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Kitain Temple

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Kitain Temple
500 Buddha Statues at Kitain Temple

Kitain temple is located in Kawagoe city of Saitama prefecture in Japan.  This temple is easily accessible from JR Kawagoe Station via the Kawagoe city loop bus.  If you are coming from Tokyo area, you can first come to JR Omiya Station and switch to Kawagoe line to get to JR Kawagoe station.

The history of Kitain is thought to have begun when the monk Ennin founded Muryoju Temple in 830 A.D. Muryoju is another name for Amitabha Buddha, which is the main deity of worship at the temple. 
A Buddhist temple of the Tendai Sect, it was divided into three parts, Kitain (north temple), Nakain (middle temple) and Minamiin (South temple).

Kitain Temple Seal

Burned down during fighting in 1205, the temple was rebuilt in 1296 by the monk Sonkai.  Emperor Gofushimi made it head of the Tendai Sect temples in east Japan in 1300.  Katain became the main temple of the three temples complex after Tenkai became the head monk in 1599.  Previously Nakain Temple had been the most influential.  Under Tenkai's influence and his friendship with the first Tokugawa shogun, Ieyasu, Kitain fluorished.  Kitain is today the head Tendai Sect temple of the Kanto area.  Nakain is now a separate temple, and all that remains of Minamiin is a small graveyard.

There is a Toshogu Shrine in the Kitain temple precincts and it is dedicated to first Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa.  Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa aided the development of Kitain Temple.  The shrine was rebuilt in 1640 under orders of the third Shogun Iemitsu Tokugawa.  To help rebuild the temple Shogun Iemitsu ordered several buildings to be moved from Edo Castle to Kawagoe.  However most of these buildings have been damaged in the Great Earthquake of 1923 and the World War II.  One of the buildings that has not been damaged is the room where Shogun Iemitsu was born.  These remains of the Edo castle have been turned into a museum in the temple precincts.

Here is a video of the Kitain Temple:

Another fascinating aspect of Kitain Temple is the 500 statues of Rakan.  These statues represent the disciples of Buddha.  They were carved between 1782 and 1825 with no two statues alike.  It is said that if you feel among the statues in the dead of night you will find one that is warm.  Mark it, come back during the day, and you will see it is the statue most resembling yourself.

Here is a video of the 500 statues of Rakan:

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