Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Nagoya : Nittaiji Temple

After visiting the shinto shrine of Shiroyama Hachimangu in Motoyama, we also visited the Nittai-ji Buddhist temple in nearby Kakuozan.

Nittaiji is the only Buddhist temple in Japan that does not belong to any particular sect. The temple is managed by 19 Buddhist schools in turn every 3 years.  
The other special feature of this temple is its Thai connection. The temple was a gift by the King Chulalongkorn of Thailand. The name Nittai-ji is a derivation that means "Japan-Thai Temple" where Ni is from Nippon, the Japanese name for Japan and Tai is from the Japanese word for Thailand. The temple is a symbol of friendly relations between Japan and Thailand.

The Nittaiji temple was constructed in 1904 as a repository for the thumb bone of Gautama Buddha. It is said that in 1888 an Englishman working  on an excavation site in northern India discovered a pot containing human bones and the inscriptions on the pot dated to 3BC. Further research pointed out that these bones belonged to Gautam Buddha (also known as Sakyamuni Buddha). These bones were regarded as the highest relics in Buddhism and a part of the bones were handed over to the royal family of Thailand (then known as Siam). King Chulalongkorn donated a part of these bones to Japan in 1900 as a gift for Japanese Buddhists. He also donated a bronze statue of the Buddha in Thai style. The statue is the principal image of the Nittaiji temple. The statue was more than a thousand years old and a national treasure at the time in Thailand. The relics and the statue were temporarily enshrined at the Myoho-in temple in Kyoto till the Nittaiji temple was founded in 1904.The temple was then named as Nissenji ( Sen was the Japanese name for Siam, the old name of Thailand). The name was changed to Nittaiji after the name of Siam was changed to Thailand in 1939.

The holy bones are enshrined in a 15 meter high granite stone stupa called the "Hoanto" on the complex ground.
 This stupa built in Gandhara style was designed by Tokyo university professor Ito Chuta and was completed in 1918. The Buddha's bone relic cannot be seen since it is embedded inside the pagoda.
The Hoanto is located at a short distance from the main building. A cemetery surrounds the area around the Hoanto.

The current main temple building was rebuilt in 1984.
The Buddha statue gifted by King Chulalongkorn is enshrined here. 
To commemorate the rebuilding of the main temple building "Hondo" in 1984 , King Bhumibol Adulyadej ( grandson of King Chulalongkorn) donated another Buddha statue and a tablet inscribed with the words "Buddha Sakyamuni" in Thai script in gold leaf by the King himself. 
This tablet which also carries the crests of King Chulalongkorn and King Bhumibol hangs inside the main temple. 

Two statues stand on either side of the main gate "Sanmon".
These statues were added in 1989. 
The image on the right is that of "Anan-sonja" (Ananda), Sakyamuni Buddha's cousin, who also served under him for 25 years. 
The image on the left  is that of "Kasho-sonja" ( Mahakasyapa), the eldest disciple of Sakyamuni Buddha and the leader of Buddhists after Buddha's death.
A five storied pagoda "Goju no to" also stands in the temple complex. 
The Bell tower contains a large bell which also carries inscription in Thai script. 
A statue of King Chulalongkorn stands next to the stairs leading to the Hondo. 

On the 21st of every month a temple fair is held. On this day, the road leading to the temple is host to a large flea market. 

On October 23rd every year, Memorial Day of King Chulalongkorn, Thai people visit the temple to offer prayers and pay their respects to King Chulalongkorn. 

Various events are held during the year to mark important dates in Buddhism. 

Address: Aichi Prefecture 464-0057, Nagoya, Chikusa ku, Hoo-cho, 1-1

Phone: 052-751-2121

Parking: Available

Access: 5 min walk from Kakuozan station on Nagoya subway Higashiyama Line


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