World Heritage Tendai Special Head Temple Motsuji Temple


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Guide to the Temple Grounds

Pure Land Garden

The Pure Land Garden is arranged such that the temple, garden, and pond are unified as one.
To the north is a hill called Mt. Doyama, before which spread out the wide open temple and garden complex.
The pond here is called Oizumi ga Ike. The pond-centered garden was
laid out in accordance with the precepts of Japan's oldest garden manual,
Sakuteiki ("Treatise on Garden Making"), and includes elements like a
peninsular beach area, rocky coastline and great rocks protruding from
the lake's surface, bridges, mountainous elements, and a feeder stream,
giving this garden area exceptional academic importance as well.
Its beauty remains essentially unchanged for eight centuries,
blending harmoniously with the surrounding trees to form an eternal landscape.

Rinchi Monastery Remains (Historic Site)

The temple grounds still contain many foundation stones and other relics
from the Doto Monastery, which was erected during the Heian period.
The garden, which is centered around Oizumi ga Ike Pond,
also provides evidence of the original form of the graceful landscape from the Heian period.
As one of the most important sites in Japan's garden history,
Motsuji's temple garden has been excavated and fully restored to its original state.

Temple Complex

Click the text in the photo for more details.

【Jogyodo Hall & Hokkedo Hall Remains】<br>About 12m or so from the Lotus Hall Site is the Jogyodo Hall (Jogyodo), the hall of samadhi (a state of intense concentration achieved through meditation) by constant walking. This south-facing hall is five bays square and the pointed roof is thatched with miscanthus reeds. The current structure was rebuilt in the early 1700s on what was thought to be the original site. However, excavations have shown this to be untrue. In fact, the area now believed to be the real Jogyodo Site is about 9m south of the Lotus Hall's earthen platform. Archaeological digs revealed the site to be poorly preserved; not a single foundation stone was unearthed. The site on which the Lotus Hall is thought to have stood is at the northeast corner of the temple grounds. The earthworks on which the hall would have stood are about 3m by a little more than 15m. 23 foundation stones remain on the nearly 50cm platform over which rounded stones had been laid. According to the results of archaeological excavations carried out here, the Lotus and Jogyodo Halls and the corridor connecting the two appear to have been planned and built as a unit, and to have coexisted for some time thereafter. 【Kondo Enryuji Temple Remains】<br>Fujiwara no Motohira, second lord of Hiraizumi and Motsuji's sponsor, spared no expense on this temple of imperial vow. The principal image is a statue of Yakushi, the healing Buddha, by one of Kyoto's most famous and skilled Buddhist sculptors, Unkei. Winglike corridors extended east-west from Motsuji's central hall before bending southward. At the end of the east wing stood a shuro (belfry), on the west side a kyoro (sutra repository). The hall's foundation stones are embedded in the earthen platform. The Sutra Repository housed copies of the Buddhist canon (sutras). It stood at the end of the west corridor of the temple's main hall, paired with the belfry to the east. 【Shuro Remains】<br>This bell tower stood at the end of the main hall's eastern wing. The rain gutter surrounding the base fed directly into the pond. 【Rock Groupings of a Promontory and an Islet】<br>One of the most striking features of the Motsuji Temple garden is the rock formation representing peninsular sea cliffs in the southeast of Oizumi ga Ike Pond. The jutting, dramatic rock configuration ends with a powerful, 2m vertical statement, pulling together the entire garden's scenery. This decorative stone element has come to symbolize and represent the garden as a whole. 【Iris Garden】<br>30,000 flowers representing 300 flower varieties of bloom in Motsuji's 30 hectare iris garden. The garden began in 1953 as a small planting in front of the Kaisando Hall as the result of a proposal by Hiraizumi citizens. The following year the temple received 100 flowers (each a different variety) from Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo. The collection has continued to grow since then. The Iris Festival is now open to the public. Events during the festival include performances of the Ennen no Mai longevity rites, children's sketching events, and Japanese music concerts. 【Nandaimon Gate Remains】<br>Azuma Kagami, the official history of the Kamakura Shogunate, lists a two-story great gate leading into Motsuji. The 12 foundation stones remain undisturbed, revealing the gate's three-bay (east-west) by two-bay (north-south) layout. From ancient times in both Japan and China, poling boards were driven vertically into the earth to support the sides of pits excavated for building foundations and earthworks. However, the discovery here and across the pond at the Lecture Hall site of not just the boards but also the posts holding them together was a first. The remains of a fence, gutter, and the strip of land between them were discovered extending from the east of the gate. The base of the fence was more than 3m wide, the gutter about 1.8m, and the strip of land between them more than 2.4m across. This suggests a fence of about 3m, which would have been quite imposing.  If we suppose that these were part of the original construction here, that would mean that this area was constructed on the same model and a similar scale as the roads and fences around the palace in Kyoto. Excavations in the capital area have yet to turn up a complete triumvirate combination of fence, land, and gutter, and the enormous size of those at Motsuji is indicative of this temple's unusual status and nature. 【Oizumi ga Ike Pond】<br>The center and centerpiece of Motsuji's temple garden is the seasonal beauty of Oizumi ga Ike. This pond measures 180m east-west by 90 north-south, and is unchanged since the garden was created in the twelfth century. An arc-shaped island roughly 70m by 30m dominates the middle of the lake. Naturally round stones cover both it and the perimeter of the pond. In the past, bridges connected the island to the shore. On the gate side was a 17-bay arched bridge, on the Hondo (Main Hall) side a 10-bay skewed bridge. The bridge-anchoring stones from the four corners of both bridges, and the bridge piers of the arched bridge have been unearthed. Two of the piers, each about 27cm in diameter, are on display in the Cultural Assets Repository. These are Japan's oldest bridge remains. 【Basho Haiku Monument】<br>The fugitive warrior Minamoto no Yoshitsune was attacked by his ostensible protector Fujiwara no Yasuhira, fourth lord of Hiraizumi, in 1189. Rather than face an ignominious death at the hands of his enemies, Yoshitsune killed his wife and children before ending his own life. When master haiku poet Matsuo Basho visited Hiraizumi five centuries later in 1689, he was moved by the heroic life and tragic death of Yoshitsune and his retainers and composed the following famous verse: The summer's grass <br>'Tis all that's left <br>Of ancient warrior's dreams <br>A stone monument in Basho's own hand can be found on the Motsuji grounds. 【Kashoji Temple Remains】<br>West of the site of Motsuji's main hall, Enryuji, stands an earthen platform surrounded by cedars. Enormous foundation stones lie here, at what is believed to be the site of Kashoji, a temple hall recorded in Azuma Kagami, the official history of the Kamakura Shogunate. The site is not only almost the exact same size as Enryuji, but it also has the same configuration of hall and corridors as Motsuji's central hall. This suggests that Kashoji was given equal status in the temple hierarchy. Whether one believes the temple history's account that attributes Motsuji's founding to Ennin (Jikaku Daishi, third head abbot of the Tendai sect) in 850, the question of Kashoji's existence before Fujiwara no Motohira's twelfth-century construction of Enryuji persists. 【Kodo Hall Remains】<br>This hall was reportedly built by Hiraizumi's second lord, Fujiwara no Motohira, and is also recorded in the 1189 accounting of Hiraizumi's temples in Azuma Kagami, the official history of the Kamakura Shogunate. The site where the Lecture Hall once stood is north of Oizumi ga Ike Pond, northwest of the Enryuji site, and northeast of Kashoji. It is nearly square, measuring 25m east-west and 24m north-south. More than a dozen foundation stones can be found on the earthen platform, and there is a slightly raised area just north of center that suggests a Buddhist altar. The pillars of this hall's front eaves are aligned almost perfectly with those of the the north side of Motsuji's main hall, Enryuji, pointing to a close connection between the two structures. It seems likely that the two were planned and constructed together. 【Kyoro Remains】<br>The Sutra Repository housed copies of the Buddhist canon (sutras). It stood at the end of the west corridor of the temple's main hall, paired with the belfry to the east. 【Jogyodo Hall】<br>The current structure was rebuilt in 1732 to extend the military fortunes of the lord of Sendai, Date Yoshimura. Under the hall's pyramidal roof is a dais on which is the primary object of worship, the Amida Buddha, flanked by four bodhisattvas. The deity Matarajin is tucked away in the rear as a secret Buddha. Matarajin is a protector of Buddhist praxis and halls, and has long been worshiped as a harvest deity in this area. The hidden Buddha is normally kept behind closed doors, and is shown to the public only every 33 years. Matarajin's festival day is January 20, and is accompanied by traditional devotions and the Ennen no Mai longevity rites. 【Cultural Assets Repository】<br>This facility houses and displays twelfth-century Motsuji artifacts, including Buddhist statues, written works, excavated artifacts, excavation artifacts and records, and costumes and implements used in the Ennen no Mai longevity rites. To make the museum barrier-free and accessible to all, we have installed elevators and multipurpose restrooms. 【Sanmon Fudasho】<br>This is where you collect the goshuin (seal stamp) of Motsuji Temple. Bring your stamp book here. Souvenirs are also available here, such as ofuda and omamori talismans and postcards. 【Shofuan Restaurant】<br>This is a place on the temple grounds where you can relax. Soba noodles and sweets are available for purchase. Come rest your legs! 【Kaisando Hall】<br>This hall commemorates Ennin (Jikaku Daishi), third head abbot of the Tendai sect, to whom the temple legend attributes Motsuji's founding. It houses a statue of the Dainichi Buddha and a painting of the three Hiraizumi Fujiwara lords, Kiyohira, Motohira, and Hidehira. 【Tsukiyama】<br>Mountainous rock elements were placed at the southwest corner of Oizumi ga Ike, just west of the great southern gate that was the temple's entrance. Large and small stones have been arranged to rise 4m from the water's surface, simulating a rocky mountainscape. It is thought that this configuration is based on the karesansui (dry landscape garden, or rock garden) concept advanced in Sakuteiki ('Treatise on Garden Making'), the eleventh century masterpiece of garden art and architecture. 【Yarimizu】<br>The feeder stream, known also by its Japanese appellation, yarimizu, was designed to carry water into Oizumi ga Ike. It is located to the northeast of the pond. Its design is based on the geomantic principles explained in the classic garden manual Sakuteiki ('Treatise on Garden Making'). The meandering flow is punctuated by rocks carefully placed to simulate the natural barriers, falls, and obstacles of a mountain stream. Motsuji's feeder stream is extremely valuable, as it is the only one remaining from the Heian era (794-1192). It is also the stage for the annual spring event, Gokusui no En, a colorful and elegant recreation of court recreation. 【Sanmon】<br>This is the entrance to Motsuji Temple. Admission tickets are issued here. This sanmon was originally the inner gate to the Tamura clan residence in the Ichinoseki domain, and was donated to Motsuji in 1922. 【Suhama】<br>The beach element of Oizumi ga Ike Pond is located in the southeast corner, contrasted with the mountains in the southwest. It is a delicately curving peninsula that captures the natural beauty of the coastline. The surrounding waters are particularly shallow here, with large, naturally round stones that appear and disappear with the rise and fall of the pond's water level. 【Hondo (Main Hall)】<br>The Hondo (Main Hall) is the center of contemporary Motsuji Temple. It was constructed in 1989 with authentic twelfth-century architecture. The primary object of worship is a statue of Yakushi that has survived since the Heian era. Two bodhisattvas, Nikko ('Daylight') and Gakko ('Moonlight'), flank the principal image, and the four heavenly kings protect the four compass points around the statue.

Motsuji Temple contains barrier-free facilities so that it is accessible to everyone.
-Elevators (Cultural Assets Repository)
-Multipurpose restrooms

For Starters

  • SanmonThis is the entrance to Motsuji Temple. Please obtain your admission ticket here first. Three plaques can be found here: "Special Historic Site," "Special Place of Scenic Beauty," and "World Heritage Site."
  • Sanmon FudashoYou will arrive at the fudasho right after entering the gate. If you would like a goshuin (seal stamp) for Motsuji Temple, bring your stamp book here when you arrive. It will be available here when you return after having toured the grounds.
  • Poetry MonumentsAlthough it is in an inconspicuous location, a stone monument in Basho's own hand that reads "The summer's grass / 'Tis all that's left / Of ancient warrior's dreams" can be found as you head towards the Hondo (Main Hall) from the Sanmon, along with a nameplate and a third monument containing an English translation by Morioka native statesman, Nitobe Inazo.
  • Hondo (Main Hall)The Hondo (Main Hall) is the center of contemporary Motsuji Temple. The primary object of worship is a statue of Yakushi, the healing Buddha. Visitors usually pray to Yakushi for health and recovery from disease. Omikuji (paper fortune telling) is also located in front of the Hondo. People do not clap their hands at this temple. Instead, they are silently pressed together in worship.
  • Shofuan RestaurantSoba noodles and sweets are available for purchase here. Come rest your legs! Ennen-cha tea, which is only found here at Motsuji Temple, will help you breathe easy.
    Click here for details
  • Cultural Assets RepositoryThe repository is a must for anyone wanting to learn about the history of the temple and life in the Heian era. We recommend going here first.