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Arahakasan Shitennō-ji
Chushin garan (中心伽藍)
DeityKannon (Avalokiteśvara)
Location1-1-18 Shitennō-ji
MunicipalityTennōji-ku, Osaka
FounderPrince Shōtoku
General contractorKongō Gumi
Japanese name

Coordinates: 34°39′14.04″N 135°30′59.22″E / 34.6539000°N 135.5164500°E / 34.6539000; 135.5164500 Shitennō-ji (Japanese: 四天王寺; also Arahaka-ji, Nanba-ji, or Mitsu-ji) is a Buddhist temple in Ōsaka, Japan. It is sometimes regarded as the first Buddhist and oldest officially administered temple in Japan,[1][2] although the temple buildings have been rebuilt over the centuries. It is the head temple of the Wa Sect of Buddhism.[citation needed]


Prince Shōtoku was known for his profound Buddhist faith when Buddhism was not widespread in Japan during the 6th century.[3] In order to popularize Buddhism, Prince Shōtoku lead a massive national project to promote Buddhism and he commissioned the construction of Shitennō-ji.[3] Prince Shōtoku invited three Korean carpenters from the former kingdom Baekje.[3] They brought knowledge and led the construction of Shitennō-ji.[3] The commission of Shitennō-ji was part of a massive national project led by Prince Shōtoku who was devoted to Buddhism.[3] The temple buildings were rebuilt a few times during the centuries. Most of the present structures are from when the temple was last completely rebuilt in 1963. One of the members involved in the initial construction of the temple in the 6th century later established a firm Kongō Gumi, specialized in temple and shrine buildings over centuries. Kongō Gumi was the world's oldest company until it was acquired by Takamatsu in 2004.[4]


The Shitennō are believed to be four heavenly kings. The temple Prince Shōtoku built to honor them had four institutions, each to help the Japanese attain a higher level of civilization. This Shika-in (四箇院, Four Institutions) was centered on the seven-building garan (伽藍) (the complex inside the walls), and included a Kyōden-in (Institution of Religion and Education), a Hiden-in (welfare Institution), a Ryōbyō-in (hospital), and a Seiyaku-in (pharmacy) to provide essential care to the people of Japan.[5]

The garan consists of a five-story pagoda, a main Golden Pavilion (Kondō) housing an image of the Bodhisattva Kannon, and a Kōdō (Lecture Hall) under a covered corridor holding three gates (the Deva Gate,[6] the Western Gate, and the Eastern Gate). Surrounding this central complex are the Great South Gate (Nandaimon), and a Great East Gate (Higashi-no-ō'mon). To the west is the Great West Gate (Nishi-no-ō'mon), also known as Gokuraku-mon (極楽門). Further to the west is a stone torii, which is widely accepted as the Eastern Gate to the gokuraku-jōdo (極楽浄土, Western Paradise, or the Pure Land).

In the Kameido hall is a 7th century turtle-shaped stonework that was used for state rituals with water.[7] These are 2 turtle-shaped objects in opposite direction.[7] The stone tank and upper turtle's base were carved from single pieces of Tatsuyama stone. These are similar to the carving at the Sakafuneishi ruins which are believed to be a ritual site for Empress Kōgyoku (594-661) in Asuka, Nara Prefecture.[7] Nowadays they are still used for rituals to commemorate ancestors by floating sheets of wood with their names on the water.[7]

Souvenirs of Shitennō-ji are sold on the 21st of each month.[citation needed]



See also[edit]


  1. ^ Scheid, Bernhard. "Religion in Japan". Torii (in German). University of Vienna. Retrieved 12 February 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "Asuka-Dera Temple". Retrieved 29 September 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ a b c d e Yasuhiko Nakazawa (December 31, 2020). "Japan's oldest company defies time with merit-based succession". Nikkei. Archived from the original on January 4, 2021.
  4. ^ "The End of a 1,400-Year-Old Business". Bloomberg. April 17, 2007. Archived from the original on November 20, 2020.
  5. ^ Three of the four sections are known to have existed inside the temple in Kamakura period[citation needed].
  6. ^ Niōmon (仁王門), also called chūmon (中門).
  7. ^ a b c d "Turtle-shaped stonework at Osaka temple dates to 7th century: study". Mainichi. April 27, 2019. Archived from the original on November 24, 2020.

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