Showing posts with label gakuenji. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gakuenji. Show all posts

Monday, June 17, 2013


Temple #3 of the Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage is the Tendai mountain temple of Gakuenji, a place I have visited many times and still one of my favorite temples. earlier posts can be found here.

To my great surprise there was for the first time an entrance fee!!!!.... that included a cup of green tea, and once I got over my initial shock I decided that maybe its a good idea. With no parish to provide funerary expenses the temple needs funds to maintain the buildings.

When i first came here many years ago there was a wonderful thatched-roof nunnery. Without maintenance it collapsed and was torn down. Maybe with the income from the thousands who come here in the Fall for the colors and the increasing number of pilgrims who come here can provide some protection for the place.

Before I left the young priest gave me a pamphlet of the Izumo 33 Kannon Pilgrimage. It has a nice map and details of each of the temples, and most useful the temple names are written with furigana so they can be easily read. Gakuen-ji is also part of the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage, so I will be back here again when i walk that in 2014.

The Chugoku Nature Trail runs through the temple, and while car pilgrims have to drive back down the mountain and around I can take the trail straight up and over the mountains....

Saturday, September 4, 2010

More Gakuen-Ji


Gakuen-Ji is among the oldest buddhist temples in Japan.

According to the story it is connected to Empress Suiko who ruled from 592CE to 628CE.


Another emperor linked to Gakuen-Ji is Emperor G0-Daigo who stayed at the temple after his escape from exile on the Oki Islands.


Probably the most famous person connected to the temple is the legendary warrior-monk Benkei. Every year at the end of October the temple holds a Benkei Matsuri complete with many people dressed as Benkei to commemorate his carrying a bell 100 kilometers from Mt Daisen to Gakuen-Ji. Until recently the festival included a walk from Daisen, but that has been discontinued.


While the legend of the temples founding is linked to a crocodile, some historians suggest that this is to do with the legendary figure Wani (crocodile) who brought chinese writing and Confuscianism from the mainland.


The crocodile of Gakuen-Ji as well as the crocodiles in the Inaba Rabbit story suggest connections between this part of Japan and the introduction of foreign knowlege.


There is no public transport to Gakuen-Ji, so to get there involves an expensive taxi ride from Hirata, or a walk over the mountains from Izumo Taisha if you dont have your own transport.

Ive always said this was my favorite temple, but I just got back from visiting a couple of mountain temples in Izumo, Mine-Ji and Kezo-Ji, both very, very, old, both remote, and both previously sites of Shugendo training, so........

Tuesday, August 31, 2010



My favorite temple, Gakuenji, like most larger temples is guarded by a pair of Nio statues.


Once the largest temple in the province of Izumo, and during medieval times a massive complex of building scattered over the area, Gakuenji is now very much off the beaten track and rarely visited outside of the maple-viewing season at the end of November.


Most of the buildings have long since disappeared, though a huge thatch-roofed nunnery was only demolished a couple of years ago. Not sure what this building is, but it is well on the way to becoming a haikyo.


The treasure house, a modern concrete structure, is well secured, though it is a case of "after the horse has bolted". The temple is so remote and rarely visited that a couple of years ago persons unknown drove in with a van, jimmied open the treasure house door and drove off with a priceless statue.


Gakuenji is one of the temples on the Chugoku 33 temple kannon pilgrimage as well as the Izumo 33 temple Kannon pilgrimage. It is also located on the Chugoku Nature Trail.


The name Gakuenji means "crocodile pool" and refers to the pool at the base of the waterfall behind which is built a small temple. Legend has it that Benkei stayed at Gakuenji for a long time and performed ablutions under the falls.

Legend says that the founder of Gakuenji, the priest Chishun Shonin, accidentally dropped something into the pool and a crocodile popped up and returned it to him.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Matarajin Shrine


Matarajin Shrine is located next to the main hall in Gakuen-Ji Temple, though the shrine originally stood behind Izumo Taisha.

It was dismantled and carried up into the mountains probably in the 16th Century.


Matarajin ( or Madarajin or Madarashin) was brought back from China in the 9th Century by the Tendai monk Ennin as a protector of the Amida Sutra, and so has strong links with Tendai. Gakuen-Ji is a Tendai temple.


Attached to the front of the shrine is a buddhist building that houses 2 statues. The building is opened once every 33 years.


Some old statues of Matarajin have 3 heads, Dakiniten, Shoten, and Benzaiten.

Dakiniten is one of the constituent influences on the kami Inari, and next to Matarjin Shrien is a small Inari shrine.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Emperor didn't sleep here.

Today is a National Holiday in Japan in celebration of the Emperor's birthday. Actually his correct title is "Tenno" which translates as "heavenly Sovereign", but when the Japanese came to translate the word into English they chose "emperor" as China had an emperor and Japan wasn't going to be outdone by the Chinese.


The new government of Japan in 1868 had the task of molding a unified nation out of the many seperate domains that had existed up till then, and the chose the new emperor as the symbol of the new nation. Problem was that the vast majority of Japanese had no idea who or what the emperor was. Part of the solution they come up with was for the Meiji Emperor to travel the length and breadth of the country on a series of Grand Tours. Like much of the "Imperial traditions" that were invented around this time it was based on the traditions of European royalty.


So all over Japan local authorities scrambled to build suitable accomadation for the Emperor.

Above is located in the grounds of Matsue castle and was built in 1903. Now it houses a local history museum, the Kyodokan.

The Emperor never did stay there.


The Gobenden is now located underneath the castle hill in Hamada. It was constructed in 1907 in case the Meiji Emperor visited Hamada.
He didn't.
The Crown Prince Yoshihito, the future Emperor Taisho, did stay here for a couple of days however.


On a related note, this is the Goseimon at Gakuen-ji temple. It's a gate that is only used by members of the imperial family. The current Crown Prince, Naruhito, used it a couple of years ago.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A muted Fall at Gakuen-Ji


I had to go up to Izumo on Monday so I dropped by Gakuen-Ji on my way back.


The fall colors were only just starting, and it was cloudy, so it was a more muted display rather than vivid.


Gakuen-Ji is, I think, my favorite temple. Nestled in the mountains to the north of Izumo Taisha, the temple is actually older than Izumo Taisha.


Except for the last couple of weeks in November when the place gets inundated with busloads of visitors, Gakuen-ji is usually empty.