Kotoku Temple (Kotoku-ji Temple) is a temple belonging to the Shingon sect Toyozan school. According to official records the temple den, the main hall and the monastery were destroyed by fire in both Shoho (1644 – 48) and Kyoho (1716 – 1736) eras. However, incredibly and luckily for us, except for the Omido and Niomon, the temple went unscathed.
When you enter the grounds of the temple you will see the beautiful Nioman Gate. The Nioman gate is guarded by two Nio guardians.
They represent the first and last letter of the Sanskrit alphabet. The one on the left has his mouth open for “ah” and the one on the right has his mouth closed-mouthed for “un”.
The “Omido” of the temple is a nationally designated important cultural property. It is one of only a few Kanto style thatched roofed temple still in existence today. An Omido is a type of Amida-do, Amitabha hall, built in the Kamakura period. It was the time of the Amidist Pure Land schools of Buddhism, which emphasized salvation through faith in Amitabha.
These type of Omido or Amitabha (Skanda, Phoenix etc) “halls” are collectively referred to as “temple halls”. The use of the word hall comes from its use in English as a meeting place, like a village hall or assembly hall, rather than the entrance in a house or building. Some temple halls are mammoth such as the famous Todai-ji, but often they are quite small, like the one in Kawajima.
The temple and temple hall were originally built in the 13th century. But the temple hall (omido) was rebuilt at the end of the Muromachi period, so around the 16th century. It has stood unscathed in exactly that form since that day; thatch roof and all. It is quite rare to see a temple with a thatch roof these days. I’ve seen period houses with thatch roofs, such as at the Yoshida Folk House or Nanbata Castle Park. But I think Kotoku-ji is the only temple I’e ever seen with a thatch roof in the Kanto plain.
The main hall is in an enclosed garden to the right of the Omido (if you are facing it). The path from the Nio gate leads to it. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if you could go in, but the gate was open and there was no sign saying not to enter, so we went in. We were the only people there. And it was magical. Like stepping into a secret garden. The garden isn’t particularly big, but it has a water feature and cherry blossoms, so it is best seen in spring.
The biggest surprise of my visit in the spring of 2020 was the stunning garden at the main temple. We visited for the history and to appreciate the thatch roof, but the beautiful cherry blossoms were a very welcome bonus. They are early bloomers too – they were already in full bloom on March 19th. There is a beautiful weeping cherry blossom too.
Before our visit I had found no mention of the cherry blossoms online. When I got home that day, after our visit, I searched high and low online to see if there were any photos of the temple’s cherry blossoms and I couldn’t find even one. So if you are looking for an off the beaten path sakura spot in Kawajima or the Hiki District, this could be the place in 2021!
Another off the beaten path cherry blossom spot in Kawajima:
|Address:||76 Omote, Kawajima, Hiki District, Saitama 350-0133|
|Online:||Web page on the Kawajima Town website|
The temple is located to route 12 that links Kawajima and Okegawa. It is roughly the same distance to both Okegawa Kitamoto Interchange and Kawajima Interchange on the Ken-o expressway. The best land mark is the Honda airport which is a four minute drive or twenty-two minute walk from the temple. The nearest bus stops to the temple are Yamagayato bus stop and Ushigatanito bus stop, which are both about a ten minute walk from the temple.
In the area
- Japan’s longest rose tunnel at Heisei no Mori in 2020
- Sunflowers and Lotus in Kawajima
- Arakawa Tarouemon and Honda Airport
- Great BBQ Spot in Shiroyama Park | OKEGAWA
- Fueki Shoyu Kinbue Soy Sauce Park | KAWAJIMA
- The majestic wild tundra swans of Kawajima
- Fishing with kids at Tsuri Bori
- Dog Shelter Cafe Bokuranote | KAWAJIMA
- Riverside Hydrangea in Okegawa
- Favourite Photo Friday