Translated by Jasmine Nishino
Visit Abe No Monjuin Temple In Nara To See Japan's Largest Knight Statue
Written by Yumiko Delor
Along with Kyoto's Kireto no Monju and Yamagata's Kameoka Monju, the Abe no Monjuin Temple worships the God of wisdom, the Monju Bodhisattva. Find out the charms of the Abe no Monjuin Temple in Nara.
What Is Abe no Monjuin Temple?
Abe Monjuin Temple was made by Abe no Kurahashimaro in the year 645 as the Abe family's Uji-dera (*1).
The temple was formally referred to as Abedera Temple or Sukyoji Temple and was located 300 meters south-west of where it presently stands. The current temple was moved during the Kamakura Period (1185-1333).
During the battle of 1563, it was once burnt to ashes, but in 1655, the main temple and the prayer hall was reconstructed to what you see today.
*1 Ujidera: a temple constructed to pray for the family's ancestors and family honor. It is often referred to as the name-family's Ujidera or Name-clan's Ujidera. In the modern times, people outside of the family can visit the temple.
Photo courtesy of: Abe no Monjuin Temple
The Monju Bodhisattva statue is the honzon (*2) in the Abe Monjuin Temple. It stands at 7 meters tall and is the largest knight statue in Japan. It holds a sword of wisdom that cuts through any evil in its right hand, and in its left hand is a lotus flower.
The statue of Monju Bodhisattva is riding a lion across the sea while being accompanied by four attendants and is referred to as the Tokai Monju (Monju Bodhisattva Crossing The Sea). All five statues are considered to be national treasures.
*2 Honzon: the most important Buddha that is worshiped at the temple.
Main Temple: Enjoy Green Tea and Japanese Sweets
The main temple is one of Sakurai city's Important Cultural Properties. On the left-hand side, there is the reception desk and you can give your prayers before entering.
At Abe no Monjuin temple, you enjoy cup of matcha green tea before giving your prayers. A cup of matcha green tea of knowledge, a special blend at this temple, and a handmade rakugan confectionery, made with Yoshino kudzu starch from Nara and sugar, is served.
After taking a break with some tea and sweets, you will be guided around the temple and get an explanation of the Monju Bodhisattva.
Unique Prayers at the Kinkaku Ukimido Hall
Kinkaku Ukimido Hall is where the Abe clan is worshiped. It is also referred to as the Nakamarodo Hall and at this hall, the nana-mairi is held. Nana-mairi is a prayer method where you go around the hall seven times and offer seven charms.
It is said to keep away seven misfortunes in the present life.
Ancient Japanese Tombs: the Kofun
At this location, you can also see large dirt mound tombs called kofun. They are among some of the oldest tombs in Japan.
Photo courtesy of: Abe no Monjuin Temple
Stones are piled up symmetrically inside. Despite it being built before modern machinery and engineering, it is built very precisely. This kofun is thought to be the tomb of Abe no Kurahashimaro. This is called the western kofun and there is another kofun in the east.
From the eastern kofun, there is an akasui (*3) fountain that has been pouring out continuously for hundreds of years. This spot is also called the Akai kofun.
*3 Akasui: water that is offered to Buddha.
Hakusando Hall: Favor in Matchmaking
Hakusando is a shrine where a new God was welcomed from Hakusan Shrine. Hakusan Shrine considered Mount Haku in Ishikawa prefecture to be a goshintai (*4). The deity that is worshiped here is Shirayama Kikuri Hime, who is the God of Matchmaking in Japanese mythology. It is said that this shrine offers blessing matchmaking or finding a partner.
*4 Goshintai: a holy item or place where God resides and is worshiped.
Observatory to See the Mountains of Nara and Abe no Seimei Hall
At the observatory, you will find the Abe no Seimei Hall where the famous fortune teller and astrologer, Abe no Seimei is worshiped. It is said that Abe no Seimei climbed to this point to study the stars.
From the observatory, you can see the beautiful Yamato Sanzan (*5) along with a panoramic view of the mountains of Nara.
*5 Yamato Sanzan: three mountains of Japan consisting of Unebi mountain, Miminashi mountain, and Amanokagu mountain.
Basic Information on Abe no Monjuin Temple
Visiting hours are from 9:00-17:00. Admission is required at the main hall and the Kinkaku Ukimido Hall Treasure Museum.
Main Hall (with matcha green tea and Japanese sweets): Adults 700 yen, elementary school students 500 yen.
Kinkaku Ukimido Hall Treasure Museum: Adults 700 yen, elementary school students 500 yen.
If you wish to visit both, you should get the ticket to two places (adults 1200 yen, elementary school students 800 yen).
Seasonal Events at Abe no Monjuin Temple
At each season, there is a Temple Treasure Day where the Buddhas of Abe no Monjuin Temple are displayed.
On March 25th and 26th, there is the daihoyo (*6) of the Monju Bodhisattva called the Monju Oeshiki. On March 26th and November 23rd, a tea party is held as well.
*6 Daihoyo: a Buddhist ceremony.
Getting to Abe no Monjuin Temple
The closest station to Abe no Monjuin Temple is Sakurai Station. It is about a twenty minute walk. There aren't too many buses, but if you plan on going by bus, it takes around ten minutes from Sakurai Station and costs 190 yen.
From Osaka (Umeda)
From Osaka (Umeda), take the JR Kanjo Line bound for Kyobashi. At Tsuruhashi Station, transfer to the Kintetsu Osaka line.
If you get on the express line bound for Nabari, Aoyama-cho or Isuzu, you will get to Sakurai Station in about an hour and fifteen minutes. It costs 800 yen.
From Kyoto, take the Kintetsu Kyoto line express bound for Kajihara Jingu-mae. At Yamatoyagi Station, transfer to the Kintetsu Osaka line.
Get on the semi-express line bound for Haibara or the express line bound for Nabari, Uji Yamada, Aoyama-cho or Isuzu, you will get to Sakurai Station in about an hour and twenty minutes. It costs 940 yen.
Tourist Spots Around Abe no Monjuin Temple
After visiting Abe no Monjuin Temple, you can visit Hasedera Temple, Murouji Temple, and Okadera Temple to complete the Nara Yamato Temple pilgrimage. There is even a bus tour with a translator that goes to all four temples. If you're interested, please visit their official website.
In Sakurai city, you can also visit Danzai Shrine that has the world's only thirteen-story high pagoda, or Oomiwa shrine that worships Mount Miwa.
Why not enjoy the historical world of Nara through temples?
** Travel times and expenses are based on publicly available information and are current as of August 2017. They may be subject to change.
Interview in Cooperation with: Abe no Monjuin Temple