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. The temple surrounded by rich nature is quietly sitting at the top of a small hill. In fall, the approach to Raigō-in will be one of the most vivid paths you will trek through in Ōhara.
Raigō-in (来迎院) 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, it was referred to as the Gyozan Daigen-ji (魚山大原寺) that thrived as a temple focused on chanting the Buddha’s name. In the early Kamakura period (1192 – 1333), so many monks gathered at Raigō-in that the temple used to have 49 monks’ living quarters.
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 chose to leave Mt. Hiei for Ōhara for peace.
In Ōhara, he continued chanting the name of Amida Buddha. But there were times that 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 him to pass on the benefits of chanting his name to all creatures so they could also be born into the Pureland one day. He would also benefit from the chanting by others so that he would be welcomed to the Pureland when he was ready to depart this world.
Based on this teaching, he started a new sect called Yūzū Nenbutsu, and traveled to Osaka and other parts of Kyoto to spread this teaching.
The Sanmon Gate of Raigō-in
After a short walk from Raigō-in’s approach entrance in the photo above, you will arrive at the Sanmon Gate of the temple.
The Kaikan Hall (会館) at the other side of the gate is the reception of the temple and where you pay your admission, as well as where you can ask for a Goshuin (御朱印) if you are collecting.
Passing the Kaikan Hall, there will be some stairs to climb before you get to the main worship hall.
But you will see the bell tower first. The bell which hangs in the tower was made in 1435, a Kyoto Prefecture‘s Cultural Property.
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 used to be 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 sitting 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.
Nyorai-zō Library (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 library makes us think. If we also devote ourselves to studying the sutra every day, could we become a master like Ryōnin too (。´･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 Pureland with Kannon Bodhisattva and Mahasthamaprapta.
Chinju-dō (鎮守堂) and Jizō-dō (地蔵堂)
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.
The Mausoleum of Ryōnin (良忍御廟)
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.
Before Ryōnin passed away, he traveled back to Raigō-in and departed to the Buddha’s world when he was 60.
The grave, built in 1132, is shaped like a three-story pagoda. It is currently one of Japan’s Important Cultural Properties.
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 Fees, 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 the entrance of Raigō-in, a path leads to Otonashi Falls.
The waterfall goes hand in hand with Raigō-in as it is just a 15-minute walk away. Moreover, it is where Ryōnin practiced 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
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!