KYO: Chisyakuin Temple

Chisyakuin Temple

Kondo Hall

When I decided to visit this temple, it was for seeing the paintings of Tohaku & Kyuzo Hasegawa. Indeed, those were great (and I kicked myself not introducing this small museum to the past clients), but after the visit, I probably have to restate that the impression of this temple is “still alive”.

On this day, I walked to the temple from JR Kyoto station. It took around 15-mins, but on a sunny day, it was nice, too. (Also, if you stay at Hyatt Regency Kyoto, it would be great to visit this temple, not only Sanju-sangendo Hall.) After the entrance, I immediately entered the small museum where I could see Hasegawa family’s wall paintings. Tohaku Hasegawa (1539-1610, Aduchi-Momoyama period) was one of the most famous and unique painters in this period, and at the same time, he was regarded as a competitor of Kano School who was the nearest the central regime of Japan in that era. He was born in Nanao in the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture, and there are several theories about his life. Anyway, we are sure that he had a broad array of skills of paintings, so his style cannot be said in one word. Here, in this Chisyakuin temple, I could see the paintings of maple trees. He had a son named Kyuzo, who passed away in his age of 26. He painted the cherry trees and after his death, Tohaku put his all energy to finish the maple trees’ one. Those were dynamic, and gorgeous. Those were the paintings on room partitions, so I wish I could see those ones set in the original rooms. Now, it is in the air-conditioned room in this temple, but still worth seeing.

*Those were called “Shohekiga”, and many schools of Shohekiga were developed in the Momoyama period and flourished until the Edo period. This was because the building of castles flourished in that period, and the castles and palaces, symbols of power were decorated with splendid murals.

The aroma of the gardenia welcomed me to the Kodo Hall. It was constructed in 1995, and the screen paintings of Toshio Tabuchi can be seen. The works are called “Four Seasons”, and created using only black ink. He expressed the asperity and the tenderness of nature. I was moved that those were painted only in black ink on white paper, but could feel the nature. Those would be a new treasure for this temple. Anyway, this Kodo Hall is used for trainings.

Then, I moved to the garden which is said to be one of the favorites of Senno-Rikyu, the famous Chano-yu (Tea ceremony). This garden was inspired by the area around Mt.Lushan in China and offers a distinct beauty according to the season. Indeed, the miniature hill was larger than I was thinking, and it was wild, and valiant. Here, I could see the replica of Hasegawa’s paintings.

Finally, I reached the Kondo Hall, the main buildings of this temple where the Dainichi Nyorai, is placed and most of the ceremonies are held. The building itself is not so old, built in 1975. (Before, there was also a hall, but it burned to the ground in 1882.) Here, I did not know why, but was touched to that building, and felt a real religious atmosphere. That is why I said this temple was “still alive”. The building itself was like a mixture of all the Asian countries’ Buddhist temples, and I could meet an ascetic monk walking and praying. He was wearing a yellow robe. Around this Kondo Hall was quieter than the garden and the museum, but if you visit this temple, it would be great to walk to this Kondo Hall. It is not a national treasure, but you will be able to feel that this temple is still the headquarters of the Chisan School of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism.

Chisyakuin temple is the headquarters of the approximately 3,000 temples nationwide belonging to the Chisan School of the Shingon Sect of Buddhism. Shingon Sect of Buddhism was opened by Kobo Daishi (Kukai) in Mt. Koya (Wakayama prefecture) in 835. Shingon Sect fell into decline, and after 260 years, Kakuban resuscitated the Shingon Sect. Then, the place was moved to the Negoroji Temple, also in Wakayama prefecture and it became the central training hall of the Shingon Sect. At the golden age, there were around 6,000 monks. Chisyakuin was one of the sub-temples of the Negoro Temple and the head teacher of the monks was there. As the power of the temple was increasing and was scared by the authority, the temple was broken by Hideyoshi Toyotomi in 1585. The head monk, Genyu escaped to Kyoto, and reconstructed Chisyakuin in 1598, in the year that Hideyoshi Toyotomi died. After that, when Ieyasu Tokugawa took the power, he accepted this temple’s reconstruction officially. In Meiji period, this temple faced another difficulties, because the wave of the anti-Buddhism movement, but in 1900, 3,000 temples of the Chisan Sect of the Shingon Sect got together, and made this temple as their headquarter. This temple has been always a school of Buddhism, and preserved the tradition till now.

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When you visit here, I would like to suggest these;
-      To enter a small museum to see the Hasegawa’s works
-      To move to the Kondo Hall