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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Address||532 Tachibana, Asuka, Takaichi,
Nara Prefecture 〒 634-0142
|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…