Gango-ji Temple (mandala,location,history)

Gango-ji Temple, mandala

The information about Gango-ji Temple is presented here. Gango-ji Temple was added to the list of World Heritage Sites in 1998 as a “Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara”. Gango-ji Temple once boasted a large temple on par with Todai-ji Temple and Kofuku-ji Temple, and its precincts extended 4 cho north and south (about 440 meters) and 2 cho east and west (about 220 meters). Most of what is now called Naramachi was once the precinct of Gango-ji Temple. Gojyu-no-to (five-story pagoda) about 50 meters high was also built within the precincts, but it was destroyed by fire in 1859.

【Gango-ji Temple Location Map & Directions】

Address: 11 Chuin-cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture, Japan
Access (How to get there): Tanakamachi bus stop (about 5 minutes on foot), Fukuchiincho bus stop (about 4 minutes on foot), Kintetsu Nara Station (about 12 minutes on foot), JR Nara Station (about 18 minutes on foot)

【Opening Hours & Closed (confirmation required)】

Opening Hours: 9:00-17:00 (last admission 16:30)
Closed: open year round

【Entrance Fees & Tickets (confirmation required)】

Individual: Adults 500 yen, High School and Junior High Students 300 yen, Elementary School Students 100 yen

【Gango-ji Temple History】

Gango-ji Temple (元興寺) was founded by Soga no Umako as Hoko-ji Temple (法興寺) in Asuka in 588, when Soga no Umako’s nephew, the 32nd Emperor Sushun, ascended the throne. Hoko-ji Temple was a temple of the Soga clan. Incidentally, Hoko-ji Temple is said to have been founded from the late 6th to early 7th century, and according to the oldest official history of Japan, “Nihon-Shoki”, Hoko-ji Temple was founded in 596. Hoko-ji Temple is the oldest full-fledged temple in Japan, and later became known as Asuka-dera Temple after its place name. Because of the Taika-no-kaishin in 645, the main branch of the Soga clan was destroyed, but Asuka-dera Temple (Hoko-ji Temple) became one of the four major temples along with Daikan-daiji Temple (Daian-ji Temple), Kawara-dera Temple and Yakushi-ji Temple and received the patronage of the imperial court as one of the four major temples. In 710, the capital was moved to Heijo-kyo, and in 718, Asuka-dera Temple (Hoko-ji Temple) was also moved to Heijo-kyo and the name of the temple was changed to “Gango-ji Temple”. The name “Gango-ji Temple” comes from the words “Buppo Gango-no-ba, Seikyo Saisho-no-chi (仏法元興之場、聖教最初の地)”. During the Nara period (710-794), Gango-ji Temple flourished as the dojo (center) of the Sanron and Hosso sects, and was a major temple along with Todai-ji Temple and Kofuku-ji Temple. The temple precinct of Gango-ji Temple was 4 cho north and south (about 440 meters) and 2 cho east and west (about 220 meters), covering most of what is now known as Naramachi. During the Heian period (794-1185), when the Ritsuryo Seido (system) collapsed and the Kandaiji (official temple) disappeared, Gango-ji Temple gradually declined, and Gango-ji Temple came under the control of Kofuku-ji Temple and Todai-ji Temple. According to the “Dosha Sonshoku Kenrokucho” written in 1035, Kondo (main hall) and other temple buildings were in ruins. In the late Heian period (794-1185), when the Mappo Shisou (the end of the Buddhism) spread and the Amida Shinko (the belief in Amida) flourished, the do (hall) that enshrined the mandala was called Gokurakuin and developed. In Gokurakuin the Jodo mandala, that Chiko-hoshi sensed during the Nara period (710-794) was enshrined. Also at Genko-ji Temple, the eleven-faced Kannon statue housed at Chu-mon gate, known as the Chumon Kannon, also attracted devotees. During the Kamakura period (1185-1333), the temple complex of Genko-ji Temple was dismantled and the Do (hall) and To (pagoda) were scattered. In 1246, the fourth and fifth layers of Gojyu-no-to (five-story pagoda) and the Sorin were lost, and Nan-daimon gate and Shoro (bell tower) were said to have been severely damaged. In 1451, a fire attack occurred during Do-ikki, and the main temple buildings such as Shotoin and Kondo, as well as the Jodo mandala, were destroyed. Later, Kondo was rebuilt, but in 1472, Kondo was destroyed by a great wind. After that, Gango-ji Temple was divided into three parts: Gokurakuin (Gokurakubo), which enshrines the mandala, Kannondo, which is centered around Gojyu-no-to (five-story pagoda), and Shotoin. During the Muromachi period (1336-1573), Gokurakuin was controlled by the Daijo-in Temple, a sub-temple of Kofuku-ji Temple, and its monks were belonged to the Saidai-ji Temple School of the Shingon Ritsu sect. In the Edo period (1603-1867), many high monks were produced from the Gokurakuin, which belonged to Saidai-ji Temple. In 1707, Kokuzodo (Main Hall) was built in the divided Shotoin. In 1859, Kannondo and Gojyu-no-to (five-story pagoda) in the divided Kannondo were burned down. Kannondo was rebuilt in 1930. After the Meiji Restoration, Gokurakuin became uninhabited. Beginning in 1932, Gokurakuin was revived under the de facto control of Hozan-ji Temple, the head temple of the Shingon Risshu sect. In 1955, Gokurakuin was renamed Gango-ji Gokurakubo, and in 1977 it was further renamed Gango-ji Temple.
*reference・・・Gango-ji Temple website

【Gango-ji Temple Highlights (May be undisclosed)】

★Hondo (Main Hall, 本堂, National Treasure) was once Sobo where monks such as Chiko-hoshi and Raiko-hoshi lived during the Nara period (710-794) , and was reconstructed in 1244. Sobo was a long east-west building, the east side of which became Hondo. Hondo enshrines the mandala. Hondo is said to be the sacred birthplace of Jodo-kyo in Nanto (Nara).
★Zenshitsu (禅室, National Treasure) was once Sobo where monks such as Chiko-hoshi and Raiko-hoshi lived during the Nara period, and was reconstructed in 1244. Sobo was a long east-west building, the west side of which became Zenshitsu. Zenshitsu was once called Kasuga-yogodo.
★To-mon (East Gate, 東門, Important Cultural Property) was built in the late Kamakura period (1275 – 1332) as the mon (gate) to Toman-in Temple of Todai-ji Temple, and was moved to Gango-ji Temple during the Oei period (1394-1427). To-mon is now the main gate of Gango-ji Temple.
元興寺見どころ (Gango-ji Temple Highlights)

【Events (confirmation required)】

★Setsubun Saito Goma-e (節分柴燈護摩会) is held every year on Setsubun (the day before Risshun). On Setsubun Saito Goma-e, the statue of Namikiri Fudo Myoo and the statue of Tankai Fudo Myoo of Hozan-ji Temple are taken to the inner room of Hondo to pray for the prevention of bad luck, safety at the home, and the fulfillment of one’s wishes. In the precincts of the temple, Saito Ogoma-ku and Hiwatari are held by Doushi and Yamabushi to pray for good fortune and to ward off evil spirits.
★Jizo-e Manto Kuyo (地蔵会万灯供養) is held every year on August 23th and 24th. At Jizo-e Manto Kuyo, tomyo-zara (lantern plates) with prayers written in ink are lined up on the temple grounds, rapeseed oil is poured over them, and the igusashin wicks are lit. At Jizo-e Manto Kuyo, dedicated performances and events are held, and food stalls are set up.

【Flower Calendar (cherry blossoms, etc )】

★The best time to see cherry blossoms (桜) is from early April to mid-April. Somei Yoshino, Yae-zakura, and Yoko-zakura are planted between Zenshitsu and Futoden, and the scenery of the cherry blossoms, Zenshitsu, Futoden, etc. is said to be beautiful. Genpei weeping peaches are also planted and can sometimes be seen together with cherry blossoms.
★The best time to see bellflowers (桔梗) is from early July to early August. About 1,000 bellflowers are planted between sekito (stone pagoda) and sekibutsu (stone Buddhas) enshrined in Futoden as memorial flowers, and blooming in purple, white, and other colors.
(The best time to see the plants depends on the climate of the year.)

【Telephone (Please refrain from making phone calls.)】

Tel: +81-742-23-1377

【Recommended Walking Route】

The recommended walking route from Gango-ji Temple is via Sarusawa-no-ike Pond to Kofuku-ji Temple, which is located to the north. Sarusawa-no-ike Pond is one of the most scenic spots in Nara, and it is recommended to view and photograph the pond and Gojyu-no-to (five-story pagoda) of Kofuku-ji Temple together. Naramachi area around Gango-ji Temple used to be the precincts of Gango-ji Temple, and a walk through the area is also recommended.

【Remarks(access, parking, disclaimer, etc)】
If you plan to visit Gango-ji Temple, be sure to check the latest information.


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