Story of Kairyuoji Temple

Kairyuoji Temple was originally established in the Asuka period (552–645) to enshrine Bishamonten, a protective Buddhist deity. Fujiwara no Fuhito (659–720), a powerful member of the imperial court, built a residence here that encompassed the temple compound. In 731, his daughter, Empress Komyo (701–760), renamed the temple Kairyuoji, literally “Sea Dragon King Temple.”

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    Large ema wooden plaque to the right of the temple gate. The wooden plaque shows the dragon from the sea that Kairyuoji Temple was named after.

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    Main Hall. The principal image of the Buddha, the Eleven-Faced Kannon, is enshrined here.

An early temple narrative relates that the eighth-century Buddhist priest Genbo had an important part in shaping Kairyuoji’s history. Genbo traveled to Tang Dynasty China to study and acquire Buddhist sutra scrolls. On his return trip, his small fleet of ships sailed into a fierce storm. Genbo continuously chanted sutras, including the Sea Dragon King sutra, to see his ship to safety. He returned to Kairyuoji with his precious cargo of 5,000 sutra scrolls, became head priest, and established Japan’s first sutra-copying center. The temple was named after the Sea Dragon King sutra.

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    Kentoshi Ship, reconstructed according to documents. The delegation that Japan sent to Tang (China) rode on this ship.

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    At Kairyuoji Temple, they hold a prayer service for having one of their early chief priests, Genbo, return safely from a storm. They pray for the “tranquility of the sea, which is the source of life, gratitude to nature, and the safety of all who cross the sea”. The photo is of a container used at that time. They use ocean water from all across Japan.

Since then, Kairyuoji has survived various periods of decline, sustaining damage during the Onin War (1467–1477), the Keicho Earthquake (1614), and the anti-Buddhist movement of the 1870s. Kairyuoji was most recently revived after World War II. Today, it houses a number of Important Cultural Properties, including the Statue of Eleven-Headed Kannon and the Five-Story Pagoda. Many visitors pray for safety as they cross the seas on their travels or to study abroad.

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    Hand-copied sutras that are said to have been written by Empress Komyo. They have been treated as a temple treasure.

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    Temple gate. It has a calm air to it, typical of an old Nara temple.


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    The approach to the temple. When you pass through the temple gate, the approach continues surrounded by mud walls on both sides.

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    Saikondo Hall (important cultural artifact). This is a building that has been around since it was first established (Nara period), with its treasured Five-Storied Pagoda enshrined.

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    Sutra Building on the west side of the Main Hall. Kairyuoji Temple is the temple that first established a sutra building, done so by the monk, Genbo. That tradition has been passed down to today.

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897 Hokkeji-cho , Nara 630-8001 , Japan
Tel: 0742-33-5765
Visiting Information
Hours: 9:00 a.m. ~ 4:30 p.m.
* During Special Public Display: 9:00 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m.
* August 12 ~ August 17, December 24 ~ December 31, displays are closed due to temple events.
General Entrance Fee:
Adults 500 yen
Junior High School and High School Students 200 yen
Elementary School Students 100 yen
Special Public Display:
Adults 600 yen Junior High School and High School Students 300 yen Elementary School Students 100 yen
Coming on Foot

Approximately a 15-minute walk from Kintetsu Omiya Station.

Coming by Train or Bus

- From Kintetsu Nara Station
From Bus Stop 13, take the bus for “Yamato Saidaiji sta - Koku-Jietai” and get off at “Hokkeji”. It is a short walk from there.

- From JR Nara Station
From the west exit and Bus Stop 15, take the bus for “Yamato Saidaiji sta - Koku-Jietai” and get off at “Hokkeji”. It is a short walk from there.

- From Kintetsu Yamato-Saidaiji Station
From the bus terminal on the north side, take the bus for “JR Nara sta” and get off at “Hokkeji”. It is a short walk from there.

Coming by Car

- From the Keinawa Expressway Kizu Interchange (Kizu IC)
Head south on Nat. Hwy 24, turn right at the “Hokkeji-higashi” intersection, and continue west (approximately 10 minutes).

- From the Daini Hanna Road Horai Interchange (Horai IC)
Head east on the Hanna Road, turn left at the “Nara City Hall E.” intersection, and head north (approximately 12 minutes).

- From the Nishi Meisan Expressway Koriyama Interchange (Koriyama IC)
Head north on Nat. Hwy 24. At the “Komogawabashi-minamizume” intersection turn left and head north (approximately 25 minutes).