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Photo By: Gary Luscombe
Region
Kansai
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Nara
Population
1,442,862

Chogosonshi-ji Temple

Even a pacifist country has a temple for the God of war.

High in the hills on the western side of Nara Prefecture is Mount Shigi, known locally as Shigisan. It is also often used as a nickname for Chogosonshi-ji Temple, the largest and highest of four temples on the mountain.

Chogosonshi-ji is dedicated to Bishamonten, one of Japan’s “Seven Lucky Gods,” the Buddhist god of war and guardian of the places where Buddha preaches. It is also festooned with images of tigers, including a large, colourful statue at the temple entrance. These are an important part of the origin of the temple.

Photo by: Gary Luscombe Monks perform a purification ritual.

Legend has it that about 1,400 years ago, Prince Shotoku-taishi stopped at Shigisan on his way to lay siege to Kawachi Inamura Castle. While on the mountain, the prince offered a prayer for victory in the coming battle. In response, Bishamonten appeared in the sky at the hour of the tiger, on the day of the tiger, in the year of the tiger and led the prince to victory.

Photo by: Gary Luscombe Entrance to Shigisan.

To express his gratitude, the prince himself carved an image of Bishamonten and ordered the construction of a temple on the mountainside to house it. He also commissioned the building of Shitenno-ji Temple in Osaka Prefecture  around the same time, making Chogosonshi-ji one of the oldest temples in Japan.

On the Slopes of Shigisan

The walk from the main entrance to Chogosonshi-ji is relatively easy and on the way up (or down) you can choose to pass through a tunnel in the shape of a tiger. Doing so is said to bring good luck, and there is a place in middle of the tunnel for hanging ema wish tablets.

Photo by: GORIMON Eye of the tiger…

There is also a very small cafe next to an open square. In the square, you can often see monks performing purification rituals by passing a special staff over your body, accompanied by music.

Several times a day, they hold a special ritual within the main hall of Chogosonshi-ji at the top of the hill.

Several times a day, they hold a special ritual within the main hall of Chogosonshi-ji at the top of the hill. This is to invite Bishamonten into your home to grant you protection for the coming year. The statuary inside the temple is stunning but photos are prohibited.

Be sure to check out the stunning view over the Yamato Plain from the main hall balcony.

Things To Know

Fees

Entrance to the temple grounds is free.

Temple stays in the area

Three of the other temples on Shigisan also offer lunch and accomodation, giving people the opportunity to stay on the mountain overnight. These are Senjyu-in, Jyofuku-in and Gyokuzo-in and contact information can be found here. (They also have an alternate story about the founding of the temple).

How To Get There

Address

Japan, 〒636-0923 Nara-ken, Ikoma-gun, Heguri-chō, Shigisan, 朝護孫子寺本坊

By train

 

Take the JR Yamatoji line from Tenno-ji station in Osaka Prefecture as far as Sango station. 

By bus

The temple is approximately 10 minutes from Sango station by Nara Kotsu bus.

Where To Stay

Ishikiri Onsen Hotel Seiryu
  • 1-11-12 Kamiishikiricho, Higashiosaka-shi, Osaka, 579-8012 Japan
  • ¥6,050 - ¥41,800
  • 8.1 km
Shiroyama Inn
  • 15-12 Monzencho, Ikoma-shi, Nara, 630-0266 Japan
  • ¥7,500 - ¥15,900
  • 5/5 (103 reviews)
  • 8.6 km
Hoji Plaza (Place Cocoya)
  • 2-2-23 Hoji, Higashiosaka-shi, Osaka, 577-0805 Japan
  • ¥6,631 - ¥13,262
  • 4.6/5 (19 reviews)
  • 9.2 km

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