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Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Kanshin-ji: The Scenic Temple and Its Cultural Treasures

A hidden gem in Osaka for flowers and fall foliage hunting is Kanshin-ji Temple (観心寺). After all, it was chosen to be one of the Flower Temples in the Kansai region! In addition, the temple houses Osaka Prefecture’s oldest architectural national treasure. You can also perform a few simple rituals in its vast precinct. Moreover, the vegan cuisine at Kanshinji KU-RI (観心寺KU-RI) next to the temple is incredible!

Table of Contents

Kanshin-ji’s History

Kanshin-ji is said to be established by En no Gyōja (役行者) in 701, who also founded the Kinpusenji Temple (金峯山寺) in Mt. Yoshino (吉野山). The temple was called Unshin-ji (雲心寺) initially. In 808, Kōbō Daishi (弘法大師) enshrined the gods of the Big Dipper here when he first visited Unshin-ji. Then, he renamed the temple to Kanshin-ji after he enshrined a Cintamanicakra (Nyoirin Kannon, 如意輪観音) as the main image in 815.

The statue is now a designated national treasure and attracts many pilgrims to visit Kanshin-ji when exhibited to the public. The temple was further expanded in 827 after an imperial order was received to make Kanshin-ji a temple to pray for prosperity and peace in Japan.

Kōbō Daishi is a renowned Japanese monk who founded Kongōbuji Daimon (金剛峯寺) in Mt. Kōya (高野山).

At its peak, Kanshin-ji had more than 50 sub-temples, but only two survived the turbulent times in Japanese history. However, it is still a temple worthwhile to visit because of the preservation of the natural scenery and cultural properties.

Tips:
☛ The main image, Cintamanicakra, is exhibited to the public from 10 am to 4 pm on the 17th and 18th of April each year.
☛ Join a tour guided by Kanshin-ji’s priest to discover the temple, including the areas that usually aren’t accessible by the public in the main worship hall, Kondō. Refer to HERE for more details and to reserve! The tour also includes lunch at Kanshinji KU-RI (観心寺KU-RI), a restaurant that is hard to reserve!

Kanshin-ji’s Flowering Calendar

When you visit Kanshin-ji, you will find its plum grove on your left once you pass the Sanmon Gate (山門). The plum blossom here is one of the reasons that the temple was chosen to be a Flower Temple (花の寺) in the Kansai region. The scent of the plum blossoms will make your visit extra pleasant when the flowers bloom.

  • The camellia season is usually from late January to early April.
  • The plum blossoms usually bloom between late February and early March.
  • Varies types of azalea usually bloom between late April and late May.
  • The crape myrtle usually blooms in August.
  • The fall foliage season at Kanshin-ji is usually in November and peaks in late November.

Kanshin-ji’s Kondō and Hoshizuka

The temple’s main worship hall is called Kondō (金堂). The national treasure was first completed around 1400, but the current building is a replica. Nonetheless, it is representative of architecture that smartly combines the Japanese and Chinese Styles.

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In front of the Kondō, there is a stone protected by a stone fence. It is the stone where Kōbō Daishi kneeled on when we worshipped the gods of the Big Dipper.

Each star in the Big Dipper has a mausoleum in Kanshin-ji. Together, they are known as the Hoshizuka (星塚). The seven mausoleums surround the Cintamanicakra in the Kondō.

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You can follow the approach starting from Kondō’s stairs to see each of them (refer to the directory sign in the above photo). It is said that if you worship them in the correct order, your bad luck for the following year will be warded off. Note that the last stop doesn’t stop at the 7th mausoleum. It ends at Keritei Boten-dō (訶梨帝母天堂).

Tip: Remember to purchase a pack of the Big Dipper Salt (北斗の塩). Kanshin-ji’s priest performed a praying ritual for each pack of salt, which means it has blessings from the gods of the Big Dipper. You can use it for food seasoning or as a purifying salt.

Kanshin-ji’s and the Kusunoki Family

Kanshin-ji is also known as a temple connected to the royal samurai Kusunoki Masashige (楠木正成). When he was young, he spent a couple of years training at one of Kanshin-ji’s sub-temples. Thus, he donated money to build the one-story pagoda in the early 14th century after he became a successful warrior.

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As there is only one story, the building can hardly be called a pagoda. But initially, a three-story pagoda was going to be built. However, because of the civil war in which he was involved, only the base was completed.

Thus, the building was named Tatekake-tō (建掛塔), an incomplete pagoda. Because of the building’s history and quality, it is a designated important cultural property.

The Tatekake-tō isn’t the only thing in Kanshin-ji related to Kusunoki Masashige. His head is also buried here. While Masashige isn’t as famous as other samurai to foreigners, he is highly respected by the Japanese.

Because he prioritized people and country over personal interests, Masashige is seen as a role model of a leader and largely impacted the leaders in the Meiji Restoration. This is why his bronze statue was placed in the Imperial Palace.

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Keritei Boten-dō (訶梨帝母天堂)

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The Keritei Boten-dō (訶梨帝母天堂) on the side of the approach to Kondō is also related to the Kusunoki family. It was built by Kusunoki Masashige’s brother, Kusunoki Masatsura (楠木正行).

The Kariteiboten (訶梨帝母天) was a deity who became a disciple of the Gautama Buddha. Apparently, she was a mother who spoiled her children and wouldn’t be hesitant to kill human children.

The Buddha hid her favorite child to guide her to the right way of living. The loss of the child made her extremely sad and desperate. When she finally came to the Buddha for a solution, the Buddha asked her to think about the feeling that she would have if she only had one child and lost him. Kariteiboten only lost one out of 500 children, and she was nearly insane. How about the mother who only had one child?

Taking in the Buddha’s teaching, Kariteiboten became a guardian of Buddhism and children, answering the prayers of safe delivery.

Other Attractions in Kanshin-ji

Other buildings in Kanshin-ji’s precinct include the Goei-dō (御影堂), which was completed in the mid-Edo period for Kōbō Daishi, and the Kaisan-dō (開山堂), which enshrines Jichie (実恵), who completed the temple’s expansion.

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Close to Goei-dō, there is a loop trail called Shikoku 88 Sacred Sites Sand Trail (四国八十八ケ所霊場 お砂踏み道). The sand from each temple in the 88 Shikoku Pilgrimage is placed in a jar embedded in the ground.

It is said that you will receive the same blessing as those who have done the pilgrimage if you step on all the sand jars here.

At the west end of the precinct, the Onchō Kōdō (恩腸講堂) was built by using the material of the building built for the enthronement ceremony of the Emperor Shōwa. The building was completed in 1930 and designated as a national important cultural property in 2017.

Refer to the second page of the PDF HERE for Kanshin-ji map.

Kanshin-ji’s Opening Hours, Admission Fee, and Access Information

  • Kanshin-ji is open from 9 pm to 5 pm.
    • The last admission is at 4:30 pm.
  • The admission fee is
    • 300 yen for adults
    • 100 yen for elementary and junior high school students
    • 1,000 yen on the 17th and the 18th of April when the Cintamanicakra is exhibited to the public.
  • To get to Kanshin-ji by public transport, take a Nankai or Kintetsu train to Kawachi-Nagano Station (河内長野駅). Then, take Nankai Bus Kofuka Line (小深線) bound for Kongosan Ropeway-mae (金剛山ロープウェイ前) and get off at Kanshinji (観心寺). You can also take the Kobukidanchi Line (小吹台団地線) bound for Kobukidai (小吹台団地).
  • Use one of the Japan Transport Apps to plan your visit.

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