Name in Japanese: 総持寺
Sōji-ji is a Shingon Buddhist temple in Nagahama. It stands in an area with a number of other temples. However, its front gate is distinctive for its obvious age. The Niōmon Gate was built in 1635 in the Momoyama period, and unusually, it has survived intact since that time. The reception hall was built in 1619, and some parts of the original building still remain. The wall painting inside the hall is of a peony lion dog by Ranrinsai Tsunemasa of the Edo Kano school.
In the early 700s in the Nara period, the holy man Gyōki established Sōji-ji Temple as a national temple on the order of the Emperor Shōmu.
In the Warring States period, the temple was destroyed by Nobunaga’s troops during the Battle of Anegawa against the Azai clan. It was later rebuilt with the support of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. The temple prospered as a school during the Edo period.
The principle image is of Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of healing. The head portion of the principal image dates from the Heian period, while his body was replaced in the Edo period. It’s joked that this Yakushi Nyorai must be particularly adept at healing since he himself survived such drastic surgery. He provides both physical and mental healing. Since the temple was a seat of learning, the Buddha’s help is also sought by scholars seeking success at examinations.
There are eighty kinds of peony planted all around the extensive gardens. The best time to see the flowers is from late April to early May. Another interesting botanical sight is a pine tree growing inside a plum tree. This oddity is worshipped by people seeking harmonious relations in their business and personal affairs.
After passing through the Niōmon Gate, there’s a long, paved path leading to the main compound. Behind the main hall is an extensive garden. In addition to the peonies, various shrubs flower throughout the year. Across the road from the Niōmon Gate are two other attractive temples, Sairen-ji and Jōkyū-ji.
place 708, Miyashichō, Nagahama, Shiga Prefecture
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