Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Jakkō-in Temple – Ōhara’s Somewhat Sad but Gorgeous Landmark

In Ōhara, other than Sanzen-in, Jakkō-in (寂光院) is another characteristic attraction. The temple on the village’s west side has many maple trees planted in its precinct. During the fresh green and fall foliage season, the scenery in the temple attracts many tourists who are more than happy to make an effort to enjoy the masterpieces painted by mother nature.

Apart from the astonishing natural scenery, Jakkō-in is also a historical landmark. Erected in 595 by Prince Shōtoku (聖徳太子) to pray for his father, Emperor Yōmei (用明天皇), the temple later began to have a deep connection with the Taira Clan.

The History of Jakkō-in


Since Jakkō’s erection, the chief priests have always been nuns from noble families. The first chief priest was the nanny of Prince Shōtoku, Tamateruhime (玉照姫). In 548, she quit her life as a noblewoman and became one of the first three nuns in Japanese Buddhism.

The second chief priest was the daughter of Fujiwara no Michinori (藤原信西), named Awanonaishi (阿波内侍). She originally served Taira no Tokuko (平德子), whose father was Taira no Kiyomori (平清盛), who established the first samurai-dominated administrative government in the history of Japan. But in 1165, she decided to devote herself to Buddhism.

Tokuko, who later married into the Imperial family, was, unfortunately, drafted into the Genpei War (源平の合戦). During this civil war that destroyed the Taira Clan, she also lost her nine-year-old son, Emperor Antoku (安徳天皇). When the war ended in 1185, she was 29. Without any remaining relatives, she decided to become the third chief priest of Jakkō-in to pray for the Taira Clan and her son and changed her name to Kenreimonin (建礼門院).

The Hondō Hall (本堂) and the Treasure Hall Hōchishōden (鳳智松殿)

After Kenrimonin passed away, Jakkō-in gradually deteriorated. But in the 16th century, it was revived when Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s (豊臣秀吉) second wife, Yodo-dono (淀殿), ordered the rebuilding of the main worship hall. The temple also received support from Hideyoshi’s son, Hideyori (秀頼), and Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康).

Unfortunately, the main worship hall was burnt down in 2000 due to arson. The current Hondō Hall was restored in 2005 with the main image, Jizō Bodhisattva (地蔵菩薩), remade.

The building was reconstructed to look the same as the original. This includes important historical features such as pillars built in the Asuka period (538 – 710) and Heian period (794 – 1185) styles. The outer chamber (外陣) is built in the Azuchi Momoyama (1574 – 1600) style after Toyotomi Hideyori’s repair.

The original Jizō Bodhisattva that Prince Shōtoku made and enshrined has 60,000 smaller Jizō Bodhisattva stored in his large body. In 2000, although the outer Jizō Bodhisattva was destroyed in a fire, 3,417 of the smaller Jizō Bodhisattva statues survived!

They are exhibited in the temple’s Treasure Hall Hōchishōden (鳳智松殿) if you are interested.

Migiwa Pond (汀の池)

On each side of the Hondō, there is a lake. The Migiwa Pond, located at the west, appeared in the epic account of The Tale of the Heike (平家物語). One of the scenes in the tale, which describes Kenreimonin encountering Emperor Go-Shirakawa (後白河天皇), took place at the side of the pond, under the cherry blossom tree named Migiwa.

Quite a few Japanese poems have been written to describe the gorgeous view of the pond decorated by the cherry tree.

Next to the cherry tree is a pine tree called Thousand Years Old Princess Komatsu (Senen Hime Komatsu, 千年姫小松). The pine tree used to be a gigantic tree with a height of 15 meters.

However, you will only see the lower part when you get there because it was cut back (the large stump at the left of the photo)…

When Jakkō-in suffered from arson in 2000, the pine was severely damaged. As it was at risk of falling, a decision was made to prune the 1,000 years old tree. The pine is now treated as a sacred tree that receives respect from pilgrims.

Remember also to check out the iron Yukimi Lantern (雪見燈籠) placed close to the pond at the east of the main hall. It was originally from the Fushimi Castle (伏見城) and was donated by Toyotomi Hideyori when he renovated the main worship hall. The lantern is decorated with paulownia flowers fretwork, the family crest of the Toyotomi Clan.

Teahouse Koun (茶室 孤雲)

Before you pass through the second gate of Jakkō-in to get to the main hall, there is a smaller gate covered by moss. The small path from this gate will lead you to a teahouse called Koun and a water garden.

Apparently, this teahouse was made from the building materials used in the enthronement of the Shōwa Emperor. In 1931, a large tea ceremony was held by the 15th Grand Master of the Urasenke tea school, Sen Sōshitsu (千宗室).

In late spring and early summer, you might be able to spot some Moria frog eggs around the pond in front of the teahouse!

Ōhara West Mausoleum (Ōhara Nishi no Misasagi, 大原西陵)

On the hillside at the back of Jakkō-in is where Kenreimonin’s grave is located. In contrast to the Mausoleum of Emperors Gotoba and Juntoku on the village’s east side, her mausoleum is called the West Mausoleum.

From the promenade stretching from Jakkō-in’s east, the scenery is quite stunning during the fall foliage season.

Shiba-tsuke Pickles (しば漬)

One of Kyoto’s most famous pickle styles is Shiba-tsuke, which originated in Jakkō-in. This style pickles vegetables in salt and locally-harvested red perilla leaves.

It is said that the second chief priest, Awanonaiji, created the style. At the time, she received vegetables and perilla leaves from the locals. Utilizing the ingredients, she invented the pickling style to preserve the food.

Nowadays, Jakkō-in holds a pickle ritual (漬け法要) in September. If you participate, you might receive some Shiba-tsuke pickles!

Ōharame Festival (大原女まつり)

When you stroll around Ōhara, the village mascot, Ōharame (大原女), can be seen almost everywhere.

Ōharame represents women from Ōhara, who sold firewood and charcoal in Kyoto by carrying the firewood on their heads. It is said that the model of Ōharame is Awanonaiji, who dressed in this style when she gathered firewood.

Although Ōharame disappeared in the Showa period, you can see an Ōharame procession during the Ōharame Festival in May. The procession consists of female participants dressed in the Ōharame costumes from different eras. They will first gather at Jakkō-in and parade to Shōrin-in Temple (勝林院) before they make their way back.

You can also see Ōharame in Jidai Festival (時代祭), held in October each year at Heian Jingū Shrine (平安神宮).

Tip: If you understand basic Japanese, you can book to be dressed in the Ōharame costume. For more information, please refer to our Ōhara article!

Jakkō-in’s Opening Hours, Admission Fee, and Access Information

  • Jakkō-in is open from 9 am to 5 pm from March to November.
    • In December and from the 4th of January to February, it closes early at 4:30 pm.
    • Between the 1st and the 3rd of January, it opens from 10 am to 4 pm.
  • The admission fee is
    • 600 yen for adults
    • 350 yen for junior high school students
    • 100 yen for elementary school students
  • From Ōhara bus stop (大原), it is around a 10 to 15-minute walk.

Discover Other Fascinating Attractions in Ōhara

Click the photo to find out more information about Ōhara!

In addition to Jakkō-in, a couple more temples in Ōhara are worth your time.

In our Ōhara article, we have also included a couple of dining options for lunch or dinner and general information about the spiritual village. You will also find a recommended itinerary you can follow for a day in Ōhara!

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