Tachibana-dera Temple, A Birthplace of Prince Shotoku

Asuka Village is famous for its historic temple and archaeological sites that tell the story of Japan’s infancy. Tachibana-dera Temple is one of the threads in the story of Asuka’s role as an ancient capital. From the birth of Japan’s legendary prince, Shotoku, to a mysterious orange tree, Tachibana-dera Temple is a great place for Japanese people–especially those interested in history.

 

The History of Tachibana-dera Temple

According to temple legend, the temple was once a villa for emperors Kinmei and Yomei. We also know for certain that in 572 C.E. Prince Shotoku was born in that very villa.

dirt path leading to Tachibana-dera temple and two jizo and a large stone.

Tachibana-dera Temple (background) mostly likely took up all this land.

Perhaps most importantly, years later in 606 C.E. while Prince Shotoku was lecturing on Buddism in the villa when all of a sudden, lotus petals suddenly began falling from the sky and the prince’s crown started to shine brightly. Needless to say, this miraculous display astonished Empress Suiko. Shortly thereafter, the empress ordered Shotoku to built Tachibana-dera Temple.

Tachinbana-dera Temple was a huge temple at one time, but fires in 1148 and again in 1566, destroyed the pagoda and much of the temple grounds. It was only in the end of the Edo Period that the temple was rebuilt.

The Legend of the Tajimamori and the Tachibana

Interestingly, this place was known as tachibana even before Tachibana-dera Temple was erected. This place, and ultimately the temple, is famous for its tachibana tree, a kind of orange tree. The Nihon Shoki tells the story of how that tachibana tree came here and is as follows:

stone carving of a tachibana fruit

The symbol of Tachibana-dera Temple is the tachibana.

Once upon a time, Emperor Suinin order a man named Tajimamori to go to the Underworld to bring back the fruit of immortality. He obeyed and ventured out on a treacherous journey to the world of the dead. Through perils untold he succeeded and brought back the tachibana fruit. However, around the time he came back, the emperor had already died. Feeling as though he had somehow failed his emperor, Tajimamori killed himself in front the emperor’s grave. The tachibana he brought back was planted in what would later become Tachibana Temple. 

 

Getting to Tachibana-dera Temple

The closest station to Asuka-dera is the Kintetsu Asuka Station off the Kintetsu Yoshino Line. From Osaka the easiest thing to do, is to take the Limited Express bound for Yoshino at Kintetsu Abenobashi Station. Then, get off at either Kashihara Jingu Mae or Asuka Station. It will take roughly an hour or so to get to Asuka from Osaka. At either station, take an akakame bus to the kawahara bus stop. Tachibana Temple is right across the street from the bus stop.

FYI be sure to bring some drinks and a snack with you. Convenience stores, and other places to buy refreshments are sparse.

Temple Grounds

east entrance of Tachibana-dera temple guarded by two stone shishi lions

East entrance of Tachibana-dera Temple, Asuka, Japan.

This is not a big temple, but it is very important nonetheless. There are many mysteries related to the ancient Japan and Asuka Period, such as details about the process of how Buddhism became an established religion in Japan, the origins of Japan as a nation under the rule of an emperor instead of clan leaders. Not to mention a number of question persist about Prince Shotoku himself. It is certain that Tachibana-dera Temple is one of the keys to understanding those mysteries.

Tachibana-dera Kannon-do in the spring

Kannon-do. Ensrhines Nyoirin Kannon Bosatsu

As mentioned earlier, the temple’s pagoda burned down centuries ago and was never rebuilt. You can find the site of the pagoda next to the bell tower on the temple grounds.

site of tachibana temples pagoda

Site of former temple pagoda.

Hondo

main hall of Tachibana-dera temple in early spring

Hondo

The current hondo was built in 1864 and enshrines a statue Taishi Shoman-kyo Kosan Zo [太子勝曼経講讃像] from the Muromachi Period. Additionally, the hondo also enshrines a statue of Prince Shotoku.

The Fruit of Eternity

healthy tachibana tree in Tachibana-dera temple next to a blooming cherry blossom tree

Tachibana tree in Tachibana temple

Another key point of interest on the temple grounds is the tachibana tree, located next to the hondo. Tachibana trees were once very common in Japan but now are a step away from extinction.

rengetsuka during spring at Tachibana-dera Temple

The tree shares the same plot of land with the sacred place where our legendary prince spoke about the teachings Buddhism, ultimately resulting in the creation of the temple.

Nimenseki [二面石]

mysterious two-faced nimenseki stone at Tachibana Temple

Nimenseki

To the left of the hondo is the nimenseki. This mysterious two-faced stone from the Asuka Period predates all of the current buildings in the temple. Though we are not completely sure, most people believe the stone conveys the duality of man; good and evil.

 

Nearby Attractions

From Tachibana Temple, other famous places like Ishibutai Burial Mound, Oka-dera Temple and Asuka-dera Temple are well within walking distance. After your visit to Tachibana-dera,you should definitely check out the other archaeological sites and temples in Asuka.

 

Tachibana-dera Temple

Address 532 Tachibana, Asuka, Takaichi,
Nara Prefecture 〒 634-0142
Website https://tachibanadera-asuka.jimdo.com/
Hours of Operation Mon- Sun
9:00 – 17:00
Admission Fee Adults: 350 yen
Teenagers: 300 yen
Children: 150 yen
*50 yen off with Asuka Kingdom Passport

This temple is a must for anyone visiting Asuka Village! Full of mysteries, beautiful architecture, and historic treasures, be sure to stop by as you journey through the ancient capital of Japan.

Coming next time,
Assassinations and the reforming Japan’s government

The adventure continues…

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