Get off the #2 bus (Minami-sen) at Takedabashi Bus Stop. As shown in the map above, there is a T intersection between Ryotsu bound and Mano bound bus stops of "Takeda Bashi". Turn that corner to the mountain side. Walking on uphill slope for 12 minutes takes you to Myosen-temple which is famous for its Five-story tower. Behind Myosen Temple, the road curves right. There is Daiun temple on left hand side at the end of the curves. And then you will see the gate of Kokubun Temple as Photo 33.1. Perhaps you may expect a short-cut from "Dampujyo-Mae" bus stop to the Kokubun Temple. Although there are many concrete roads in between, it is better to avoid those narrow concrete roads because they are so complicated and confusing. Walk on the wide road with big curve from "Takeda Bashi" bus stop. It is a little long walk but much easier for you.
Photo.33.1 Entrance of the Current Kokubun Temple
Kokubun Temple is of Daigo sect of Shingon-shu (Shingon-Buddhism). One of the buildings "Rurido" was built in 16661). The temple's main object of worship is Yakushi-Nyorai statue made of Japanese cypress wood. The statue is thought to have been made between 9 and 10 century. And it was designated as a national cultural heritage in 1906. A book written in 1985 expresses a worry about the wooden statue. It says that cracks have been increasing because it is put inside of the concrete building2). That concrete building probably is one that is behind Rurido.
There is a wide open space behind the current Kokubun Temple, or the west side of it. It is the site of ancient Kokubun Temple. No buildings remain, but buildings' foundations are indicated as shown in photo 33.2. They are the south gate, mid-gate, Cloister, Golden hall, New hall, and Seven-story Tower. Most of those building foundations have centerlines that are 7 degree deviated to east from the Magnetic North. But only New hall has 12 degree angle. Therefore it is guessed that New hall was built in different times from other buildings3). Major characteristics are; South gate is disproportionately large, and the clear sign of shape of the Cloister. Similar characteristics can only be seen in Kokubun Temples of Sagami and To'o-toumi4).
Photo.33.2 Site of the Ancient Kokubun Temple
In 741, the Emperor Shomu ordered to construct Kokubun Temples in many places of Japan. The purpose of the order was to establish the nation state with centralized power. Excavation research indicates that Sado's Kokubun temple had a typical feature of Tempyou culture of the Nara Era (710-784) 5). The year of temple's establishment is unclear, however, it is thought to be sometime in the last half of Nara Era because there is a record that several sutra texts were dedicated to Sado Kokubun Temple in 7646). The seven-story tower was burnt by thunderbolt in 1302, and the whole temple complex was burnt in 1525. Luckily enough the Yakushi-Nyorai were saved from the fire and the temple was rebuilt soon7). Sado Kokubun Temple had had a big temple network. Even in the beginning of modern times at the first year of Meiji Era in 1867, it had 53 and a half branch temples8).
The establishment of Sado Kokubun Temple was one of the oldest topic in this website. The followings are some explanations about Buddhism introduction to Japan. Buddhism was initiated by Gotama Siddhartha (B.C.E463?-383?) in India, and then introduced into China in C.E.67. It was introduced to Japan in 538 from Paekche that was one of three countries in that time of Korean peninsula. Japanese understood at the time that Buddhism was god that was similar kind of indigenous gods. The difference was that it came from foreign country in west. Two strong clans disputed about accepting Buddhism or not. Soga clan thought Buddhism would bring happiness, on the other, Mononobe clan thought it would bring a curse. Soga clan won and Buddhism was accepted. When Soga clan was exterminated in 645, Emperor became the leader of Buddhism9). The official introduce of Buddhism to Japan was from Paekche. But it was ritualistic things. It should be noted that Japanese learned Buddhism ideas through many Japanese monks who went to China and studied there, and not-many but some Chinese monks who came to Japan10).
Sometimes Buddhism is criticized for women's status. For example, nuns had to obey more precepts than male monks had11). However, it was a fact that Buddhism society had nuns in early days12). And some provisions discriminatory against women were added afterwards because those did not appear in the oldest scriptures13). In Japan, women had important roles in the early days of Buddhism introduction. The first renouncing-world-priests (Shukke) were not men but women. They were Zenshin’ni, Zenzounoama, and Ezennoama14). Sado Kokubun Temple should have had the Female institute "Kokubun'ni Temple". However the location of it has not yet been identified so far15).
Sado Kokubun Temple is the first temple of the so-called "Sado 88-pilgrimage"16).