagoda statues made and there are ready-made products of this as well.

Japanese Pagoda Tattoos

The pagoda has become an iconic form of art and architecture in Japan that there are some people who have tattoos made out to look like pagodas. Customers who have pagoda tattoos have them on their skin not just because of the majestic beauty of the architecture but also for what it represents. As explained, it symbolizes stability, balance, and symmetry. Some pagodas represent the heavens, others represent the elements of the earth. All in all, a pagoda is closely related to the spirit, worship, and spirituality.

Pagoda, To-ji Temple - History

Photo= The towering five-story pagoda rising straight up from the ground to the metal pinnacle. It is the landmark and reminder of Kyoto in the Heian Period (June, Minami Ward, Kyoto) = shot via drone

Little by little, a drone flew up the side of the tower, a soaring landmark of Kyoto. It passed the roof of each tier, then reached the metal pinnacle at the top. When it moved several dozen meters away from the tower to capture an overview image, the densely built-up urban area spread out behind the tower.

"To-ji Temple," also known as Kyo-o-gokoku-ji Temple, the head temple of Shingon Sect Buddhism, Minami Ward, Kyoto, was founded in 796. Later it was entrusted to Kukai, posthumously known as Kobo Daishi. The temple fair held on the 21st day of each month is familiarly called "Kobo-san" and crowded with many citizens and tourists.

The five-story pagoda, a National Treasure standing in the southeast corner of the temple precincts, is approximately 55 meters high. It is the tallest wooden building in Japan. It has burnt down four times due to lightning strikes and other reasons. The current tower, built in 1644, is the fifth one.

Despite a series of disasters, the pagoda has not been destroyed by an earthquake. Its anti-seismic structure centered around a main pillar that passes through the tower from the base to the top demonstrates the high-level high-rise building construction technology possessed by carpenters of those days. In the first tier of the tower, the main pillar as a representation of Vairocana Buddha is surrounded by four statutes of Buddhas and eight statutes of Bodhisattva.

Although the surrounding cityscape has changed with the passage of time, the five-story pagoda has kept its shape which remains the same since it first stood in this place that once was the ancient, Heian Period Kyoto and is still witness to the ancient capital.

Unauthorized drone video-shooting over shrines, temples, public facilities, urban districts and other places is prohibited.

The Kyoto Shimbun uses drones to shoot videos with special permission and with due consideration for safety in the vicinity.

(Translated by Mie Hiuzon, Psyche et l’Amour, Inc.)

To-ji Temple

Not far south of Kyoto Station is To-ji Temple, the prominent five-story pagoda you can see from the window of the Shinkansen. To-ji Temple was built in 796 to accompany the construction of Heian-kyo. Its position is just east of the Rajo-mon gate, which is regarded as the south entrance to Kyoto, to protect the Imperial Palace. Emperor Saga gave the temple to Kobo Daishi Kukai in 823 and it became the central training center of Shingon Esoteric Buddhism. Although many of the main temple buildings were burned down due to Doikki (peasant uprising) in 1486, the Toyotomi and Tokugawa families provided support to rebuild it over time. The iconic five-story pagoda that symbolizes To-ji Temple, was rebuilt and dedicated by the third Tokugawa Shogun, Iemitsu in 1644. The arrangements and scales of reconstructed buildings such as the Nandai-mon gate, Kon-do Hall, Lecture Hall, and Dining Hall are exactly as they were in the Heian period. In 1994, the temple was added to UNESCO's List of World Cultural Heritage sites as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto.

Three-dimensional Mandala that visually depicts the teachings of Esoteric Buddhism
On the Shumi-dan (an altar for placing a principal image in Buddhist temples) in the Lecture Hall at the center of To-ji Temple, you will see 21 Buddhist statues arranged to visually represent Katsuma Mandala, generally known as a three-dimensional Mandala. Seated at the center is the principal Buddha, Dainichinyorai. The 21 statues include Nyorai (a person who has attained Buddhahood), Bosatsu (a Buddhist saint), Myo-o (the deity of fire), and Tenbu (the guardian of Buddhism who protects Nyorai and Bosatsu), made by Kobo Daishi Kukai, convey the teachings of Kukai to the present generation.

Kon-do Hall, the main hall rebuilt with contributions from Hideyori Toyotomi
The Kon-do Hall is To-ji Temple's main hall. Construction of the hall began shortly after the temple's founding and it survived until Doikki (peasant uprising) of 1486. It was rebuilt thanks to contributions from Hideyori Toyotomi in 1603. In addition to the seated statue of Yakushi Nyorai, which is the principal image of the temple, Nikko Bosatsu and Gakko Bosatsu are enshrined there. These statues have been designated as an Important Cultural Property together with Yakushi Sanzonzo (triad image of Yakushi Buddha).

The five-story pagoda, Japan's tallest wooden structure and the symbol of Kyoto
The five-story pagoda you can spot when looking south from the window of your Shinkansen is Japan's tallest wooden structure. Soaring 55 meters into the sky, it is Kyoto's primary landmark. The present pagoda is actually the fifth incarnation built in 1644 with contributions from Iemitsu Tokugawa its four predecessors all succumbed to fire. According to tradition, it houses Busshari (the ashes of Buddha's bones) brought by Kobo Daishi Kukai from Tang (China). The first layer of the pagoda, which is usually not open to the public, contains the enshrined four statues of Nyorai that surround the central pillar, which represents Dainichinyorai, and eight statues of Bosatsu.

Additional Suggestions

  • Plan on spending an hour or two, including time to visit to the nearby Maple Bridge — and more if you explore the handcraft exhibits and shops in the historic neighborhood on the other side of the bridge
  • Beat the crowds and arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon for a more peaceful visit.
  • Most of the buildings, bells, tablets, sculptures and artwork lack English signs. Enhance your visit by hiring a local guide to explain the historical and cultural significance of the temple’s treasures and traditions.
  • Relax in the tea garden outside the temple complex’s south wall after you’re done exploring the temple and listen to live music while you sip your tea.
  • Take a river tour and enjoy the scenery along the Grand Canal. You’ll pass under the Maple Bridge and get a close-up view of the charming houses along the canal.

Location: Gusu District — No. 24, Hanshan Temple Alley, Fengqiao, Suzhou
Hours: Open from 7:30am to 5:30pm. Plan to spend 1.5 to 2 hours for your visit.
Admission: ¥20 (¥10 for children, teens and seniors aged 60 and above)

Watch the video: To-ji Temple Five-storied pagoda minecraft (August 2022).