Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Daitsū-ji – A Temple Filled with Gorgeous Paintings

Daitsū-ji Temple (長浜別院 大通寺) is a branch temple of the Higashi Honganji (東本願寺) in Kyoto, belonging to the Shinshū Ōtani school (真宗大谷派). On the temple’s precinct, there are many Important Cultural Properties, including the Grand Hall relocated from Fushimi Momoyama Castle, a tower gate from Nagahama Castle, a bell from the Nanboku-chō period (1336 – 1392), and paintings on the sliding doors from the Edo period inside the buildings. Furthermore, Daitsū-ji’s garden was designated National Place of Scenery Beauty.

Ⓒ びわこビジターズビューロー

Initially, instead of a proper temple, it was only a place to teach Buddhism in Nagahama Castle created by the 12th head of Honganji Temple, Kyōnyo (教如) in 1602. At the time, it was called Nagahama Midō (長浜御堂).

At the end of the 16th century, the Higashi Honganji was erected. In 1649, a vast land was given to Nagahama Midō by the second lord of the Hikone Domain. The temple was then relocated to where it is now and upgraded to Daitsū-ji in 1652.

The Legend of Daitsū-ji

Before Daitsū-ji was relocated, its disciples were split into two groups. One group supported the relocation, and others were against it. Because it could not be decided whether or not to relocate the temple, they decided to send a representative to Honganji for a decision.

The guy who set for the journey first was against the reallocation. But on the way, a flooded river stopped him for a couple of days. Without being able to proceed further, the guy went into a teahouse where a gorgeous young lady served him. She did the guy well with him, ended up completely drunk, and stayed at the teahouse for the night.

The sky was clear the following day, and the guy continued his journey to Kyoto. To his surprise, when he got to Honganji, the representative from the group who left Nagahama after him was walking out from Honganji with the headquarters’ approval of relocation.

Failing his missing, he wanted to head back to the teahouse for the comfort of alcohol. But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t find the teahouse. When he asked the locals about the location of the teahouse, he was told there was no such teahouse in the village.

So he returned to Nagahama and told his friends about what had happened. Hearing the story, people concluded the gorgeous girl was transformed by a fox living in the residence where the temple would be relocated. Wanting to transform its home into a temple, the fox tricked the guy so approval from Honganji could be granted smoothly.

It is said that until now, the fox is still living in the attic of the Grand Hall of Daitsū-ji and protecting the temple from fire hazards.

Sanmon Gate (山門)

The magnificent mountain gate of Daitsū-ji took 33 years to complete in 1841. Located in the corner of the city, it is now a symbolic architecture of Nagahama.

The second floor enshrines Gautama Buddha (釈迦如来), Maitreya Bodhisattva (弥勒菩薩), and Venerable Ananda (阿難尊者).

The gate was built based on the Sanmon Gate of Higashi Honganji. Interestingly, when the gate of Higashi Honganji was burnt down in a fire hazard, it was then restored based on the Sanmon Gate of Daitsū-ji (´▽`*).


Daidokoro-mon Gate (台所門)

Ⓒ びわこビジターズビューロー

If you are after a building that was a part of the Nagahama Castle, head to Daitsū-ji’s kitchen. The gate in front of the kitchen is said to be Nagahama Castle’s Ōtemon Gate (大手門). Because it was relocated to be close to the kitchen, the temple named it Daidokoro-mon.

On the doors of the gate, there are marks of arrows and firearms left from the attack of Honnō-ji Incident (本能寺の変).

Hondō Hall (本堂)

The main worship hall has Amida Buddha enshrined. It is said that the worship hall was originally at Higashi Honganji and was moved to Daitsū-ji in the early 1650s.

The Grand Hall – Ōhiroma (大広間) and the Painting: Kinji Bokuga Ume no Zu (金地墨画梅之図)

The Grand Hall is said to be the greeting room – Ekken no Ma (謁見の間) from the Fushimi Castle in Kyoto. The sliding doors in the spacious room are decorated with gorgeous paintings, attracting many visitors to examine the painting in detail.

In the Shoin (書院), another dynamic painting is found on the 13-meter-wide sliding doors.

Ⓒ 長浜別院大通寺

This painting of a vast plum tree is the artwork of the leading painter – Ganku (岸駒), who founded the Kishi School of Painting. Completed in 1786, this painting is one of the best masterpieces of the famous painter.

Painting: Rantei Kyokusuien-zu (蘭亭曲水宴図)

The head monk’s living quarters, Rantei (蘭亭), is another valuable piece of architecture on the precinct built in Sukiya-zukuri style (数寄屋造り). Putting it simply, Sukiya-zukuri is a Japanese architectural style for tea ceremonies.

Ⓒ 長浜別院大通寺

The Rantei was built in 1755. In one of the rooms, you will find Maruyama Ōkyo’s (円山応挙) Rantei Kyokusuien-zu. The painting was inspired by the Orchid Pavilion Preface (Lanting Xu, 蘭亭序), a Chinese calligraphy work written by the well-known calligrapher Wang Xizhi.

While the color is fading, it is still worthwhile to check out this painting of the Winding Stream Party (曲水の宴).

Painting: Koboku Hato-zu (枯木鳩図)

Ganzanken (含山軒), built in the second half of the 17th century, is where the head monk studies. It is also the chamber that accommodates the friends of monks.

What you want to check out here is, again, paintings on the sliding doors.

In one room, there is the Sansui-zu (山水図) by Kanō Sanraku (狩野山楽). The traditional Chinese-style painting depicts the scenery of landscapes. In the other room, the Koboku Hato-zu by Kanō Sansetsu (狩野山雪) is a painting of two doves peacefully sitting on a leafless tree covered by snow. Although simple, we found it appealing.

Ⓒ 長浜別院大通寺

Palanquin (駕籠)

The last attractive cultural property we want to point out is the palanquin used by the 7th daughter of the 15th lord of the Hikone Domain. You might have seen one of these in Japanese period dramas or movies. But have you seen a real one?

This palanquin displayed at Daitsū-ji is painted gorgeously inside with colorful flowers and birds.

Why is it so luxuriously decorated? Because it belonged to the wife of the 10th head of Daitsū-ji. The lady, named Sachiyo (砂千代), was first adopted by the temple before marrying to the head abbot in 1872.

Although not exhibited, there are around 60 other items that she brought with her, including Hina Dolls!

The Two Gardens of Daitsū-ji

The dry landscape garden was designed by borrowing the scenery of Mt. Ibuki (伊吹山). It is why the garden was named Ganzanken (含山軒), with “Ganzan” meaning ‘including the mountain’.

As no water flows in the garden, the sand is used to create the fresh stream flown from Mt. Ibuki.

Contrasting to Ganzanken Garden, the Rantei Garden (蘭亭庭園) is a garden designed for the visitors to appreciate the water features in the garden, such as the pond. Apart from the pond, Rantei Garden is nicely decorated with many old pines and sweet osmanthus trees.

Daitsū-ji’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The temple is open from 8 am to 5 pm daily except from the 29th of December to the 4th of January.
  • The admission fee is
    • 500 yen for adults
    • 100 yen for junior high school students
    • Free for elementary school students and younger
  • From JR Nagahama Station (長浜駅), it is around a 10-minute walk

Chizen-in Temple (知善院)

Ⓒ 公益社団法人長浜観光協会

Another place where you can find a part of Nagahama Castle is Chizen-in. Its front gate was the castle’s back gate.

The Tendai Shinsen school (天台真盛宗) temple was originally at Odani Castle. It was moved to where it is now by Toyotomi Hideyoshi to protect Nagahama Castle from the demons that were believed to be coming from the northeast direction.

In the main worship hall, you will meet the main image of Amida Buddha (阿弥陀如来) with Sunlight and Moonlight Bodhisattva (日光月光菩薩) on his sides. It is said that all three statues were brought from Shoshazan Engyō-ji Temple (書写山円教寺) in Himeji by Hideyoshi when he invaded the Chūgoku region.

Images of celestial maidens are drawn around the Buddha statues. Also, many flowers, such as lotus, are painted on the sliding doors and the ceiling.

At the Buddha and Bodhisattvas’ left, you will find Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The statue was secretly brought out of Osaka Castle when it had fallen and was enshrined here.

Ⓒ 公益社団法人長浜観光協会
Ⓒ 公益社団法人長浜観光協会

Then, following the corridor to the small Kannon-dō (観音堂), there is an elegantly curved Kannon Bodhisattva statue.

Around the 60-cm small statue are some celestial maidens. With a calm and kind facial expression, the Bodhisattva seems to enjoy the music and dance performed by the celestial maidens around him!

The Kannon statue was made in the Kamakura period (1192 – 1333). It was designated as an Important Cultural Property. The worship hall itself also has a long history, which was constructed in 1695 by the first head of a famous carpenter family – Fujioka Jinbe (藤岡甚兵衛).

Chizen-in’s Opening Hours, Admission Fees, and Access Information

  • The temple is open from 9 am to 4 pm.
  • The admission fee is 300 yen.
  • From JR Nagahama Station (長浜駅), it is around a 15-minute walk.
  • From Daitsū-ji Temple, it is less than a 5-minute walk.

Important: As the temple isn’t maintained as a tourist attraction, it is recommended that you give the temple a call before your visit. You can contact them at +81-749-62-5358.

Discover Other Exciting Attractions in Nagahama City

Click the photo to find out where else you might be interested in visiting when you come to Nagahama!

Nagahama, the second biggest city in Shiga Prefecture, is rich in history and nature. Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s success in becoming the leader of Japan in the second half of the 16th century is said to have started from here.

Apart from the cultural and historical attractions, the city will excite shopaholics and figurine manias!

For more information, please refer to our article on Nagahama (=゚ω゚)ノ.

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