As described in the previous two posts (here and here), on October 25th 2014 hubby and I visited Yamadera Risshakuji Temple located on Mount Hoshuyama in Yamagata City of Yamagata prefecture. In the previous post I wrote that we climbed 1015 stone steps along Sando trail from the entrance area of the temple complex and reached the top of the mountain. It is said that the earthly desires blocking us from enlightenment begin to fade away with each step we take up the stone stairs on the trail up the mountainside. We were rather tired after 75 minutes of climbing up the steps but felt a sense of accomplishment. The mountaintop looked so serene and wonderful. At the end of Sando trail, located at the highest level of Yamadera Temple complex, we saw two hall buildings facing south side. The building to the right side (orientation with respect to us) is called Okunoin Hall and the one to the left side is called Daibutsuden Hall. The mountaintop area, consisting of these two buildings and their surroundings, is called Okunoin precinct.
Okunoin Hall (right) and Daibutsuden Hall (left) located at the top of the mountain
As described in the previous paragraph, we saw a building named Okunoin Hall located to our right side in the northern area of Okunoin precinct at the mountaintop. The formal name of the hall building is Nyoho Do. The original building was razed by a fire in 1871, following which it was reconstructed in 1872 by the 66th head priest named Yuden of Risshakuji Temple. Okunoin is a wooden building with copper Itabuki roof having Hogyo Zukuri architectural style. It has Ketayuki-sanken (3 Ken or 5.46 meters long beam), Harima-sanken (3 Ken or 5.46 meters long crossbeam), and Shomen-ichiken (1 Ken or 1.82 meters space between two pillars in the front) structure. The front of the temple building has Kohai roof (eaves) built over the steps leading up to the building. Kohai wooden nosings called Kibana are decorated with sculptures of Baku elephants and Shishi lions, while the transom part is decorated with dragons. The principal images enshrined inside the hall are Shaka Nyorai and a seated statue of Taho Nyorai. Both these statues are very small and it is said that Jikaku Daishi, the founder of Risshakuji Temple, always carried around these two statues with him during his training in China. Okunoin Hall is also called Shakyo Dojo Hall and is used as a place for the observance of Buddha's teachings as well as for practicing and copying Buddhist Sutras. Sutras are copied according to the prescribed method called Nyoho introduced by Jikaku Daishi. In this method, Sutras are copied on hemp paper with Souhitsu brush made of grass and twigs and by using Sekiboku ink made from graphite. Many such Sekiboku-Souhitsu hand-copied Sutras are preserved inside the hall. We climbed up a few stone steps and about half way up the front entrance of Okunoin Hall, we saw a large cauldron for burning incense sticks located inside a four pillared pavilion. Many Omikuji paper strips are tied to the upper beams of the pavilion. Standing on the steps, I noted that intricate patterns are carved on the ceiling of the Kohai roof and wonderful sculptures adorn the Kibana nosings. Next we climbed up a few wooden steps and reached the front verandah of the hall. I offered some coins into the offertory box and prayed for the well being of my family as well as friends. We saw an old bell of Shoro belfry (described later in this post) stored in the verandah of the hall.
Okunoin Hall and a portion of a lantern (foreground) as viewed from the front area of the precinct
I am standing next to a pavilion with a large cauldron for burning incense sticks. Omikuji paper strips are seen in the upper beams of the pavilion.
Front area of Okunoin Hall where Kohai roof built over the wooden steps can be seen
Kibana nosings decorated with Baku elephants (side) and Shishi lions (front), and transom decorated with dragons
Enlarged view of Baku elephants, Shishi lions, and dragons
I am climbing up the wooden steps leading to the front verandah of the hall
Inside Okunoin Hall
An old bell stored in the verandah of the hall
Next we saw a hall building named Daibutsuden located to our left side in the northern area of Okunoin precinct. In fact, Daibutsuden Hall is located just adjacent to Okunoin Hall. Daibutsuden is a wooden building with copper Itabuki roof having Irimoya Zukuri architectural style. It has Ketayuki-sanken (3 Ken or 5.46 meters long beam) and Shomen-ichiken (1 Ken or 1.82 meters space between two pillars in the front) structure. The front of the building has Kohai roof (eaves) built over the steps leading up to the building. A 5-meter high seated golden statue of Amida Nyorai is enshrined inside the hall. Memorial services for the deceased are held at this hall every day. All people, regardless of their sect, come here to hold such memorial services for their deceased loved ones by offering tall narrow wooden tablet called Sotoba with the name of the deceased and some Sutras written on it. On reaching the front of the hall, I noted that intricate patterns are carved on the front as well as the ceiling of the building. Near the entrance area of the hall we saw a cauldron of burning incense, smoke from which is believed to bestow good health. I lit a bunch of incense sticks to the already fuming stock and with my hands wafted the incense fumes over hubby’s body as well as mine. I offered some money into the offertory box placed near the entrance, and prayed for our health and happiness.
Daibutsuden Hall as viewed from the front area of Okunoin precinct
Hubby standing in front of Daibutsuden Hall
The front of the hall as viewed from another angle
The front of the hall along with the statue of Amida Nyorai partly visible
5-meter high statue of Amida Nyorai inside the hall
I am lighting a bunch of incense sticks
Placing the lit incense sticks into the cauldron
Okunoin precinct has several other structures and buildings like Issai Kyozo Hall, metallic lantern Kanatoro, Shoro belfry, a place called Tashoba, and many other structures. I have written about Issai Kyozo Hall in the previous post. Kanataro lantern is located right in the front area of Okunoin precinct. Kanataro is huge, made of bronze, and has rich intricate designs. The lantern was manufactured in 1895 in Domachi Town of Yamagata prefecture and was cast by a master craftsman named Onoda Saisuke at the request of the 66th head priest Yuden of Risshakuji Temple. It was repaired by the 69th head priest named Joden in 1961. Kanatoro lantern is considered to be one of the three most precious lanterns of Japan, along with the lanterns of Kotohiragu Shrine in Kagawa prefecture and Kinkazan Koganeyama Jinja Shrine in Miyagi prefecture. Towards the east-southeast corner of Okunoin precinct, we saw a place named Tashoba where many stone tablets as well as wooden tablets that were used for the memorial services of the deceased are stored. We also saw Shoro belfry located in the eastern area of Okunoin precinct. Shoro belfry was built in 1863 to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the death of Jikaku Daishi. It was built with the donations of a wealthy farmer named Abe Magoichi of Funamachi Town in Yamagata prefecture. We loved viewing the buildings and structures located in Okunoin precinct.
Hubby standing in front of Kanatoro lantern
Enlarged view of Kanatoro lantern
As discussed earlier, Okunoin precinct is located at the highest point of the mountain temple complex. After seeing all the buildings and structures at Okunoin precinct, we turned around and started walking down the stone steps of the Sando main trail. We leisurely walked down up to Chushoin sub-temple (see previous post). In front of this sub-temple we saw another trail leading towards the west side of the temple complex. We climbed up the stone steps of this west trail, and after about three minutes of climbing, we reached in front of a sub-temple named Kezoin. As I wrote in the previous post, during Edo period there used to be twelve Junishiin temples located at various points in the upper area of the mountain where many monks used to train. But now only four of these temples remain and are together called Sannai Shin sub-temples. Kezoin is one of the four sub-temples and is one of the olden times Junishiin temples. Kezoin sub-temple was the dwelling place of Jikaku Daishi during the founding of Yamadera Risshakuji Temple. It is a one-storied wooden building with a front facade having Chidorihafu architectural style. The roof of the entrance area has Mukuri architectural style. The principal image enshrined inside the building is a statue of Kanzeon Bosatsu which was carved by Jikaku Daishi.
The front of Kezoin sub-temple
Inside the sub-temple
In the Kezoin sub-temple precinct, we saw a small cavern hall located to the right side (orientation with respect to us) of the sub-temple. A small wooden three-storied pagoda named Sanjushoto is located inside the cavern hall. The pagoda was constructed in 1519 by Jikkoku Jouin at the request of the then chief priest named Joun of Kezoin sub-temple. The roofs of the pagoda have shingled Kokerabuki style and are constructed in Hogyo Yane architectural style. The outer wooden wall is colored in Bengara red, and the wooden butt ends and the metal fittings are golden colored. The height of the pagoda, including the finial, is 2.48 meters, and the distance between the columns is 0.45 meters. The pagoda is very small, built to perfection, and fits entirely inside the small cavern hall. In fact, this three-storied pagoda is the smallest of all the pagodas built by similar manufacturing process in entire Japan. It was designated as an important cultural property in 1952. The principal image enshrined inside the pagoda is a statue of Dainichi Nyorai. Formerly the principal image was Shaka Nyorai. We loved viewing this small pagoda located inside the cavern hall. But it is protected by a glass paneled front door, and so it was difficult to click a proper photo of the pagoda.
The cavern hall inside which the three-storied Sanjushoto pagoda is located
Three stories of the pagoda as seen through a glass paneled front door
After seeing Kezoin sub-temple and the three-storied Sanjushoto pagoda, we walked back down the west trail and returned to the Sando main trail. We continued walking down the stone steps of the main trail and reached adjacent to Konjoin sub-temple (previous post). In front this sub-temple we saw yet another trail leading down towards the west side of the temple complex. We started walking down the steps of this west trail which leads to the two famous hall buildings named Kaizan Do and Nokyo Do. We saw that these two buildings are precariously located on the edge of a sheer rocky cliff named Hyakujo Iwa. I will write about these two buildings in the next few paragraphs. After about two minutes of walking down the west trail, we saw a small hall named Taishakuten Do located to our right side along the trail. Taishakuten Do is a very small wooden hall with all its four sides measuring 2.1 meters. The hall was originally founded by Jikaku Daishi and was rebuilt in 1833 by the 64th head priest named Jishun of Risshakuji Temple. A principal statue of Taishakuten is enshrined inside the hall. We walked past Taishakuten Do Hall, and next saw a cluster of small stone statues and gravestone pagodas located to our right side along the west trail. One of the stone statues intrigued me very much because it looked remarkably similar to a Hindu God named Dattatreya Trimurti. We walked along the trail for another minute or so and reached in front of Kaizan Do and Nokyo Do Halls.
Taishakuten Do Hall
Many small stone statues and gravestone pagodas located along the west trail
Enlarged view of the statues
This statue looks similar to Hindu God Trimurti
Kaizan Do Hall (right) and Nokyo Do Hall (left) as viewed while walking down along the west trail
We reached in front of Kaizan Do and Nokyo Do Halls
Nokyo Do Hall is located on the top left corner of Hyakujo Iwa cliff. The hall building seems to be precariously standing on the edge of the cliff. It is a very small building where Sutras are stored. In fact, Hokekyo Lotus Sutras that are intricately hand-copied over a 4-year period in Okunoin Hall are stored in Nokyo Do Hall. Nokyo Do was constructed in 1599 under the order of the feudal lord Mogami Yoshiaki by one of his retainer named Minowada. A large-scale renovation was carried out in 1705. It is a wooden building having Hogyo Zukuri architectural style. The building has copper-sheet roof with Kawaraboubuki batten seam roofing. It has Ketayuki-ichiken (1 Ken or 1.82 meters long beam) Harima-ichiken (1 Ken or 1.82 meters long crossbeam) structure. The outer wall of the building has horizontal planking and is colored in Bengara red. It is the oldest hall building in the mountain temple complex, and was designated as an important cultural property of Yamagata prefecture in 1953. The building was dismantled and repaired in 1987. We loved the architecture of Nokyo Do Hall and took several photos of the building from various positions and angles. Standing in front of the hall, we got wonderful landscape views out into the valley below.
Nokyo Do Hall and the valley below as viewed while walking along the west trail leading to the hall
The hall as viewed from yet another position
Front side view of the hall
Kaizan Do Hall is located on a flat area at the top of Hyakujo Iwa cliff. This hall is dedicated to Jikaku Daishi, the founder of Yamadera Risshakuji Temple. The present hall building is not the original structure and was rebuilt in 1851 by the 65th head priest named Joden of Risshakuji Temple. It is a one-storied wooden building with copper Itabuki roof having Irimoya Zukuri and Hirairi architectural styles. The front facade has Chidorihafu architectural style. It has Ketayuki-sanken (3 Ken or 5.46 meters long beam), Harima-niken (2 Ken or 3.64 meters long crossbeam), and Shomen-ichiken (1 Ken or 1.82 meters space between two pillars in the front) structure. The front entrance of the building has Kohai roof (eaves) built over the steps leading up to the building. The Kohai roof has Karahafu architectural style. Kohai wooden nosings Kibana are decorated with sculptures of Shishi lions while the transom part is decorated with dragons. Gegyo wooden board of Karahafu roof is decorated with an elaborate sculpture of Houou Phoenix. A seated wooden statue of Jikaku Daishi is enshrined inside the hall. The statue is worshipped, and food and incense offerings are made every morning and evening. In fact, the incense is kept burning perpetually in honor of the founder, and there is constant incense smoke for the past 1150 years. The doors of this hall are usually closed but once in a year on 14th January, the death anniversary of Jikaku Daishi, the hall is kept open to the public for Buddhist memorial service called Hoyo. It should be mentioned here that after the death of Jikaku Daishi in 864, his remains were buried in Enryakuji Temple (check blog posts here and here) on Mount Hiei as well as in Risshakuji Temple on Mount Hoshuyama. His torso was buried in Enryakuji Temple while his head was buried in a natural cave named Nyujokutsu located in the middle portion of Hyakujo Iwa cliff in Risshakuji Temple. The cave is actually located right below Noyko Do Hall but is not accessible to the general public. We loved viewing the design and architectural style of Kaizan Do Hall. I feel that this hall is one of the most beautiful buildings in the temple complex. We clicked several photos of the building from various positions and angles.
Hubby standing in front of Kaizan Do Hall
I am standing in front of the hall
Intricately carved front of the hall with sculptures of Shishi lions on the Kibana, dragons on the transom, and phoenix on the Gegyo board
A tablet plaque with ‘Kaizan Do Rei’ written on it hangs from the entrance door lintel of the hall
A portion of the hall and the roof as viewed from its side
Next, we climbed up a few stone steps located adjacent to Kaizan Do Hall and reached another hall named Godai Do. Godai Do Hall is located to the right side of Kaizan Do Hall (orientation with respect to us); slightly above Kaizan Do on the mountain cliff. Godai Do is actually an observation deck that extends out over the cliff with a commanding view of the surroundings and the valley below. It is said that Godai Do Hall was constructed in the year 890, that is, 30 years after the founding of Risshakuji Temple. The hall was rebuilt in 1714 and was renovated in 1852. It is a one-storied wooden building with copper Itabuki roof. The building has Kirizuma Zukuri, Tsumairi, and Butai Zukuri (stage-like construction) architectural styles. It has Ketayuki-yonken (4 Ken or 7.28 meters long beam) Harima-sanken (3 Ken or 5.46 meters long crossbeam) structure. The hall building has only railings but no walls on three sides, so that the scenic views out into the valley can be enjoyed without worrying about falling off the mountain. The principal images enshrined inside the hall are statues of Godai Myoo which are supposed to protect Risshakuji temple. We saw many Senjafuda pilgrim stickers on the inner wall and the ceiling of the hall. Standing inside the hall, we enjoyed the splendid landscape scenery out in front of us. The range of mountains on the horizon along with the town in the valley below looked stunning.
Godai Do Hall (1) is located to the right of Kaizan Do Hall (2). Godai Do Hall is partly seen in this photo clicked from Niomon Gate (previous post) area.
Godai Do Hall
I am standing inside the hall
Beautiful scenery to our left side as viewed from Godai Do Hall
Scenery in front of us
Scenery to our right side
We enjoyed the scenic views out into the valley from Godai Do Hall for about 10 minutes, and then left the hall. In front of the hall, we saw a tiny altar named Hakusan Hokora located on the top of a huge rock. We also saw a trail leading further into the mountain forest but saw a notice which clearly stated that the trail was dangerous and visitors are not allowed to hike beyond Godai Do Hall.
Hakusan Hokara altar standing on a huge rock
I am standing in front of a notice indicating that visitors are not allowed to go beyond this point
At this point we finished the tour of Yamadera Risshakuji Temple. We loved visiting the temple and seeing many historically and architecturally interesting buildings and structures in the temple complex. We walked down the stone steps along the trail and returned to the car parking area located near the base of the mountain. We were rather tired due to climbing up and then walking down the trail along the mountain. So we had early dinner at a restaurant near the parking area and regained our strength. Afterwards, we returned home after a car ride of about 3 hours.
Hubby very tired and waiting for the food we ordered at the restaurant