Toyokuni Shrine is a shinto shrine dedicated to the spirit of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598), a great man and a deified hero in the sixteenth century, who settled the civil war raged throughout Japan. Toyotomi Hideyoshi ruled the unified Japan between the years 1573 to 1598 until the political power shift to Tokugawa Shogunate. Toyotomi Hideyoshi is also affectionately known as Hokoku-san.
Toyokuni shrine is about fifteen minute walk from the JR Kyoto Station and is close to the SanJuSanGendo Temple and Kyoto National Museum.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi is a very well known in Japan of his extraordinary success, because he was born in a poor farmer and became a ruler of Japan. He gives the people who visit his shrine hope of good luck and success.
Toyokuni Shrine has an interesting story behind it. When Toyotomi Hideyoshi was alive, he decided to build a large Buddha temple, just like the Todaiji temple in Nara, with a larger seated Buddha statue. This temple of his wishes was called as Hokoji Temple. Unfortunately this temple was destroyed many times because of fire and earthquakes and his dreams were never realized to complete this temple.
Toyokuni Shrine Seal
After Hideyoshi's death in 1598 at the age of 63, a magnificent mausoleum and shrine was built at the base of Amidagamine mountain located to the east of Kyoto. For many years this shrine stood at it's original built place and conducted many festivals also. But after the downfall of the Toyotomi clan, the Tokugawa Shogunate annulled this enshrinement of Hideyoshi in the mausoleum and shrine. But the shrine was reconstructed in 1880 at the now defunct Hokoji Temple site. That is how the Toyokuni shrine came to be at the present site. Moving the Hideyoshi's mausoleum to the current site is a way of not only reviving the enshrinement of Toyotomi Hideyoshi but also used the site where Hideyoshi wanted to build the biggest Buddha temple of his time.
Toyokuni shrine is not a place high on many tourist's itineraries but I would like people to add this shrine to their list. In addition to the ease of access (near the JR Kyoto station and SanJuSanGendo Temple) this temple has two great articles that every visitor should see and admire.
The first one is the Temple Bell. This temple bell is the largest bell in Japan (and may be in the world). The Bell is about 4.2 meters (about 15 feet) high and weighs a whopping 82.7 Tonnes. The temple bell was originally cast during Toyotomi Hideyoshi's time for the Hokoji Temple. This bell was going to stand along side the largest seated Buddha that was conceived by Hideyoshi. Unfortunately Buddha was never built but the temple bell survived. The temple bell itself is a awesome site and still attached to the original bell tower that was built during Hideyoshi's time. Looking at the old bell tower, I cannot figure out how it can hold 82.2 tonnes of weight.
The second article worth visiting is the Main Gate (see the main image above) for the Shrine. This Cypress bark roofed and gold ornaments plated gate is called Karamon Gate. This gate is a National Treasure, represents the culture of Momoyama period, about 400 years ago, known as an epoch making period of Japanese culture. The Momoyama period is known to refine the Chinese style architecture and this gate represents the Chines style architecture. Along with similar gates as Nishi hongonji Temple and Daitokuji Temple, it is one of the three Chinese-style gates to have been designated National Treasures in Japan. This gate was built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in his Fushimi castle, and relocated here about 130 years ago. On the gate there are sculptures of crane made by Hidari Jingoro, a famous carver of the 16th century. They are called as "Cranes without eyes". The reason why they have no eyes is said because they will fly away if their eyes are given.