The Higashi Honganji Temple, also known as the Eastern Temple of the Original Vow, is an active temple with a rich history in Kyoto. It was originally built in 1602 and was rebuilt in 1895 onward. It is dedicated to one of the two dominant sub-sects of Shin Buddhism, a school of Pure Land Buddhism. Worshipers believe in the essence of attaining salvation by chanting the words “Praise to the Amida Buddha”.
During the 17th century Pure Land Buddhism was widespread in this area. Even the residing Shogun, Togukawa Ieyasu, was in awe of its powerful influence. And so, he ordered a doctrinal split by offering land to Pure Land Buddhists. This land was utilized to build the Higashi Honganji. However, a lot of factions occurred, which left Higashi as the headquarters of a faith that has been split up in different groups.
One famous attraction of the temple are the quite odd ropes that are made of human hair. It dates back to the reconstruction of the temple during the Meiji Era when a problem occurred while moving massive wooden beams. An ordinary rope couldn’t do the job, so women decided to help by donating their hair in order to build a stronger rope. When you see how many bundles of hair have been donated, you can just imagine the huge number of women devotees in the group. You can take a look at some of the hair that is displayed at the temple, enclosed in a glass box.
Shosei-en is right next to the Higashi Honganji grounds, and it consists of a pond stroll garden with tea houses. This garden was a donation from Iemutsi, the third Tokugawa Shogun. However, many of its buildings were destroyed by a fire, so it was rebuilt in 1868. The temple and garden are open daily from 9 am to 4 pm.
The Higashi Honganji is definitely one of the must-see temples in Kyoto. It is wrapped in mysterious history, which can make for a very interesting place to walk around while pondering life.
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