Jakkō-in|寂光院

Overview

Maples at Jakkō-in.

The one temple in the Ōhara valley not in the same close-knit area, Jakkō-in can be accessed by travelling through countryside scenery up to a hilly area about fifteen minutes away.  Founded in 594, this temple is most famous for being the nunnery where Empress Dowager Kenreimon-in, whose family all perished in a great battle, spent her last days in cloistered solitude.  Though the main hall and its ancient contents were severely damaged by arson in 2000, it was rebuilt in 2005.  The once great hime komatsu pine tree that was mentioned in the Tale of the Heike was also damaged by fire and later withered, though the trunk still remains.  On the grounds are several small gardens with ponds, cherry trees, moss, and mountain trees, as well as a large iron lantern donated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi when his concubine Yodogimi had the temple restored in the 1600’s.  The path leading up to the main hall is particularly beautiful, and like many temples in Ōhara, Jakkō-in is most lovely, (and most popular), when the fall colors set in.

The path leading up to the main hall is particularly beautiful, and like many temples in Ōhara, Jakkō-in is most lovely, (and most popular), when the fall colors set in.

Features

Hime Komatsu

Jakkō-in's main precincts.

A famous pine tree mentioned in The Tale of Heike as the sight of a sad farewell between former Empress-turned-nun Kenreimon-in and her adopted father, former Emperor Go-Shirakawa, it was said that the “princess pine” lived one thousand years.  Sadly, the tree was damaged in the 2000 arson and soon withered.  The trunk still remains in the garden in front of the main hall with a marker as testament to its history.

 

Main Hall

Burned down in an arson in 2000 and faithfully reconstructed in 2005, the main hall of Jakkō-in is a small affair that nonetheless contains a lot of statuary due to the principal object of worship being Rokumantai Jizō, the deity said to possess 60,000 forms which are represented in the tiny statues lined up behind the larger.  Consisting of a single room, the main hall is an intimate place to offer a prayer, and items from the previous structure can be viewed at the small museum nearby, which contains information about the temple’s history in addition to the fire-damaged original statue.

 

Entrance Gate

Staircase leading up to Jakkō-in.

The most famous image of Jakkō-in is the approach to the temple, a lovely set of stone steps that leads up to a small gate surrounded by overarching maple trees.  In spring and summer it creates a gorgeous green canopy, and in fall the approach famously becomes yellow and orange with autumn leaves, making the entrance to the temple one of the most beautiful parts of the visit.

History

It’s said that Jakkō-in was founded in 594 by Prince Shōtoku, (Shōtoku Taishi), in memory of his late father, the Emperor Yōmei.  Both royals were known for their support of the Buddhist religion when it was first making its way in to Japan from mainland Asia.  Tamateru-hime (later known as Ezen-ni), the prince’s wet nurse and one of the first three Japanese Buddhist nuns, was installed as the first chief abbess.

Historically known for their abundance of nuns from noble lineages, the temple is most famous for being the nunnery where Taira no Tokuko, (later known as Kenreimon-in), mother to the last Taira clan emperor, spent her last days in cloistered solitude during the 12th century.  Her tragic tale is related in The Tale of Heike, which depicts her marriage to Emperor Takakura as part of her powerful father, Taira no Kiyomori’s, schemes to tie his bloodline to the Imperial one.  She bore a son who would become the Emperor Antoku, but the family was forced to flee the capital when the clan’s political power was threatened by the revenge-seeking Minamoto (Genji) clan.  At the final confrontation, the naval battle of Dan no Ura in 1185, her male relatives were killed or took their own lives, and her own mother leapt into the sea holding the child Emperor in her arms.  The Empress Dowager tried to follow them in death, but was fished from the waves by her hair.  Taken back to the capital, Kenreimon-in followed in the tradition of widows at the time and took the tonsure as a Buddhist nun.  She later moved further into seclusion by entering Jakkō-in nunnery in Ōhara alongside a fellow court lady, where she served as a nun praying for the repose of her family.  There, in a hermit’s hut, the former Empress is said to have composed this famous poem.

Did I ever dream
That I would behold the moon
Here on the mountain
The moon that I used to view
In the sky o'er the palace?

Kenreimon-in lived simply in the rural mountains and Ōhara Valley, though she received a visit in 1186 from her adopted father, former Emperor Go-Shirakawa, who was shocked to find her living in poverty as a nun.  Ashamed as she was to meet the prestigious man in her condition, Kenreimon-in nonetheless entertained him at Jakkō-in before they parted for the last time.  The former Empress’ life finally came to an end by sickness and she passed away peacefully in 1214.

Now strictly a Tendai sect temple, in the past Jakkō-in served as both Tendai and Pure Land Buddhist.  Its principal object of worship, Rokumantai Jizō (60,000 Bodied Jizō), was constructed by the head priest in the Kamakura Period and is classified as an Important Cultural Property.  A large iron lantern donated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi when his concubine Yodogimi had the temple restored in the 1600’s is said to have come from the Fushimi Castle.

Unfortunately, the main hall and its principal image of worship were damaged by an arson incident in 2000.  A faithfully recreated new hall and Buddhist image of the bodhisattva Jizō were commissioned and reopened to the public in 2005.  The burned original statue can be seen in the small museum on the temple property, and documents related to its recreation can be found in the Shūzō-ko, a hall in the inner grounds opened to the public a few times a year.  The ancient hime komatsu pine that was mentioned in the The Tale of the Heike as the sight of Kenreimon-in’s last farewell to Emperor Go-Shirakawa was badly damaged in the fire as well and later withered, though the trunk still remains as testament to what remains after the destruction.

Access

Address

〒601-1248 京都府京都市 左京区大原草生町676

TEL 075- 744-2545
WEB http://www.jakkoin.jp/

Admission

  • General Admission - ¥600
  • Junior High School - ¥350
  • Elementary School - ¥100

Hours

  • General Admission: 9:00 – 17:00 (March – Nov.), 09:00 – 16:30 (Dec.- Feb.),
  •                                10:00 – 16:00 (Jan. 1-3)
  • Closed: No closing days

Transportation

  • Karasuma Subway Line ⇒ Kokusaikaikan Station ⇒ Kyoto Bus Route Number 19 to “Ōhara” Bus Stop ⇒ 20 minutes walking
  • From Kyoto Station ⇒ Kyoto Bus Route Number 17 ⇒ “Ōhara” Bus Stop ⇒ 20 minutes walking