Tsubosaka Temple: The Temple of Sight

Tsubosaka Temple, also known as Minami-Hokke-ji Temple, is one of the 33 temples of the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage.  Although it is a bit hard to access via public transportation, the temple has been a beloved temple since ancient times. 


Tsubosaka Temple (Minami Hokke-ji)

Tsubosaka Temple is an hour away from the Kintetsu Tsubosaka Station. It is easily one of the hardest-to-reach temples out of the entire Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage

Bus service to the temple is available from Tsubosaka Station, but it’s really sparse! Instead, the best way to get to the temple is to walk from Tsubosaka Station in the direction of Takatori Castle. It takes almost a whole day to hike this route, but it is really exciting to explore the mountain castle and historic temple in one day!

Main gate of Tsubosaka Temple
Main gate of Tsubosaka Temple. Built in 1212.


About Tsubosaka Temple

According to the founding legend, the origins of Tsubosaka Temple date back to 703.  A monk called Benki came to this mountain and built himself a hut. Late one night, his prayers were interrupted by a strange voice chanting the Senju darani Sutra. An otherworldly light shone at a spot on the slope (lit. saka) where the voice originated. Benki dug at the spot, where he found a statue of the Senju Kannon in a jar (lit. tsubo) of lapis lazuli.  Over time Benki became a great healer and one day, Empress Gensho summoned him to cure her eyes. He recited the Senju darani Sutra and her vision was restored! The empress rewarded him with Tsubosaka Temple.   

The temple has been really popular for a long time. Even Sei Shonagon specifically mentions this temple in her masterpiece, The Pillow Tales.

However, because Takatori Castle is located right next to the temple, it was involved in a number of wars throughout history and has been set on fire many times as well. For this reason, there are not very many old buildings in this temple. 


Temple Grounds

Upon entering the temple grounds, there are many buddha statues everywhere— some significantly bigger than others. 

In spring, sakura trees surround this large Buddha statue
Large sleeping Buddha statue at Tsubosaka Temple
Huge sleeping Buddha statue
Kannon for glasses.

This temple is quite unique as there are many interesting things on the temple grounds, not to mention that the scenery from the temple is really pretty as it is located on the top of the mountain. 

There are no souvenir shops nearby, so maybe this is not a tourist spot, but it is certainly a big temple if you compare it to the other temples of the Saigoku Pilgrimage. 

There is a quite nice view from the temple grounds!
Tahoto and Kanjo-do. Both of them are quite new buildings.


The Temple of Sight

Tsubosaka Temple has long been associated with vision. 

There is even a Bunraku story called Tsubosaka Reigenki. According to this story, a blind man, Sawaichi, found out his wife, Osato, went to Tsubosaka Temple every day to pray for a cure for his blindness. 

statues of Osato and Sawachi at Tsubosaka Temple
Osato and Sawaichi

Sadly, Sawaichi suffered from depression and tried to commit suicide by throwing himself off the edge of the temple. His wife lept after him.  However, the Kannon of Tsubosaka Temple saved them and Sawaichi regained his sight.  

It seems they jumped from here.
Tsubosaka Temple is also the first nursing home for the blind in Japan

On the top of the temple grounds is a large Hondo (Main hall). Hondo, standing right behind the Raido is an octagon-shaped building.   

The principal statue here is Jyuichimen Kannon Statue, which is always on public display. This is really rare since many of the principal statues enshrined in the temples of the Saigoku Pilgrimage are often only open to the public once every decade or so.  

The principal buddha of Tsubosaka has very prominent eyes, which is also part of the association between this temple and curing afflictions of the eyes.  

Raido of Tsubosaka Temple
This is Raido (ceremony hall). Hondo is right behind this.
I guess these ogres are practicing Buddhism too!
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