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Kōtokuji Temple (広徳寺)

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Again, veering off bicycle tracks taken dozens of times made me discover this gem of a temple on the steep slopes of the Akigawa valley. It was well worth the climb!

Kōtokuji (広徳寺), formally known as Ryūkakuzan Kōtokuji (龍角山l広徳寺), is located in Akiruno, Tōkyō, is a Buddhist temple that belongs to the Kenchōji School of the Rinzai sect. It was founded in 1373 and boasts a beautiful old temple gate with a thatched roof. The precinct's surroundings and atmosphere are dignified and abounding in natural beauty. The temple grounds are lined with ginkgo trees that are especially beautiful in the late autumn when they are resplendent in their bright yellow colours. I am planning to revisit Kōtokuji in November with a proper camera.


The main gate of Kōtokuji

The main gate of Kōtokuji


According to temple legend, the wife of monk Shō Chōja (正応長者) first built the hall and invited the 70th abbot of Kenchōji Temple, Kitetsu Shingen (心源希徹), to found the temple. In 1551, Kōtokuji was restored by Ōishi Genzaemon Michitoshi (大石源左衛門道俊) and later granted 40 koku of land from the Tokugawa shogunate. The temple owned about 39,600 square metres of precincts on the right bank of the Akigawa.

The temple grounds with the entrance gate, the Sanmon, and the Hondō (main building) all face east and are arranged in a central east-west axis due to the limited space available. The belfry on the north side and the storehouse on the south side are placed opposite each other over the approach between Sanmon and Hondō, following zenshūyō (禅宗様), an architectural style typical for Zen temples. The Zen-style buildings were restored in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Sanmon (山門)

The Sanmon (山門) of Kōtokuji is a designated cultural property of Akiruno City, along with the sixteen Rakan statues enshrined on the first floor of the gate and the principal image of worship, a statue of Kannon (聖観音像 Shōkan'non-zō).

The Chozuya (washing basin) and Sanmon Gate

The Chozuya (washing basin) and Sanmon Gate


Kōtokuji



Kōtokuji

Hondō (本堂, main hall) and Shōrō (鐘楼, belfry) of Kōtokuji


Kōtokuji


Kōtokuji


Kōtokuji


Kōtokuji


Kōtokuji


Kōtokuji

The tree behind the Hondō is the biggest ilex latifolia (tarajo holly) tree in Tōkyō. It stands 19.1 metres tall and has a circumference of 2.5 metres. Its branches extend 14 metres to the east and west and 15.5 metres to the north and south. Ilex latifolia are evergreen trees that grow mainly in Japan's Tōkai and Kinki regions, as well as in the warm temperate areas of China.

They have broad leaves of a thick and leathery texture. Once the leaves are damaged or scratched, the damaged parts turn black. This colouration does not fade, even after the leaves drop off the trees. In India, people used to write sutra on palm leaves using the same effect. In Japan, ilex latifolia is known as tarayō (多羅葉). The particular tree at the temple is known as Kōtokuji no tarayō (広徳寺の多羅葉). Tarayō and another tree on the precinct, Kaya, are natural monuments of Tōkyō.

Kōtokuji

Kanzeon Bodhisattva (Kanzeon Bosatsu 觀世音菩薩)

Kōtokuji


Kōtokuji


Shōrō (鐘楼, belfry) of Kōtokuji:

Shōrō (鐘楼)


Shōrō (鐘楼)


Shōrō (鐘楼)


Shōrō (鐘楼)


Address: 234 Kowada, Akiruno, Tōkyō 190-0151; phone: 042-596-0021.

Access: a 30-minute walk from JR Musashi Itsukaichi Station. About 7 kilometres from Ken-O Expressway Akiruno Interchange by car. There is a free parking lot available for 20 cars.
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Author
thomas
Read time
3 min read
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483
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Location
〒190-0151 東京都あきる野市小和田234

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