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ShiTennoji Temple

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Shitennoji Temple Five Storied Pagoda

Shitennoji Temple is located in the southern part the Osaka City and it can be easily reached if you are in Osaka City.  You just need to take the Midosuji Subway line and get off at Tennoji Subway Station.  From the Tennoji Subway Station the ShiTennoji Temple is about ten minute walk.  

Shitennoji Temple is one of the oldest and the first state established Buddhist Temple in Japan.  If you have studied the advent of Japanese Buddhism in my other pages, you will understand the trials and tribulations it took for Buddhism to take hold in Japan, over the existing indigenous Shinto religion of the Japanese People.  One of the most ardent supporters of the early Japanese Buddhism Prince Shotoku Taishi (part of the ruling clan) was the founder of this temple in 593 AD.  It is called as Shitenno-ji because it is dedicated to the four guardian kings (shitenno) of the ancient Japan.

The Osaka and the Nara prefecture's history goes back to the Asuka Period (late sixth century) and the advent of Japanese Buddhism to Japan. 
Shitennoji Temple SealOver the centuries the buildings and structures on the grounds have been repeatedly destroyed by various disasters but they have been continuously rebuilt with the help from the public and the governments.

Shitennoji Temple Seal

Usually some of the temples do not have a Torii like gate associated with Shinto Shrines but the Shitonnoji Temple has a stone archway (Torii style gate) called the Ishi-no-Torii on the western entrance to the temple.  It was arranged by the Buddhist Priest Ninsho (1217-1303).  There is a plaque on the archway stating "This is where the Lord Buddha preached and this archway is the East Gate of Paradise".
The entire temple precincts cover over 110,000 square meters and are designated as rare historical remains.  Inside the south inner gate there is a lecture and assembly hall and a five storied pagoda (see the main image above).  

As mentioned above the temple is built by Prince Shotoku Taishi, originally a member of the ruling clan and later became a Buddhist Monk and was responsible for building many Buddhist temples in Osaka and Nara prefectures.
Prince Shotoku Taishi
The Kondo or the Main Hall in the complex houses the statue of Prince Shotoku in his incarnation as Guze Kannon, theBuddha of Infinite Mercy.

Prince Shotoku Statue as Guze Kannon

This statue is surrounded by the four guardian kings (Shitenno).  This hall features great frescoes of Buddhist images by the hand of well known painter, Nakamura Gakuryo.  The most important event of the year is the memorial service in commemoration of the death of Prince Shotoku.  This ceremony, called Shoryo-E in Japanese, is a marriage of the diverse elements of a Bugaku performance and a traditional Buddhist Memorial Service.  The Bugaku of the Shoryo-E has been designated an important intangible folk-culture asset by the Japanese Government.

Countless treasures have been preserved by the temple over the past 1400 years.  These include the legendary swords worn by Prince Shotoku - the Heishishorin-ken and the Shichisei-ken; as well as national treasures such as the Heian Period (8th-12th century) Semmen-Hoke-Kyo-Sasshi (A booklet of Lotus Sutra in the shape of a fan).

Based on the "Wa" (Harmony in all things, now everything Japanese considered as "wa") Philosophy of Prince Shotoku, Shitennoji has formed its own Wa Sect of Buddhism in order to better pursue it's endeavors in the areas of education and social welfare.  It is widely considered that the Wa sect of Buddhism eventually evolved as Japanese Buddhism and then formed many other sects (such as Shingon, Zen etc.) in the later Japanese History.

Here is a video of this famous and sacred temple.

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