Vegetarian's Japan Guide

Raigō-in: The Temple where a New Buddhist Sect Was Born

After you have your fill at Ōhara‘s landmark, Sanzen-in, you can follow the Rosen River (呂川) and enjoy a 5-minute hike to Raigō-in (来迎院). The temple, surrounded by rich nature, sits quietly at the top of a small hill. In autumn, the approach to Raigō-in will be one of the most vivid paths you will trek through in Ōhara.

Table of Contents

Raigō-in’s History

Raigō-in was erected by Jigaku Daishi (慈覚大師) in the Heian period (794 – 1185) as Mt. Hiei’s Enryaku-ji Temple’s training ground for Buddhist hymns (Shōmyō, 声明) in 835.

In 1109, it was transformed into a proper temple by Ryōnin (良忍), who was the founder of a new Buddhist school, the Yūzū Nenbutsu sect (融通念仏宗). It is said that the statue of the main images, the Healing Buddha (薬師如来), the Gautama Buddha (釈迦如来), and the Amida Buddha (阿弥陀如来), were enshrined at this time. All three statues are currently listed as Japan’s Important Cultural Properties.

Together with the Shōrin-in (勝林院) in the north, the two temples were the center of Ōhara which had become a small Buddhist settlement. The temples in the area were referred to as the Gyozan Daigen-ji (魚山大原寺) thrived as a place focusing on Shōmyō and chanting the Buddha’s name. In the early Kamakura period (1192 – 1333), so many monks gathered at Gyozan Daigen-ji that Ōhara had 49 monks’ living quarters.

Unfortunately, the main worship hall, Hondō (本堂), was destroyed several times by fires. The current Hondō was restored in 1533.

Who is Ryōnin (良忍)?

Ryōnin was born in the Aichi Prefecture in 1072 and entered Enryaku-ji in Mt. Hiei when he was 13. However, Enryaku-ji underwent a severe power conflict in the late Heian period. Being sick of the continuous disputes, he left Mt. Hiei for Ōhara for peace.

In Ōhara, he continued chanting the name of Amida Buddha. But sometimes, he wasn’t sure what he was chanting for. After some self-reflection and consulting the Buddhist sutras, he had a dream one night.

In his dream, Amida Buddha told Ryōnin to pass on the benefits of chanting his name to all creatures so they could also be born into the Pure Land one day. He would also benefit from the chanting by others to be welcomed to the Pure Land when he was ready to depart this world.

Based on this teaching, he started a new sect called Yūzū Nenbutsu (融通念仏), and traveled to Osaka and other parts of Kyoto to spread this teaching.

The Sanmon Gate of Raigō-in

It will be a relief once you see Raigō-in’s approach entrance in the Instagram Post. It means there is no more tiring hike from here to the temple’s Sanmon Gate, as shown in the photo below!

The Kaikan Hall (会館) at the other side of the gate is the reception of the temple and where you pay your admission (refer to the 2nd photo in the IG post). You can also ask for a Goshuin (御朱印) if you are collecting.

In addition, the building is where sutra copying takes place each day. If you are interested, enquire with the reception staff.

Hondō (本堂)

Passing the Kaikan Hall, there are some stairs to climb before you get to the main worship hall.

But you will see the bell tower first. The bell that hangs in the tower was made in 1435, a Kyoto Prefecture‘s Cultural Property. You can refer to the second photo in the Instagram post.

You might find the scale of the Hondō is unusually big compared to the size of its precinct. But if you consider that Raigō-in was a large training ground for Buddhist hymns, you will realize that the scale was necessary to house the number of monks who studied in the temple centuries ago.

In the main worship hall, you will meet the three Buddha statues made at the beginning of the 12th century. The Healing Buddha is in the middle, with Gautama Buddha on his left and the Amida Buddha on his right.

The ceiling above the three Buddha statues is painted with pictures of dancing celestial maidens.

When we visited Raigo-in, a special exhibition of the valuable paintings in the temple’s storage, Nyorai-zō, was held in the main hall. So we were fortunate enough to see the paintings of Mt. Hiei‘s eminent monks, such as Jigaku Daishi, and various mandalas (refer to the 2nd to the last photos in the IG post).

Chinju-dō (鎮守堂), Jizō-dō (地蔵堂), and The Mausoleum of Ryōnin (良忍御廟)

Hiking further up from the stairs at the right of Hondō, there are two small shrines. One is for the guardian god of Ōhara, and the one at the left is for Jizō Bodhisattva (地蔵菩薩).

The Jizō-dō is rather simple. Rather than a shrine, it is more like a shelter for the many Jizō statues underneath it.

On the precinct of Raigō-in, a small river called Rissen (律川) flows. Across the river, at the far end of the temple, is where Ryōnin rests in peace. Refer to the second photo in the Instagram post of the bridge crossing the Rissen.

Before Ryōnin passed away, he traveled back to Raigō-in and departed to the Buddha’s world when he was 60.

Between the bridge and the Mausoleum, there is a large stone monument. It was placed in 1931 to commemorate the master’s 800th anniversary (the 2nd and the 3rd photo in the IG post).

The mausoleum in the last photo in the Instagram post was built in 1132. It is shaped like a three-story pagoda and is one of Japan’s Important Cultural Properties.

Nyorai-zō Storage (如来蔵)

At the back of Hondō, the white storage is called Nyorai-zō. It was built under Ryōnin’s instruction to store Buddhist sutras.

Day in and day out, Ryōnin studied the sutras stored here. This is how he searched for the reason for chanting Amida Buddha’s name.

The storage makes us think. If we also devote ourselves to studying the sutra every day, could we also become a master like Ryōnin (。´・ω・)??

In May and November, some of the treasures stored in Nyorai-zō are exhibited in the main worship hall. It is your chance to see the Mandala of the Womb Realm and Matrix Realm (両界曼荼羅) drawn by Jigaku Daishi and a painting of the scene where Amida Buddha comes to welcome a person to the Pure Land with Kannon Bodhisattva and Mahasthamaprapta.

Raigō-in’s Fall Foliage Season

The fall color usually peaks at Raigō-in from mid to late November.

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

  • The temple is open from 9 am to 5 pm.
  • The admission fee is
    • 400 yen for adults
    • 500 yen in May and November when special exhibitions are held
  • From the bus stop, Ōhara (大原), it is around a 10-minute walk.

Otonashi Falls (音無の滝)

From Raigō-in’s front gate, a path leads to Otonashi Falls. Depending on your physical stamina and how fast you walk, getting to Otonashi Falls can be tiring.

Because we were in a hurry and wanted to reach Otonashi Falls as soon as possible, we raced uphill and got there in 5 minutes from Raigō-in.

The waterfall goes hand in hand with Raigō-in as it is just a 15-minute walk away. Moreover, it is where Ryōnin practised Buddhist hymns centuries ago. It is said that when he sang the hymn here, his voice synchronized with the sound of the waterfall to the point that all you could hear was Ryōnin’s hymn (=゚ω゚)ノ.

Depending on whether it has just rained, the magnificence of the three-tier waterfall changes. But even if there isn’t much water falling, it is still a nice spot for the surrounding natural scenery.

Discover Other Fascinating Attractions in Ōhara

Click the photo to find out more information about Ōhara!

In addition to Raigō-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!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *