Shōgo-in Monzeki – A Shugendō Temple with Close Ties to the Imperial Family
Shōgo-in Monzeki is the sohonzan head temple of the Honzan sect of the Shugendō religion which was founded by the ascetic and mystic En no Gyōja.
Honzan refers to the head temple of any given religious sect. Depending on the sect, such temples will also sometimes function as a center for the sect as well.
Additionally, while honzan translates to head temple, there are sohonzan as well. Sohonzan are the highest-ranked temples of some religious sects and govern over all the honzan head temples of said sect.
The Shōgo-in Monzeki Temple is also known for the fact that it served as the *Monzeki Temple for generations of the imperial family and imperial court Sekkan families. The temple also once served as the temporary living quarters for Emperor Kōkaku when the imperial palace was damaged by a fire and holds an especially high status among Monzeki Temple.
*Monzeki Temple are temples were the royal family or court royal serve as the head priest.
The Shōgo-in Monzeki Temple serves as the head temple of the *Shugendō religion and is where practitioners known as *Yamabushi gather.
However, Shōgo-in Monzeki has another side; a more beautiful, dazzling side. The temple hall, known as the *shinden, houses over 100 sliding doors beautifully painted by Edo Period renowned painter and Kanō Tan'yū's ward, Masunobu Kanō, and Kanō Einō, the third heir to the Kyogano Kyoto school of Kanō painting.
*1 Shugendō is an ancient Japanese religion based on mountain religions and seeks to attain Buddhist enlightenment through grueling mountainous training.
*2 The practitioners of this religion, Yamabushi, endure the aforementioned grueling training deep within the treacherous mountains of Japan.
*3 The shinden is a hall within the temple where important imperial and court events are held.
Shinden Shohekiga – Sliding Door Paintings
The sliding doors of the shinden hall are all beautifully painted by Edo Period renowned painter and Kanō Tan'yū's ward, Masunobu Kanō, in collaboration with Kanō Einō, the third heir to the Kyogano Kyoto school of Kanō painting.
Although the shohekiga sliding door paintings in the temple date back over 350 years, they remain in extremely good condition due to the small number of people who are able to pass through the Monzeki temple.
Among temples open to the public, Shōgo-in Monzeki is one of the few that still contains the original versions of its paintings. Not only are the paintings not protected by any sort of barrier such as glass, the view area is relatively close compared to other temples. This allows you to admire even the finest stroke marks.
Fudo Myoo (principal object of worship - Important Cultural Property)
As a temple of the Shugen sect of Buddhism, the principal object of worship of the Shogoin Monzeki Temple is, somewhat expectedly, Fudo Myoo. Fudo Myoo is an incarnation of the Buddha, Dainichi Nyorai, and represents a determination to lead anyone, no matter how bad, to Buddhism. Sculpted in the Heian period, this statue has withstood four separate fires that have ravaged the temple. Repeatedly burned as part of the Buddhist ritual homa, the soot-covered statue gives off a truly incredible air. While many branches of this temple were destroyed during the Meiji era's abolishment of the Shugendo religion, this statue was spared as it is the principal object of worship here. As a result, at the Shogoin Monzeki Temple, you are now able to get a very rare look at four Fudo Myoo statues, in addition to statues of En no Gyoja and Zaogogen all in one temple.