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Hokiji Temple (Brief History)

Hokiji Buddist Temple is located in the Okamoto region of Ikaruga, an ancient village adjacent to Japan’s oldest capital Nara. It has also been known as Okamoto to temple or Ikejiri nunnery. It is said to have been a reconstruction as a Buddhist temple of Okamoto palace, where Prince Shotoku lectured in 606 C.E. on the Lotus Sutra. Together with Horyuji and Chuguji, both in Nara and Shitennoji in Osaka, Hokiji is counted among the Seven Buddhist institutions that Prince Shotoku helped establish.

The circumstances of a palace reconstructed as a Buddhist temple is found in the “Private Recollection of the Life of Prince Shotoku”, while quotes from a metal inscription found on the three story pagoda. The inscription records that on 22 February 622, Prince Shotoku leaf a will for his eldest son, Prince Yamasiro Oye, to convert the palace into a Buddhist temple, and that young prince donated from his holdings to the new temple 12 cho of land in Yamato province and 30 cho of land in Omi province.

In 638, High Priest Fukuryo build the main hall to house an image of Maitraya (Future Buddha). Later, in 685, High Priest Ese proposed an addition of the treasure pagoda, for which the metal inscription in question was cast in March 706. The content of the metal inscription was recently confirmed bt an excavation of the temple compound. It unearthed a part of the pre-existing palace building and offered evidence that a palace indeed once stood where Hokiji now stands. The excavation also showed the layout of the temple with the three story pagoda to the right after you enter the central gate, the main hall to the left and the lecture hall farther back in the middle. The cloister gallery (covered walkway) connected the central gate, the lecture hall and the other buildings inside.

According to the period records, Hokiji prospered during the Nara period. In the Heian period, however, Hokiji came under the control of Horyuji and its stature began to diminish. In the Kamakura period, both the lecture hall and the pagoda were repaired. In the Muromachi period, the temple began to deteriorate again to the point where only the three story pagoda remained in early Edo period.

Lamenting its demise, in 1678 Monk Shinsei Ennin and his disciples restored the pagoda. When additional funds were secured, they rebuilt the lecture hall in 1694 and added the Shotendo hall in 1863. These are the buildings that remain today.

After the Meiji restration of 1868, Hokiji belonged to the Shingon esoteric sect of Buddhism. In 1882, when Horyuji and Kofukuji in Nara became affiliated with the Hosso sect, Hokiji became a branch of the same sect. More recently, in 1950, Hokiji was again placed under the control of Horyuji when the latter established itself as the headquarters of the Shotoku sect. In 1972 the most recent restoration of the three story pagoda was launched, completing it in three years. In 1978 the main hall was also restored. Four years later, a new construction began to house the stature of Kannon (Goddess of Mercy) with eleven faces, an important cultural property.

*The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO has inscribed that “The Buddist monuments in the Horyuji Area” in the World Heritage list in Dec. 1993. The Hokiji temple is included in the inscribed area.

(three-Story Pagoda)
National treasure
Asuka Period: mid 6th - beginning of
8th c.

Kōdō (Lecture Hall) Edo Period: end of 17th c.

Jūitimen Kannon Bosatsu Important cultural property
Heian Period: end of 8th - late 10th c.

Hours of Operation

2/22~11/3 : 8:30~17:00
11/4~2/21 : 8:30~16:30

Admission Fees

Adult ¥300
Child ¥200
※ Adult is 12 years-old and over.

Hokiji Temple
1873 Okamoto Ikaruga-dho, Ikoma-gun, Nara JAPAN

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