Gumyō-ji temple (弘明寺), officially known as Gumyōji Zuiōsan Rengein (弘明寺瑞應山蓮華院) belongs to the Kōyasan branch (高野山派 Kōyasan-ha) of the Shingon School of Buddhism. It is located in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, and is the oldest temple in the city. It is the 14th​ of the 33 temples in the Kantō region according to traditional counting. The principal image of the temple, a standing wooden eleven-faced Kannon (also known as 'Gumyōji Kannon' 弘明寺観音), is a National Important Cultural Property. As of 1889, the area was called Gumyōji Village (弘明寺村 Gumyōji-mura), and later Gumyoji Town (弘明寺町 Gumyōji-chō). Nowadays, it is also the name of the local train station.

Niō gate (仁王門 Niō-mon)

Niō gate (仁王門 Niō-mon)


The temple dates from the late Heian period. According to tradition, it was built sometime around 1044. The Azuma Kagami (吾妻鏡), a chronicle from the Kamakura period, states that the temple was a place of prayer for the Minamoto (源家累代の祈願所 Genke ruidai no kiganjo) in 1181 and that Minamoto no Yoritomo was a great patron. Until the Kamakura period , the temple name was spelt 求明寺 (Gumyō-ji), later the 求 was replaced with 弘 based on the sutra concerning the Kannon. In the Sengoku period, the temple was granted more land by Hōjō Soun, while the Tokugawa shōgun gave the temple 'red seal land' (tax-free land).

In the Meiji period, Buddhist temples were significantly suppressed throughout the country, and Gumyō-ji's territory was confiscated by the new government and its red seal land. In the mid-Meiji period, it had been abandoned, and the temple's records, many of its treasures and even the genealogy of its priests were lost. In 1901, when Watanabe Kan (渡辺寛玉) assumed the abbotship, the temple and the town were revitalised. Rows of sakura trees along the Ooka River were planted at that time. In 1930, the construction of the Keikyū mainline cut right through the temple grounds. The western part, situated on a hill, became Gumyōji Park (弘明寺公園 Gumyōji kōen), with only a part of the cemetery complex remaining.

Gumyōji Shotengai

Gumyōji Shotengai

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View of the Niōmon from Gumyōji Shotengai

A shopping street called Monzen-machi (門前町) leads towards the temple, crossing the road to Kamakura (鎌倉みち Kamakura michi). It is also known as 'Gumyōji Shotengai'. Visitors enter the temple complex from the southeast through the temple gate (山門 Sanmon), designed as a Niō gate (仁王門 Niō-mon), a gate with the two temple guards (niō) to the right and left of the entrance.

Gumyōji

Visitors climb a staircase to the level of the temple complex and then reach the main hall (本堂 Hondō) with a pyramidal roof. On the right edge is the bell tower (鐘楼 Shōrō) and the Fūseki gate (楓関門 Fūseki-mon), leading to the quarters of the abbot and the monks. To the left is the Daishidō (大師堂), the hall dedicated to the founder of the temple.

Niō gate (仁王門 Niō-mon)

The mountain name of Gumyōji is Zuiōsan (瑞應山)

Gumyō-ji temple (弘明寺)


Gumyō-ji temple (弘明寺)


Gumyō-ji temple (弘明寺)

The statue of Kōbō Daishi is said to have healing effects.

Gumyō-ji temple (弘明寺)

The main hall (本堂 Hondō) dates to 1766. The thatched roof was replaced with copper tiles in 1976.

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Shōrō (鐘楼, belfry)

Gumyō-ji temple (弘明寺)


Gumyō-ji temple (弘明寺)


Seven stones (七つ石 Nanatsuishi)

Seven stones (七つ石 Nanatsuishi): according to legend, Zenmui (善無畏), an Indian monk by the name of Śubhakarasiṃha (637-735) whose teachings were brought to Japan by Kūkai, first created the seven rocks as a protective spiritual boundary.

Gumyō Kannon 十一面観音

Photo credit: Gumyō Temple

The principal image, an eleven-faced Kannon (十一面観音) called "Gumyō Kannon", was designated an Important Cultural Property of Japan. It is 181.7 cm tall and made from one piece of Zelkoven wood. The round chisel (丸鑿 marunomi) indicates that it was made in the late Heian period when the temple was reconstructed. The statue can be sen from close (500 JPY admission, no photographs).

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The alley leading up to Gumyōji Station on Keikyū Line.

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Address: 267 Gumyōjichō, Minami Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa 232-0067; phone: 045-711-1231.
Visiting hours: daily 08:00-17:00.
Admission: free.
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