Story of Hokkeji Imperial Convent

  • Image

    Main Hall (important cultural artifact) A national treasure and the temple’s principle image of the Buddha, the Eleven-Headed Kannon is enshrined here.

  • Image

Empress Komyo (701–760), a key figure in the spread of Buddhism in Japan, established the Hokkeji Imperial Convent on the site of the former mansion of her father, the powerful courtier Fujiwara no Fuhito (659–720). And after the empress’s husband, Emperor Shomu (701–756), designated Todaiji Temple as the head of a state temple complex, Empress Komyo designated Hokkeji as the head of a national system of convents. From the thirteenth to sixteenth centuries, the daughters of imperial and noble families entered Hokkeji as Buddhist nuns.

The name Hokkeji can be roughly translated as the Temple of the Flower of the Law. Empress Komyo encouraged women in the convent to practice ikebana, or flower arrangement, and the Hokkeji Goryu school of ikebana continues to this day.

A deeply devout woman, the empress believed her duty was not only to care for the women in the convent, but also the less fortunate. She established an infirmary, as well as a residence for orphans and the disabled. It is said that she washed the dirt off a thousand people afflicted with illness in the Karafuro bathhouse, which was rebuilt in 1766 and still stands on the temple grounds today.

  • Image

    Ikebana flowers of Hokkeji Goryu.

  • Image

    Karafuro, or “empty bath”. It is said that Empress Komyo saved many underprivileged people here with the steam of boiled medicinal plants. These days, we would call the Karafuro a sauna.

The other highlights of Hokkeji include the statues of Eleven-Headed Kannon and Yuimakoji, both National Treasures; the Hokkeji Garden, a National Historic Site famed for its Japanese irises (Iris laevigata); and the Main Hall, Main Gate, and Shoro bell tower, which date to the early seventeenth century.

Precincts

  • Image

    South Gate (important cultural artifact) This is the main gate of Hokkeji Imperial Convent. It was erected in the same period as the Main Hall.

  • Image

    Plum flowers blooming in the Karaku-en garden, on the eastern side of the grounds. Wild birds flock here when the flowers are in full bloom.

  • Image

    Bell Tower (important cultural artifact). Re-constructed in the same period as the Main Hall and South Gate. A bell is hung from the upper level.

  • Image

    A special lotus that blooms in Karaku-en garden, called the Hokkeji Lotus. The white flower petals have rouge-colored edges. Late June is the best time to see them.

  • Image

    A poem from the Man’yoshu carved in stone. It is a poem by the Nara period poet, Yamabe Akahito, in which he recollects Empress Komyo’s father, Fujiwara Fuhito.

  • Image

    Gomado Hall, which stands in a pond. Though it was destroyed in the Muromachi period, it was reconstructed in 2004 after 600 years.

Temple grant

  • Image

    The Omamori-inu, or “amulet dog”, for a long life and safe birth. It began when Empress Komyo mixed ashes from a memorial service with pure dirt from a mountain, made it into a dog-shaped amulet, and prayed for it to bring sound health. This tradition has been passed down to today, with the chief priest and nuns continuing to make them the old-fashioned way.

Address
882 Hokkeji-cho , Nara 630-8001 , Japan
Inquiries
Tel: 0742-33-2261
Visiting Information
Hours: 9:00 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m.
*The gates will be closed at 5 p.m. and opened again the following morning.
General Entrance Fee:

Individuals:
Adults (High School Students and Older) 700 yen
Elementary and Junior High School Students 350 yen

Groups of 20 or more:
High School Students and Older 600 yen

Special Public Display March ~ June:

March 1 ~ March 14 “Ancient Hina Doll Exhibit”
March 20 ~ March 31, April 8 ~ June 4 “Eleven-faced Kannon Statue (National Treasure, Principal Image of the Buddha) Special Public Display”

Individual:
Adults (High School Students and Older) 800 yen
Elementary and Junior High School Students 400 yen

Groups of 20 or more:
High School Students and Older 700 yen

Special Public Display in April, June, and Autumn:

April 1 ~ April 7, June 5 ~ June 10 “Eleven-faced Kannon Statue (National Treasure, Principal Image of the Buddha) Special Public Display”

Individual:
Adults (High School Students and Older) 1,000 yen
Elementary and Junior High School Students 500 yen

Groups of 20 or more:
Adults (High School Students and Older) 900 yen

Visiting the Temple Gardens

Karakuen Garden 300 yen
Scenic Meisho Garden (*Open April 1 ~ June 10) 500 yen

Coming by Train or Bus

- From Kyoto Station
Take the Kintetsu Kyoto Line / Kashihara Line to Yamato-Saidaiji Station (change trains at Yamato-Saidaiji Station to go to Kintetsu Nara Station. There are also Express and Limited Express trains that go straight to Kintetsu Nara Station). Or you can also take the JR Nara Line to Nara Station.

- From Kintetsu Nara Station
From Bus Stop 13 on the north side of the Takama Intersection, take the Nara Kotsu bus for “Yamato Saidaiji sta. (Koku-Jietai)” and get off at “Hokkeji”. It is a three-minute walk from there.

- From Kintetsu Yamato-Saidaiji Station
From Bus Stop 1 outside the north exit, take the Nara Kotsu bus for “JR Nara sta. Nishi-guchi” and get off at “Hokkeji”. It is a three-minute walk from there.

- From JR Nara Station
From Bus Stop 15 outside the west exit, take the Nara Kotsu bus for “Yamato Saidaiji sta. (Koku-Jietai)” and get off at “Hokkeji”. It is a three-minute walk from there.

Coming on Foot

It is about a 2-minute walk northwest from Kintetsu Shin-Omiya Station.

Coming by Car

- From Osaka
Head east on the Hanna Road, and turn left to head north at the intersection of “Nijooji minami 1-chome”. Next head north through the “Komogawabashi-minamizume” intersection (you will see the Nara Royal Hotel) and continue to the traffic signal at the end of the street. Turn left to head west at that traffic signal, and then turn right at the end of the street. The parking lot will be on your right.

- From Kyoto
Take the Keinawa Expressway (Nat. Hwy 24) south, and at the “Hokkejicho-higashi” intersection (you will see Ichijo High School on the right) turn right to head west. Next, keep going straight at the “Hokkeji” intersection and turn right at the end of the street. The parking lot will be on your right.

- From Tenri
Head north on Nat. Hwy 24, and at the “Komogawabashi-minamizume” intersection (you will see the Nara Royal Hotel) turn left to head north and continue to the traffic signal at the end of the street. Turn left to head west at that traffic signal, and turn right at the end of the street. The parking lot will be on your right.