京のキー Gold for wealth, red for power

Gold for wealth, red for power

A bright vermilion bridge over the Biwa Canal advertises the rather surprising Honkokuzi Temple. While not marked on my map, it was a welcome detour and possibly the most gaudy temple I have ever seen. It manages to out-bling Kinkaku-ji, and must surely win an award for most gratuitous use of decorative gold.

Unfortunately there was no information about the temple, and further research hasn't dug up any more than mention of a golden bell. I cannot quite recall if the bell was a gift from the niece of Nobunaga Oda (Cha Cha) or a sister of the Totyotomi clan, but it forever bound Honkokuzi with gold in the public imagination. The temple has recently been reconstructed, giving architects an excuse to add further golden embellishments, including two shiny gate guardians which stand in stark contrast to the frighteningly lifelike statue of the temple's founder below the prayer hall. Beside another of the halls is a stone basin filled with water. A legend claims that if you wash a coin and keep it with you at all times, then the polished coin will act like a magnet, attracting untold wealth. Rhod duly washed a 500 yen coin (the largest denomination of coin in Japan).

In Buddhism, and Shintoism, red is considered to be powerful and celebratory colour, while gold -of course- indicates wealth and by extension helps to display a temple's influence and power. Honkokuzi would be far prettier without the gold, but is still an intriguing place to visit.

We got a big kick out of the ‘subtle’ Nichiren as Elvis statue…
ted (Email) (URL) - 26 05 10 - 06:54

Hi Ted, Did you visit this temple? I cannot find any information about it anywhere. Do you know anything about it? If so can you let me know. Cheers
Ki - 03 06 10 - 02:57

Hi Ki,

I found it just as you did, while walking the canal back toward town. I haven’t a clue about it, though all the gold and the massive Nichiren statue screams “Viva La Vegas!”
ted (Email) (URL) - 03 06 10 - 06:06

Yeah – it had this gaudy, abandoned feel as if the monks had sold themselves into poverty to afford all the gilding.
Ki - 03 06 10 - 08:53

Here is some more info on the temple-

Honkoku-ji is a Nichiren Buddhist temple in Kyoto.

The temple was originally founded in the 14th century by Nichijô, a student of Nichiin, who moved to Kyoto Roku-jô-dôri from Kamakura. Along with Myôken-ji, Honkoku-ji was considered of the “21 Nichiren honzan (head temples) of Kyoto.”

In the Edo period, Korean tongsinsa missions invited by Japan stopped and stayed for a time in Kyoto. From 1636 onwards, Honkoku-ji was used to house members of seven Korean missions. All together, it was used to house roughly 400 people. The name of the temple was originally written with different characters, as 「本国寺」, but there was an admiration for Chinese and Korean scholarship; Tokugawa Mitsukuni (of the Mito branch of the Tokugawa clan), who had interacted with Korean ambassadors in Edo, supported the temple, so at some point the name was changed to 「本圀寺」, incorporating the character ‘kuni’ (or ‘koku’) from Mitsukuni’s name.

When Korean missions came, each Kyoto shoshidai, as the representative of the shogun, came here to offer greetings, and held a banquet in honor of the guests. According to the diary kept by Kim In Gyon, a member of the 1764 mission, at that time Honkoku-ji had a five-story pagoda with a metal tip, and a garden well-arranged with stones, and bamboo plants. According to a shogunate record of the 1711 mission, monastic residences at many temples, including Shôrinin, Shôyôin, Honjitsuin, and Kujôin, were used to house Korean visitors.

In 1971, Honkoku-ji was moved to Kyoto’s Yamashina-ku.
Ki - 21 03 12 - 08:45

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Rhod and Ki's tour of life in Kyoto, Japan.

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