It is Gango-ji Temple in Naramachi, Nara City. This lovely temple always welcomes us with seasonal flowers. Now, Harushagiku or coreopsis are in full bloom.
Buddhism was introduced to Japan through Korea in 538 or 552. Over whether Buddhism would be accepted or not, the leading noble clans were divided into two parties; pro-Buddhist and anti-Buddhist. They fought against each other for decades. At last, pro-Buddhist party led by the Soga clan won the war. In 588, the Soga family built the first Buddhist temple in Asuka (then Capital of Japan) and named it Hoko-ji Temple which is the forerunner of Gango-ji Temple. When Nara became the capital of Japan, the temple was moved to Nara in 718, renamed as Gango-ji Temple and flourished as one of the Seven Great Temples in Nara.
Stone carvings of Jizo Bodhisattva( guardian deity of children and travelers)
and stone memorial tablets
When I read "Japan" published by "lonely planet" which is the largest travel guide book and digital media publisher in the world , I was startled at the explanation about Gango-ji Temple.
"A small temple that is listed as one of Nara's UNESCO World Heritage sites. Despite its World Heritage listing, it's not particularly interesting and probably only merits a quick glace from outside." Oh, No!! (This book is the 10th edition in 2007. So if the latest edition amended its evaluation of this temple, I am awfully sorry.)
Stone carvings of Jizo Bodhisattva and small stone pagodas
Once upon a time, Gango-ji Temple held huge precincts and was as magnificent as Kofuku-ji Temple or Todai-ji Temple.
The temple had experienced the rise and fall. The temple had suffered unfavorable issues and repeated fires. Especially, in 1451, the conflagration caused by an uprising burned many temple buildings including the main hall. The temple did not have enough strength to rebuild the lost structures. People started to occupy the land of ruins of the temple. They built their houses, planted vegetables and made paths in the precincts of the temple. This is how Naramachi was formed. The size of the temple was badly diminished. But the temple holds the oldest history among the all Buddhist temples in Japan.
Among gray roof tiles, there are reddish brown roof tiles which are the oldest roof tiles in Japan, dating back to the 6th century. They have been still protecting the temple structures from the elements.
I found the stone called "Stop Stone" which means the owner of the land refuses us to go forward over the stone. The stone is placed in front of the path to the private section of the temple. I like the stone better than a notice board saying "Off-limit". If you see this kind of stone in a Japanese garden with a tea house, it is to guide visitors along a prescribed route.
Strange enough, the guardian of this temple has been Thunder Deity, but over the years people started to mix the images of Thunder Deity and a demon. The guardian really looks like the demon.
Now the temple is loved and supported by people. This great little temple with the tranquil and cozy atmosphere is my favorite. How soothing !
Can you see it raining?
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