Southern Octagonal Hall, Kofukuji

Kofukuji Nara

Temple Kofuku-Ji

***** Location: Nara
***** Season: See below
***** Category: Observance

Kōfuku-ji (興福寺, Kōfuku-ji)
is a Buddhist temple in the city of Nara, Nara Prefecture, Japan. The temple is the national headquarters of the Hosso(“Dharma characteristics”) sect and is one of the eight Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Hosso sect is also known as the yuishiki (“mind only”) sect. The teaching was first brought to China from India by the T'ang Dynasty monk Genjo, whose travels are well known from his journal entitled “Travels to the West". Genjo transmitted the Hosso teachings, as found in the Yuishiki-ron (“Treatise on Mind Only”), to his disciple Jion Daishi,who is considered the founder of the Hosso school in China. These doctrines were introduced to Kofukuji by the monk Genbo (d. 746), who studied in China from 716-735.

Kōfuku-ji has its origin as a temple that was established in 669 by Kagami-no-Ōkimi (鏡大君), the wife of Fujiwara no Kamatari, wishing for her husbands’s recovery from illness. Its original site was in Yamashina, Yamashiro Province (present-day Kyoto). In 672, the temple was moved to Fujiwara-kyō, the first artificially planned capital in Japan, then again in 710, moved to its current place, on the east side of the newly constructed capital, Heijō-kyō, today's Nara.

Kōfuku-ji was the Fujiwara's tutelary temple , and enjoyed as much prosperty, and as long as the family did. The temple was not only an important center for the Buddhist religion, but also retained influence over the imperial government, and even by "aggressive means" in some cases. When many of the Nanto Shichi Daiji such as Tōdai-ji -declined after the move of capital to Heian-kyō (Kyoto), Kōfuku-ji kept its significance because of its connection to the Fujiwara. The temple was damaged and destroyed by civil wars and fires many times, and was rebuilt as many times as well, although finally some of the important buildings, such as two of the three golden halls, the nandaimon, chūmon and the corridor were never reconstructed and are missing today.

Tōkon-dō (East Golden Hall) (東金堂), 1425
Five-storied pagoda (五重塔, gojū-no-tō), 1426
Three-storied pagoda (三重塔, sanjū-no-tō), 1185-1274
Hoku'en-dō (North Octagonal Hall) (北円堂),1210
Nan'en-dō (South Octagonal Hall) (南円堂), 1741
Ōyūya (Bath House) (大湯屋) 1394-1427

Kofuku-Ji, Architecture and Buddhist Sculptures
- Mark Schumacher -

The most famous statue of an Ashura is at the temple Kofuku-jiin Nara.
. Ashura, Asura (あしゅら) 阿修羅 .

Koofukuji Monju e 興福寺文殊会 (こうふくじもんじゅえ)
ceremony for Monju Bosatsu at temple Kofuku-Ji

Children in old costumes parade around the compound.
People attend with the wish for better learning and a good career for their children.

Monju represents wisdom, intelligence, learning and willpower.
. Monju Bosatsu 文殊菩薩 Manjushri .

kigo for early winter

Koofukuji hokke e 興福寺法華会 (こうふくじほっけえ)
ceremony of the Lotus Sutra at temple Kofuku-Ji

On the 6th day of the 10th lunar month (now in November)
At the South Octagonal Hall, reading the Lotus Sutra.
In memoriam of Fujiwara Uchimaro 藤原内麻呂
(756 - October 6, 812 (lunar calendar, now November 13).
He was the father of Fujiwara Fuyutsugu 藤原冬嗣 (775 - 826).

Hokkekyoo, Hokekyoo 法華経 Saddharma-pundariika-suutra

The Lotus Sutra, Hokke-kyoo 法華経、describes various deities as Bosatsu concerned with light offerings.

Niman Toomyoobutsu二萬燈明仏
Sanman Toomyoobutsu三萬燈明仏
Nichi-gatsu Toomyoobutsu日月燈明仏, the Sun and Moon Light Offering Buddhas
Myookoo Bosatsu妙光菩薩

Yuima E 維摩会 (ゆいまえ) ceremony for Yuima
Koofukuji Yuima e 興福寺維摩会(こうふくじゆいまえ)
. Joomyoo e 浄名会(じょうみょうえ)
( Jomyo is another name fro Yuima, Vimalakirti.)

From the10th to the 16th day of the 10th lunar month (now November)
Ceremonies in honor of Yuima.

Fujiwara Kamatari 藤原鎌足 named his villa in Yamashina "Yamashina Temple 山階寺 " and there begun to teach his vasalls about Yuima.
Together with
Go Sai E, Mi Sai E 御斎会 (seven days from Januray 8) and
Saijoo E 最勝会 (seven days from March 7),
this is one of the three great ceremonies at Kofuku-Ji.

Yuima Koji, a wealthy Indian who sought solace in Buddhism, was regarded in China as a paragon of virtue. He is often regarded as the first Zen Buddhist Master. His disupte with Monju Bosatsu Manjushri has often been depicted. His popularity here stemmed from the balance he made between disengagement with worldly attachments and family responsibility, a trait highly valued in the country. Ryukei I himself tried to closely follow Koji's example.
. Sculptor Shimizu Ryukei 清水隆慶 .

Yuima Koji (Vimalakirti) 維摩居士(ゆいまこじ)
Laienbuddhist aus Vaisali, Indien.
Er war ein sehr gelehrter Mann. Als er krank lag, erschien Monju, der Bosatsu der höchsten Weisheit, und beide diskutierten mit

einander. Dabei soll Yuima durch paradoxe Aussprüche (z.B. "Schweigen wie ein Donnerschlag") das innerste Wesen des Buddhismus beschrieben und sich dem Monju überlegen erwiesen haben. Vimalakirti verkörpert eine Laienfigur. Er ist kein Priester und kein Mönch. Seine Person wird in vielen Reliefs und Gemälden als ganz normaler Mann dargestellt. Der Disput mit Monju ist im Sutra Yuimakyoo festgehalten.

Abbildungen dieser Szene finden sich in den Wandgemälden der Höhlentempel in Dun Huang in China und im Tempel Horyuuji, Nara.

- Buddhastatuen . Who is Who
Ein Wegweiser zur Ikonografie
von japanischen Buddhastatuen
Gabi Greve

Vimalakirti debating Manjusri

clover for good luck クローバー

Homepage of Kohfuku-Ji Temple Complex

February, on Setsubun Day: Demon Chasing Ceremony Eastern Golden Holl.
February 15: Nirvana Ceremony (in commemoration of the death of the Buddha)
March 5 : Ceremony in Memorial of Genjo Main office complex.
April 8 : Buddha's Birthday Ceremony Southern Octagnal Hall.
April 17 : Life Releasing Ceremony Hitokoto-Kannon Hall.
April 25 : Manjusri Ceremony Eastern Golden Holl,
May 11/12 : Takigi Noh drama Southern Main Gate.
July 7 : Benzaiten Festival Three Storied Pagoda.
October 17 : Daihannya Ceremony Southern Octagonal Hall.
November 13 : Ceremony in Memorial of Jion Daishi 慈恩大師 Kari-kondo.

akikaze ya kakoi mo nashi ni Koofukuji

autumn wind -
temple Kofuku-Ji
without a fence

Rain at Kofukuji Temple, Nara
Tsuchiya Koitsu 土屋浩一 (1870-1949)

Why Kofukuji Temple is special ?

Kofukuji Temple is an impressive complex of buildings, many of which are National Treasures. In 1998 Kofukuji Temple was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site as part of the "Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara" listing. Kofukuji Temple is the headquarters of the Hosso school in Japan.

Kofukuji Temple was first established in 669AD when Kagami-no-Okimi established a temple on his family's estate in Yamashina Suehara (now part of the Kyoto Prefecture) to pray for the recovery from illness of the statesman Fujiwara-no-Kamatari. Not long after Kofukuji Temple was moved to Umayasaka (Nara Prefecture), and named Umayasaka-dera. In 710 Nara was established as the capital of Japan and Kofukuji Temple was moved to its current site with its name changing to its current one. Kofukuji Temple was the first temple to be moved to Nara and with its central location it grew in power and wealth.

Yoshikien Garden

This is a delightful spot in central Nara, which includes thatched tea houses, a pond garden, a moss garden and a flower garden. Formerly this was the site of a sub-temple of Kofukuji, but a private garden was laid out here in 1919. It is named after the little river Yoshiki which runs beside it. Yoshikien garden was opened to the public in 1989 and is now completely free for foreign visitors.

Admission: 250 yen but FREE for foreign visitors if you show your passport
Open: 9.00 – 17.00 (Last entry at 16.30)
Closed: February 15th – 28th

What to See at Kofukuji

The Kofukuji complex includes two pagodas, located on either side of the southern entrance. The Three-Story Pagoda is on the west and the Five-Story Pagoda (Gojunoto) is on the east. The Five-Story Pagoda was built in 725 by the Empress Komyoh and last rebuilt in 1426. One of the symbols of Nara, it is the second highest pagoda in Japan (after Toji in Kyoto) with a height of 50.1 metters.

The Eastern Golden Hall (Tokondo) was originally constructed in 726 by Emperor Shomu to speed the recovery of the ailing Empress Gensho, and is dominated by a large image of Yakushi Nyorai (the Healing Buddha). Rebuilt in 1415, the Tokondo also houses a 12th-century wooden Monju (bodhisattva of wisdom), long worshipped by scholar monks and today by students and guardians and assistants of Yakushi.

The temple's Treasure House (Kokuhokan) is one of the highlights, with displays of statues and artworks originally contained in the temple buildings. Among the most notable treasures are an 8th-century statue of Ashura (one of Buddha's eight protectors) carved in the 8th century, an even older bronze head of Yakushi Nyorai, and 12th-century carved wooden statues of priests with strikingly human facial features.

There are two octagonal buildings at Kofukuji: the Hokuendo (Northern Octagonal Hall) and the Nanendo (Southern Octagonal Hall). The Hokuendo was built in 721 by the Empress Gemmei and the Emperor Gensho in honor of the first anniversary of the death of Fujiwara Fuhito. The current building dates from 1210 and is only open during special periods in the spring and fall.

The Nanendo (Southern Octagonal Hall) is important because it is temple #9 on the West Japan 33-temple pilgrimage route. Founded in 813 by Fujiwara-no-Fuyutsugu, the present building dates from 1789.

Southern Octagonal Hall, Kofukuji - History

Visiting Nara and Kyoto in Japan, where historical temples and old timber houses mushroomed across the landscape and lined along the alleyways of the ancient capitals, is a close encounter with what we consider as the heritage of Japan. A brief visit to Kofukuji on our way out of Nara Park provided a proper closure to a fruitful day of cultural heritage when we had already seen Horyuji, Todaiji and Kasuga Taisha. A prominent representation of the Nara Period (AD 710-794), the Buddhist temple had seen better days in history, primarily during Nara Period and Heian Period (AD 794 – 1185), when Kofukuji and Kasuga Taisha controlled much of the politics and religion of the kingdom. Since, Kofukuji had gone through a gradual decline. The anti-Buddhist policies of the Meiji Era (1868-1912) gave the temple its final blow, when Kofukuji was forced to be separated from Kasuga Taisha, such that Shintoism could be separated from Buddhism.

Kofukuji is the headquarters of the Hosso sect of Buddhism in Japan. Hosso, known as Yogachara in Indian Buddhism, is the school of Buddhism focused on meditative and yogic practice and believed that human experience is primarily constructed by the power of the mind. This school of philosophy was founded by the famous Chinese monk and traveler Xuanzang (玄奘), who visited India in the 7th century for Buddhist teachings and scriptures. Some of Xuanzang’s pupils were later responsible to bring the teachings of Buddhism to Korea and Japan. As the headquarters of Hosso, Kofukuji was once a large temple complex comprised of 175 buildings. Today, only a few of the original architecture remained. While we were there, the Central Golden Hall was under renovation and covered with scaffolding. We could still, however, admired the ancient architecture of Kofukuji Temple, including the Octagonal Halls, Eastern Golden Hall and the iconic Five-storey Pagoda.

We passed by the iconic Five-storey Pagoda (五重塔) on our way out of the Nara Park.

At 50m, Kofukuji’s Five-storey Pagoda (五重塔) is Japan’s second tallest, and an iconic symbol of the city of Nara.

The beautiful Eastern Golden Hall (東金堂) houses a large wooden statue of Yakushi Buddha.

Overview of the Eastern Golden Hall and Five-storey Pagoda.

Founded in AD 813 and reconstructed in 1789, the Nanendo (南円堂, Southern Octagonal Hall) is another beautiful piece of architecture.

List of donor’s names near the Nanendo (South Octagonal Hall)

The stair down to Sanjo Dori Street was lined with donor’s flags.

A path off the stair led us to a platform where a cluster of small Buddhist shrines stood under a few maple trees.

A beautiful statue stood out from the cluster of shrines.

Reconstructed in AD 1181, the Three-storey Pagoda (三重の塔) is one of the two oldest surviving buildings at the temple complex.

The Nanendo viewed from the Three-storey Pagoda.

Nakatanidou (中谷堂) at Sanjo Dori near Kofukuji is famous for its traditional fast mochi (Japanese rice cakes) pounding known as mochitsuki.

Yomogi mochi at Nakatanidou (中谷堂) are made with a wild Japanese plant called mugwort. These rice cakes were really tasty.

After a long day of temple hoping, we stopped by the relaxing Mellow Cafe for a quick bite. The cafe is famous for its stone pizza oven. We ordered a pizza with top with cheese and Japanese pickles.

And washed the pizza down with a glass of local beer…


The walk from the station is short, but filled with distractions. The smell of yakitori skewers emanates from a non-descript doorway. As you continue to walk up the shopping street, your nose begins to detect another aroma that draws you in. The famous local curry shop Wakakusa provides you with a delicious spinach curry that recharges you and sets you up for the adventure that lies ahead. Passing a shop that sells the distinctive Japanese jika-tabi shoes, you find yourself on the threshold of a more verdant area. The green of the curry you ate reflects the beauty of nature that is so prominent here in Nara. As your path begins to climb, you come to the outer edge of the first temple of the area. The Buddhist temple, Kōfuku-ji, is not as large as it once was, but it still has splendid buildings that captivate and awe.

Five Tier Pagoda

The temple has a somewhat nomadic history. It was first built in 669 AD in Yamashina (now a ward of Kyoto) by the wife of Fujiwara no Kamatari, Kagami-no-Ōkimi. The Fujiwara Clan, founded by Fujiwara no Kamatari, was a one of the most powerful families in Japanese history. The Asuka period (538 – 710 AD) politician and statesman’s clan went on to dominate politics throughout the Heian period (794 – 1185 AD) and had influence right through Japanese history until the Meiji period (1868 – 1912). His descendants almost exclusively held the roles of Sesshō (regent) and Kampaku (chief advisor) to the emperor for a thousand years. Kagami-no-Ōkimi built Kōfuku-ji (originally called Yamashina-dera) in a bid to help cure her ailing husband’s illness. The great irony is that Fujiwara no Kamatari was a staunch rival of the new introduction of Buddhism to Japan and favoured the traditional Shinto religion. Perhaps that is why the temple construction failed to heal him. He died in that year (669 AD) and shortly before his death, was granted the title of Taishōkan and the surname Fujiwara by Emperor Tenji. Kagami-no-Ōkimi enshrined a Shaka triad (statues of Śakyamuni, the historical Buddha, and two attendants) that had been decommissioned by Fujiwara no Kamatari in 645 AD when he defeated the Buddhist Soga Clan that had dominated the past fifty years through the influence of the powerful Sesshō, Prince Shōtoku Taishi.


The temple was moved in 672 AD, the first year of the reign of Tenji’s younger brother, Emperor Tenmu. It was relocated to Umayasaka-no-miya (Umayasaka Palace) in Asuka and renamed Umayasaka-dera. Finally, in 710 AD, at the beginning of the Nara period (710 – 794 AD), the temple came to its current location. When the Empress Gemmei moved the capital from the short lived Fujiwara-kyō, the first temple to make the 18 kilometre journey to the new city of Heijō-kyō (Nara) was Kōfuku-ji. It made up part of the grid pattern planned new city that was modelled on the ancient Chinese city of Chang’an (Xi’an). Kōfuku-ji remained as the Fujiwara tutelary temple and was a powerful and wealthy institution. Over the years it became an important Buddhist centre and an influential political player. Even after the move of the capital to Heian-kyō (Kyoto) in 794 AD by Emperor Kanmu, the temple remained powerful. While the other six Nanto Shichi Daiji (Seven Great Temples of Nara) waned, Kōfuku-ji exercised its political power from afar until the decline in the Fujiwara hold over mainstream politics.

Purifying Water

The Fujiwara maintained a tight grip on power by intermarriage with the imperial family. In the last two centuries of the Heian period (794 -1185), they often made emperors abdicate when they came of age to rule, so that a child would take the throne and the regency of the Fujiwara would continue to govern. Their loss of power came from the establishment of the Kamakura Shogunate (1185 – 1333 AD), the feudal government, by Minamoto no Yoritomo, the first shogun of Japan, in 1192. It remained the protector of Yamato Prefecture through the Kamakura Shogunate. Destroyed by fire and war, the temple was rebuilt each time. Over time, some buildings were not reconstructed, leaving the temple as it is today, missing a few key structures.


Approaching the temple, you first pass a small cluster of red-bibbed statues and a larger statue of Jizō Bosatsu (Kṣitigarbha). The smaller stones you see are varied. Some have the bodhisattva, some have a pair of figures. These stones are called dōsojin (road ancestor kami) and come from the Shinto religion. These stones are guardians of the road and they protect pilgrims and people in transitional stages. The couples depicted on some are Jō-to-Uba (a happy old couple), the kami (deities) of marriage and fertility. This is clearly a crossroads in life, but so is the one that is overseen by Jizō Bosatsu. In Chinese Buddhism, Dìzàng (Kṣitigarbha) is the bodhisattva of hell beings and protector of the dead. He has particular responsibility for children. In Japan, he also has a function as a protector of pregnant women, aborted foetuses and pilgrims or travellers. In this respect, he has become intertwined with the dōsojin. The idea of death being a transitional crossroads is not unusual globally and his dual function makes perfect sense here. As a pilgrim on the roadside, you feel his protection and that of the kami. The red bibs that adorn the statues are placed by families to honour their deceased. Looking at the statue, hope that all of your transitions in life are smooth and continue on your travels.


Passing the tree line that screens much of the temple from view, you suddenly encounter a three-storey pagoda, originally built in 1143. Considered a crowning example of 12 th century pagoda architecture, the sanjū-no-tō (three-storey pagoda) is the oldest extant structure of Kōfuku-ji. According to the Tale of Heike (a Japanese epic about the power struggle between the Taira Clan and Minamoto Clan), the monks of Kōfuku-ji killed 60 Taira emissaries. This led to the burning of the temple along with a much of Nara in 1180. The Genpei War between the clans ended in 1185 with the victory of the Minamoto Clan over the Taira. As the Fujiwara were allied to the Minamoto, the temple was rebuilt and the sanjū-no-tō dates from this rebuild during the early part of the Kamakura Shogunate. The doors of the well-made square pagoda are closed, but as you circumnavigate it, you imagine that you are walking past the four paintings at each cardinal point that are concealed behind the doors. The paintings depict a thousand emanations of four Buddhas Shaka (Śakyamuni), Amida (Amitābha, the Infinite Light Buddha), Yakushi (Bhaiṣajyaguru, the Medicine Buddha) and Miroku (Maitreya, the Future Buddha).


Facing the compound, you sight your first Sika deer. The fearless creatures are protected and have safely lived alongside humans as protectors of Nara for hundreds of years. The legend of nearby Kasuga Taisha, a Shinto shrine of the Fujiwara Clan, states that the kami Takemikazuchi (Thunder God) arrived in Nara on a white deer. Since then, the deer have been revered. The deer approach you and bow. After realizing that you do not have any shika-sembei (deer crackers) to offer them, they move off to find another potential feeder.


As you take stock of the buildings, you turn to your left and head slightly north to view an octagonal structure that is much brighter than the dark wooden buildings that dominate the temple. The Nan’en-dō (South Octagonal Hall) is an important building and is part of the Saigoku Kannon Pilgrimage, a 33 temple pilgrimage through the Kansai region of Japan. In front of the building is an ishidōrō (stone lantern). These are often placed around temples and are used to contain a sacred flame representative of the Buddha. The octagonal structure that commands your attention is a reconstruction of the original, built in 813 AD by Fujiwara-no-Fuyutsugu, from 1789. Looking to the top of the hall, you see a flaming Hōju (Cintāmaṇi – wish fulfilling jewel) at the peak. From the graceful porch, hangs a rope to bang a gong and stepping up, you wish you could see inside. Unfortunately for you, the hall is opened to the public only once a year on October 17 th . The treasures contained within are more mysterious for their concealment. The main statue, created by the famed sculptor Kōkei, is the reason for the pilgrimage as it is of Fukūkenjaku Kannon. This form of Kannon (Guānyīn), the Bodhisattva of Mercy is the Never-Empty Rope Kannon, an esoteric representation that catches stray souls with a lasso. The hall also has statues of the Shitennō (Four Heavenly Kings) and the six patriarchs of the Hossō-shū (Dharma Characteristics School).


The Hossō sect are the Japanese branch of East Asian Yogācāra Buddhism. They are a Consciousness Only school that has diminished over time, almost dying out in China and Korea. The famed Chinese monk Xuánzàng, who brought Buddhist teachings back to White Horse Temple in China, is seen as the founder of the school. His Chéng Wéishì Lùn (Discourse on the Perfection of Consciousness-only) is a key work for the sect. The Hossō sect are headquartered here at Kōfuku-ji, but they once had many temples, but internal money problems split many away from the sect. When tourism began in the 19 th century, many temple owners did not want to pay a percentage of their profits to the Hossō organization, so they began to break away. Today, they have only Kōfuku-ji and Yakushi-ji (also in Nara).


Moving north again, you walk past where the Saikon-dō (Western Golden Hall) once stood. The temple originally had three Holden Halls, but this one was never rebuilt. You end up at the wooden gate of the closed Hoku’en-dō (North Octagonal Hall). The hall was originally built in 721 AD, the current structure was reconstructed in 1210. The hall contains a statue of Miroku (Maitreya), the Four Heavenly Kings and two rakan (arhats). The two are half-brothers from India called Muchaku (Asaṅga) and Seshin (Vasubandhu) and they are the 4 th century AD founders of the Indian Yogācāra School. Turning around, you also pass a covered building. This is the work in progress to restore the Chūkon-dō (Central Golden Hall). The 1811 restoration suffered bad rain damage and is in the middle of a lengthy repair project.


Back at the front of the temple, you walk past the spots that were once occupied by the Nandai-mon (Great Southern Gate) and chū-mon (entrance gate). These, along with the kairō (cloister), were not reconstructed after the fires of war destroyed them. Before you now stands the immense gojū-no-tō (five-storey pagoda). At over 50 metres tall, it is second only in height to the pagoda at Tō-ji in Kyoto, in all of Japan. Originally built in 725 AD by Empress Komyo, the iconic structure you see before you today dates from 1426. Like its three storeyed counterpart, the pagoda enshrines four Buddhas. Rather than being thousands of emanations, the four (Yakushi, Shaka, Amida and Miroku) are in triads with two attending bosatsu (bodhisattvas) each. The square shaped building draws your attention, but it is sealed, so only the outside is visible. The five tiers represent the elements of chi (earth), sui (water), ka (fire), fū (wind), and kū (void). The majestic eaves are completed with a sōrin (bronze ringed finial). Looking up at the classical Japanese pagoda, you feel as if you have stepped into a scene from woodblock print or glazed on a jar. The picturesque building’s transportational qualities enrapture you, but breaking the spell, you make for the only major hall that remains.

Eastern Golden Hall

The Tōkon-dō (East Golden Hall) is a dark, but simple structure. The elegant clean lines give little away as to what is contained within. Originally built in 726 AD by Emperor Shōmu, the structure you see today is from 1415. It was built to help the recovery of the Empress Genshō, who had abdicated in favour of her nephew Shōmu. The construction clearly had an impact, as she lived for another 22 years. Stepping up to the doors, you look into the hall. The dark interior surrounds the main focus of the hall, a large gold lacquered statue of Yakushi, the Medicine Buddha, intended to help the ailing empress. The Buddha is haloed by a golden mandala. Around the Buddha are smaller statues of the Shitennō. These Four Heavenly Kings are accompanied by the Jūni Shinshō (Twelve Heavenly Generals). The Jūni Shinshō are the guardians of Yakushi and are Yakṣa (ogres). They have fierce expressions and spiked hair and represent the twelve vows of Yakushi. Looking at the faces imbued with anger at evil deeds, you can see how these warriors fight sickness and command the 84,000 pores of the skin. These small statues guard the entire dais, not only Yakushi. Next to the Buddha’s left knee is Monju (Mañjuśrī), the bosatsu of wisdom, on the opposite side is Yuima Koji (Vimalakīrti). Vimalakīrti was a wealthy lay practitioner and patron of Gautama Siddhartha (the Historical Buddha), according to Mahāyāna tradition. His inclusion on the altar is highly unusual, as he is not normally venerated in this manner. His discussion of Buddhist doctrine with Mañjuśrī is the basis of the Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra. To either side of these two statues, are large golden statues of Nikkō (Suryaprabha, sunlight bodhisattva) and Gakkō (Candraprabha, moonlight bodhisattva). They are the attendants of Yakushi and complete the traditional triad.

Yakushi Triad, courtesy of Bamse, Wikimedia Commons

After taking in the healing powers of the chamber, you descend from the hall and back to the main courtyard. Wishing to press on to see the rest of Nara’s cultural wonders, you opt not to visit the Kokuhonkan (museum). While missing out on the famous eighth century statue of an Ashura (Asura or Angry God), one of the Hachi Bushū (Eight Legions) present at Vulture Peak as the Buddha expounded the Flower Sutra, you feel that you must take hold of the day in order to visit Tōdai-ji and Kasuga Taisha. The relics of the hall will have to wait for another time. Passing more deer and the Ōyūya (bath house), you continue on your way through the green parks and past bowing deer. The lingering power of Kōfuku-ji urges you forward to take in more of the profound history of Nara. The temple may not be as powerful as it once was, but its story will live on for generations to come.


The last stop in Nara is Kofukuji. Kofukuji was founded by the Fujiwara family, who was of great influence of the politics during the Asuka/Nara & Heian Period. It was originally built in Yamashina (somewhere in Kyoto), but was later moved to Nara when the capital moved to Nara. It is now part of the UNESCO’s Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara.

Do note that the Central Golden Hall is currently being reconstructed (I know, reconstructions everywhere right?), scheduled for completion in 2018.

Scaffolding of the Central Golden Hall, and oh did you see our dear friends? (pun intended) Tokondo (Eastern Golden Hall) and Gojunoto (Five Story Pagoda)

The Five Story Pagoda is the second tallest pagoda in Japan.

Gojunoto (Five Story Pagoda) Nanendo (Southern Octagonal Hall) Hokuendo (Northern Octagonal Hall) Three Story Pagoda

Two round halls at Nara temple give up their design secrets

The Asahi Shimbun

NARA--Medieval carpenters in Japan had a few tricks up their sleeves that astound experts even today.

A pair of octagonal circular halls on the premises of 1,300-year-old Kofukuji temple here, a UNESCO World Heritage site, were built using techniques that make them shake differently in earthquakes.

The differences in the designs of the two wooden structures that produced different vibration characteristics are now understood in a scientific context.

It was the first such study done at the site although similar vibration studies have been carried out at five-storied pagodas and other temple halls.

The findings have important implications for the safety of circular hall buildings that have survived to this day, says the scientist who conducted the study.

The pair of octagonal circular halls comprise the Northern Round Hall (Hokuendo), which is designated as a national treasure by the central government, and the Southern Round Hall (Nanendo), a government-designated important cultural property.

Kofukuji officials said the Northern Round Hall was built for the repose of aristocrat Fujiwara no Fuhito (659-720) during the Nara Period (710-784) when Nara was the capital of Japan, only to be destroyed later in a fire and a war. The existing hall, which rises to a height of about 15 meters, was rebuilt in the 13th century during the Kamakura Period (1185-1333).

The Southern Round Hall was the brainchild of aristocrat Fujiwara no Fuyutsugu (775-826) in the early Heian Period (794-1185) but destroyed by fire on multiple occasions. It was rebuilt in the 18th century during the Edo Period (1603-1867).

The Southern Round Hall, which is slightly larger than its northern counterpart, rises to a height of about 22 meters. It is one of the stops on the “33 Temples of Western Japan” pilgrimage route and is noted for its step canopy at the front.

This refers to the portion of the building where a tiled roof with an undulating gable juts out of the circular hall.

The new study was prompted by the northern Osaka Prefecture earthquake of 2018, which registered 4 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 in Nara.

The temblor had almost no effect on the Northern Round Hall. But in the Southern Round Hall, dust fell from the ceiling and Buddhist altar fittings tumbled on their mount, indicating that the shocks were stronger there than in the Northern Round Hall, sources said.

Kofukuji officials, curious about the difference, requested Kaori Fujita, a professor of architectural engineering with the University of Tokyo graduate school, to investigate.

Fujita conducted microtremor measurements in both halls, spending one day on each in August last year. The survey method is about measuring how buildings vibrate very slightly in response to factors such as a gentle breeze and fine movements of the ground.

The method, which is nondestructive, has been used in the study of five-storied pagodas and other buildings for about a century.

Fujita installed six sensors, each the size of a tea canister, on the ground and on roof beams in each hall to take dozens of measurements of the acceleration of vibrations. Each measurement took roughly between one and five minutes.

She tried multiple sensor layouts.

Fujita realized that the Southern Round Hall had more irregular movements than the Northern Round Hall because of the presence of a step canopy on the former.

The Northern Round Hall vibrated as if it were drawing a circle, just as buildings of symmetrical shapes, including five-storied pagodas, are expected to do.

In the Southern Round Hall, by contrast, the circular hall portion vibrated in what is close to a circular motion, but the step canopy was found to be shifting both lengthwise and crosswise. That likely led the Southern Round Hall to vibrate in an irregular way when seen as a whole.

The shocks from the earthquake in northern Osaka Prefecture apparently had more impact on the Southern Round Hall partly because of the different hall sizes, and also because of the different vibration characteristics, Fujita said.

“Similar studies on wooden five-storied pagodas have been accumulated to some extent across Japan, but until now I was unable to find similar scientific measurements in a traditional wooden octagonal circular hall,” Fujita said. “I believe my study is significant for structural studies of wooden buildings.”

Fujita said it was fortunate that “Kofukuji happens to contain two surviving octagonal circular halls on its premises.”

Octagon Hall

An antebellum landmark built by Andrew Jackson Caldwell, an ardent advocate of the southern cause. Many Confederate soldiers found shelter here. Bricks were made, wood cut and finished, stone was quarried on the place. The house, erected by Caldwell and his men, has three floors, with four large rooms, a hall and stairway. Large basement provided hiding place.

Erected 1967 by Kentucky Historical Society and Kentucky Department of Highways. (Marker Number 503.)

Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Architecture &bull War, US Civil. In addition, it is included in the Kentucky Historical Society series list.

Location. 36° 48.447′ N, 86° 33.454′ W. Marker is near Franklin, Kentucky, in Simpson County. Marker is on Bowling Green Road (U.S. 31W) 0.1 miles north of Carr Road, on the right when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 6040 Bowling Green Road, Franklin KY 42134, United States of America. Touch for directions.

Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. "Sue Mundy's" Grave (approx. 5.7 miles away) Lincoln School (approx. 5.7 miles away) a different marker also named Lincoln School (approx. 5.7 miles away) Old Stone Jail / Jailer's Residence

Also see . . .
1. Octagon Hall Museum. Website for the historical site. Includes history, both corporeal and paranormal. (Submitted on November 2, 2020, by Duane Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.)

2. Octagon Hall (Wikipedia). (Submitted on November 2, 2020, by Duane Marsteller of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.)

Watch the video: Japan trip - Day three - Exploring Nara Kofukuji Todaiji Kasugataisha (January 2022).