When it comes to Nara and Kyoto, people can easily name a few ancient buildings. On the other hand Kobe, and to a greater extent Hyogo prefecture, doesn’t exactly conjure up the word “ancient” in most people’s minds. Indeed, Kobe only became a large city about 150 years ago, after opening its port to international trade. However, if you know where to look there are plenty of ancient building in Kobe, as well as throughout Hyogo Prefecture. One such example is Kakurin-ji Temple [鶴林寺] in Kakogawa City, which is just 30 minutes from Kobe. Kakurin-ji is one of the biggest and the most ancient temples in Hyogo Prefecture.
The History of Kakurin-ji Temple
According to temple legend, Kakurin-ji dates back to the 6th century (589 C.E.) when a monk from Korea by the name of Eben [恵使] came to the area to hide from the Mononobe clan, a powerful clan that opposed Japan adopting the Buddhist faith. Later, the defeated the Mononobe clan at the hands of Prince Shotoku, the prince sought out Eben in order to study from him. To spread Buddhism, Prinbce Shotoku built what is today Kakurin-ji. It was originally called “Shitenno-ji” because it enshrined the Shitenno. However, when Ennin, the abbot of from Enryaku-ji, came to the temple after his studies in China, he enshrined a statue of Yakushi Nyorai statue, which is the main statue of Kakurin-ji.
Despite being burned down a number of times from wars, Kakurin-ji still has a number of old treasures, including a famous statue of Aitata Kannon earning it the nickname of “the Horyu-ji of the Harima* region”
*Harima is southeast Hyogo Prefecture
Walking 30 minutes from the Onoenomatsu station, we finally arrived Kakurin-ji. As it is surrounded by the residential area, it was a bit hard to find. Once you get there, you will surprise how big this temple is!!
Once we entered the temple grounds, the building right after the gate was the main building, hondo.
Kakurin-ji’s hondo is very old and unique in that it combines different architectural techniques, thus registered as national treasure. The hondo enshrines five statues, including the main deity, Yakushi Nyorai. Sadly, these statues are only open for public viewing once every 60 years, which means the next viewing will be in 2057.
Right next to the hondo is another national treasure building, the Taishi-do. In fact, this building is actually the oldest existing building in the entire prefecture. Moreover, Kakurin-ji is only one temple in Hyogo Prefecture that has more than one national treasure building, which is exactly why we decide to visit this temple!
Points of Interest
While the Taishi-do and the hondo are the main attractions at Kakurin-ji, there are many other interesting buildings on the temple grounds!
Kannon-do originally enshrined a statue of Aitata Kannon. Allegedly, when a thief tried to steal the statue, he bumped the statue which then said “Aitata” (ouch). The statue was built some time in the 6 or 7th century, which means it is one of the oldest one in Japan. You can see it in the temple museum and it is interesting Aitata Kannon’s back is a little bit bent!
In the corner of the temple grounds is the Shinyakushi-do. Because the public cannot often see the main Yakushi Nyorai statue in the hondo, Kakurin-ji enshrines a different Yakushi Nyorai statue here that is open to the public year-round.
While Yakushi Nyorai is the main statue here, the statue that attracts the most attention is the Makora Daisho [魔虎羅大将].If you closely look at his face, you will notice he is winking!! Originally, the statue held an arrow, checking the arrow to see if it was straight or not. At some point the arrow became lost, so now it looks like it is just winking at you.
Info: Kakurin-ji Temple
424 Kakogawacho, Kakogawa City, Hyogo Prefecture
The closest station to Kakurin-ji is Onoenomatsu Station of the Sanyo Electric Railway.. Once you get to Onoenomatsu Station it is a short 20 minute walk to the temple.
Alternatively, JR Kakogawa Station is also only around 20 minutes on-foot away from Kakurin-ji. Bus service is available from Kakogawa Sta. though service is not frequent.
Temple: 500 yen
Museum: 500 yen