This is Japan’s tallest pagoda and definitely worth seeing. Toji means “East Temple” and it served as one of two spiritual guardians for Kyoto when it was the capital city in 769. The West Temple and the Rashomon Gate have long since disappeared. In 823, Emperor Saga placed a monk named Kukai (also known as Kobo Daishi) in charge of the temple. After studying in China, Kukai founded the Shingon sect of Buddhism. Since he also had experience in civil engineering, he was able to model and construct buildings that have stood the test of time.
The main hall and largest building, Kondo Hall, houses the temple’s main object of worship, a large wooden statue of Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of Medicine. This Buddha is flanked by two attendants, Nikko and Gakko Bodhisattvas who are dedicated to the enlightenment of all humanity. This building was destroyed by fire in 1486 and reconstructed exactly like the original. People come to this hall to pray for spiritual and physical health.
Kodo Hall is next to the Kondo Hall. Originally built in 825 as a lecture hall, it too was burned in the 1486 fire. When reconstruction took place, 19 statues, all imported from China, were placed and arranged in a mandala pattern. These statues are surrounded by Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and kings.
The five-storied pagoda is across the way from the halls and stands 57 meters tall, making it the tallest wooden pagoda in Japan. As stunning as you will find the exterior of the structure, you wouldn’t guess that the structure was constructed with such a robust design that it is earthquake-proof. The interior of the pagoda is only accessible to the public during certain hours, but inside you will find four statues of the Buddha facing all four directions.
On the 21st of each month, a flea market is held on the temple grounds beginning in the early morning hours and concluding around 4:30 p.m. Vendors sell a variety of items, such as clothes, pottery, toys, kimono, antiques, and food. An antique market is held on the first Sunday of the month.
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