Osaka Castle
Osaka Dome
Osaka Grand Cube
Universal Studios Japan
Hiroshima Peace Memorial
Shukkeien Garden
Golden Pavilion
Heian Shrine
Kasuga Taisha
Toji Temple
Nishi Hongwanji
Toshogu Shrine
Irohazaka Drive
Meiji Shrine
Asakusa Kannon
Girl with Red Shoes On
Hikawa Maru
Marine Rouge Cruise
Kaiko Promenade
Yokohama Museums

The official name of Sanju-sangen-dō is Rengeo-in temple, and the structure is registered by the Japanese government as a National Treasure. It was established by the powerful warrior-politician Taira-no-Kiyomori in 1164. The original temple building was lost in a fire, but the building was reconstructed in 1266. That structure has remained unchanged for 700 years since, with four great renovations during that period.

The long temple hall, which is about 120 meters long, is made in the Wayo (Japanese) style of architecture and claims to be the longest wooden structure in the world. Because there are thirty-three spaces between the columns, the temple came to be called “Sanju-sangen-dō” (a hall with thirty-three bays). Other noteworthy objects in this temple are the roofed earthen fence and the South Gate, which are registered as Important Cultural Properties. They are noted in connection with Regent Toyotomi Hideyoshi and reflect the aesthetics of the sixteenth century.

The temple’s principal claim to fame are the thousand images of Kannon. There are actually 1,001 statues of the Buddhist deity Juichimen-senju-sengen Kanzeon (the goddess of mercy), who is often called by the simplified name “Kannon.” One gigantic seated statue with 11 faces and 1,000 arms (a National Treasure carved in 1254) is placed at the center of the temple hall. On either side are ranged 500 standing statues (which are Important Cultural Properties), each the height of a human being, in 10 rows of 50 statues. The statues are made of Japanese cypress. Among the standing statues, 124 were made in the twelfth century when the temple was founded, and the remaining 876 were made in the thirteenth century when the temple was renovated.

In a straight line in front of the 1,001 Kannon statues are 28 images of guardian deities that protect the Buddhist deity Kannon as well as pious Buddhists who believe in Kannon. Many of these deities, whose mythic images are expressed in a very vivid manner, have their origin in ancient India. Technically, these statues were made in an assembled construction method: arms and heads were carved separately, then joined together, coated with lacquer, and finished by coloring.

Although each Kannon statue is individually very beautiful, the effect of a thousand of them massed together is breathtaking. Photography was not permitted inside the temple, but luckily I was able to find photos of the statues online. (Click on the thumbnails to see larger views.)

Exterior of the temple from one end

The central seated statues

Some of the standing Kannon statues and guardian deities