Bicchukokubunji Temple

Bicchukokubunji Temple, Soja

Bicchukokubunji Temple
4
What people are saying
kobekko
By kobekko
Literally an “outstanding” site/sight, but the “understanding” of its significance calls for some historical knowledge
Apr 2015
The solitary existence of this five-storey pagoda in the midst of flowering field is quite a photogenic sight, and it attracts many local photographers. Visitors to Japan, who have seen impressive Buddhist temple complexes in Kyoto or Nara, may wonder why this pagoda is standing alone in the middle of “(touristic) nowhere.” A clue to this puzzle is found in the name itself, but the answer calls for some historical knowledge of Buddhism in Japan. The first part of the name, “Bicchu,” indicates the name of the prefecture where the temple stands. The second part, “Kokubunji,” indicates that it originates from the first systematic effort, made by Emperor Shoumu in 741 A.C., to build a Buddhist temple in every capital of all the prefectures in the country, which then counted more than 60. All these temples are named “Kokubunji,” meaning that it was a branch of the central Buddhist temple in Nara, i.e., Todaiji temple. This systematic effort was aimed at protecting the nation from a variety of afflictions that had befallen to the populace in this period. This imperial project naturally gave impetus to the spreading of Buddhism as a de-facto national religion, and Kokubunji as the most prestigious temple in each prefecture. Nowadays, few temples stand in their original locations, due to significant geographical changes since that time. Nevertheless, there are many localities that carry “kokubunji” or “kokubu” as a part of their address names today. Kokubunji, some distance west of Shinjuku, Tokyo, is a case in point. It exemplifies such a geographical change that took place in Musashi prefecture, which closely overlaps with Metropolitan Tokyo today. The main thrust for such changes stems in the gradual shift of power in the following millennium, from the old aristocratic class to the warrior class, of which the champion was called “sei-I taishogun” or “shogun” in short. Feudal lords under the shogunate built their castles and seats of government strategically, thus materially changing the nation’s geographical features. They also built Buddhist temples for their needs as well as for their subjects in the similar manner. Through such transition processes, kokubunji temple in a prefecture became just another temple, and its status, as well as its maintenance, became largely dependent on the patronage of the feudal lord concerned. Thus, many kokubunji temples were consigned to historical oblivion, while this temple was fortunate enough to have received such patronage and this beautiful pagoda has survived to this day. Although the pagoda today stands tall, historical records tells us that the original imperial decree had stipulated the pagoda to be seven-storey, and that some pagodas stood higher than 50 meters. In comparison, the existing one measures about 35 meters high. As such, it is not difficult to imagine the great impact that each kokubunji temple had, not just visually, but also socially to the populace in the prefecture, the most significant of which is undoubtedly the broad-based acceptance of Buddhism and its teachings in Japan’s social fabric. Hopefully, the above comments will help prospective visitors to Okayama prefecture to include a visit to this temple. The best mode of transportation to the site is probably bicycle rental, as the site is poorly served by public transportation. Fortunately such bicycles are widely available in the area. Furthermore, some bicycle/hiking routes are provided and well-marked, and a few other historical/cultural sites of interest are found along these routes.

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4.0
97 reviews
Excellent
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Frank v
Den Dolder, The Netherlands1,290 contributions
Impressive temple
Sep 2018 • Friends
Cycling through the open fields you can see the temple from far away. The total complex not very large, however the height of the pagoda is very special. Unfortunately it is not possible to get into the pagoda.
Written October 6, 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

kobekko
Kobe93 contributions
Literally an “outstanding” site/sight, but the “understanding” of its significance calls for some historical knowledge
Apr 2015 • Couples
The solitary existence of this five-storey pagoda in the midst of flowering field is quite a photogenic sight, and it attracts many local photographers. Visitors to Japan, who have seen impressive Buddhist temple complexes in Kyoto or Nara, may wonder why this pagoda is standing alone in the middle of “(touristic) nowhere.” A clue to this puzzle is found in the name itself, but the answer calls for some historical knowledge of Buddhism in Japan.

The first part of the name, “Bicchu,” indicates the name of the prefecture where the temple stands. The second part, “Kokubunji,” indicates that it originates from the first systematic effort, made by Emperor Shoumu in 741 A.C., to build a Buddhist temple in every capital of all the prefectures in the country, which then counted more than 60. All these temples are named “Kokubunji,” meaning that it was a branch of the central Buddhist temple in Nara, i.e., Todaiji temple. This systematic effort was aimed at protecting the nation from a variety of afflictions that had befallen to the populace in this period.

This imperial project naturally gave impetus to the spreading of Buddhism as a de-facto national religion, and Kokubunji as the most prestigious temple in each prefecture. Nowadays, few temples stand in their original locations, due to significant geographical changes since that time. Nevertheless, there are many localities that carry “kokubunji” or “kokubu” as a part of their address names today. Kokubunji, some distance west of Shinjuku, Tokyo, is a case in point. It exemplifies such a geographical change that took place in Musashi prefecture, which closely overlaps with Metropolitan Tokyo today.

The main thrust for such changes stems in the gradual shift of power in the following millennium, from the old aristocratic class to the warrior class, of which the champion was called “sei-I taishogun” or “shogun” in short. Feudal lords under the shogunate built their castles and seats of government strategically, thus materially changing the nation’s geographical features. They also built Buddhist temples for their needs as well as for their subjects in the similar manner. Through such transition processes, kokubunji temple in a prefecture became just another temple, and its status, as well as its maintenance, became largely dependent on the patronage of the feudal lord concerned. Thus, many kokubunji temples were consigned to historical oblivion, while this temple was fortunate enough to have received such patronage and this beautiful pagoda has survived to this day.

Although the pagoda today stands tall, historical records tells us that the original imperial decree had stipulated the pagoda to be seven-storey, and that some pagodas stood higher than 50 meters. In comparison, the existing one measures about 35 meters high. As such, it is not difficult to imagine the great impact that each kokubunji temple had, not just visually, but also socially to the populace in the prefecture, the most significant of which is undoubtedly the broad-based acceptance of Buddhism and its teachings in Japan’s social fabric.

Hopefully, the above comments will help prospective visitors to Okayama prefecture to include a visit to this temple. The best mode of transportation to the site is probably bicycle rental, as the site is poorly served by public transportation. Fortunately such bicycles are widely available in the area. Furthermore, some bicycle/hiking routes are provided and well-marked, and a few other historical/cultural sites of interest are found along these routes.
Written May 13, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Maneki-neko
Kurashiki, Japan16,454 contributions
Edo era pagoda!
A bit off the beaten path for most tourists, but an important site for locals. There is a lot of history in this area!
Written January 20, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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