Coordinates: 34°39′14.04″N 135°30′59.22″E / 34.6539000°N 135.5164500°E / 34.6539000; 135.5164500
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Arahakasan Shitennō-ji
Chushin garan (中心伽藍) Map
DeityKannon (Avalokiteśvara)
Location1-1-18 Shitennō-ji
MunicipalityTennōji-ku, Osaka
Geographic coordinates34°39′14.04″N 135°30′59.22″E / 34.6539000°N 135.5164500°E / 34.6539000; 135.5164500
FounderPrince Shōtoku
General contractorKongō Gumi
Date established593
Completed1963 (Reconstruction)
Japanese name

Shitennō-ji (Japanese: 四天王寺, Temple of the Four Heavenly Kings) is a Buddhist temple in Ōsaka, Japan. It is also known as Arahaka-ji, Nanba-ji, or Mitsu-ji. The temple is sometimes regarded as the first Buddhist and oldest officially-administered temple in Japan,[1][2] although the temple complex and buildings have been rebuilt over the centuries, with the last reconstruction taking place in 1963. Shortly after World War II, Shitennō-ji became independent of the parent Tendai sect, and formed the "Wa" sect (wa-shū, 和宗) of Buddhism.[3]


Prince Shōtoku was known for his profound Buddhist faith when Buddhism was not widespread in Japan during the 6th century.[4] In order to popularize Buddhism, Prince Shōtoku led a massive national project to promote Buddhism and he commissioned the construction of Shitennō-ji.[4] Prince Shōtoku invited three Korean carpenters from Baekje.[4] They brought knowledge and led the construction of Shitennō-ji.[4] The commission of Shitennō-ji was part of a massive national project led by Prince Shōtoku.[4]

The temple buildings themselves have been rebuilt a few times over 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 the firm Kongō Gumi, which specialized in temple and shrine buildings.[citation needed] Kongō Gumi was the world's oldest company until it was acquired by the Takamatsu Construction Group in 2004.[5]


"Shitennō" refer to the Four Heavenly Kings in Buddhism. 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. Three of the four sections are known to have existed inside the temple in Kamakura period[citation needed].

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 (仁王門, Niōmon) (also known as the chūmon (中門)), 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 imagined to be the Eastern Gate to Sukhavati, the Pure Land of the West.

In the Kameido hall is a 7th-century turtle-shaped stonework that was used for state rituals with water.[6] These are 2 turtle-shaped objects in opposite direction.[6] 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.[6] Nowadays they are still used for rituals to commemorate ancestors by floating sheets of wood with their names on the water.[6]

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.
  2. ^ "Asuka-Dera Temple". Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  3. ^ "四天王寺の歴史, 和宗総本山 四天王寺" (in Japanese). Retrieved 2023-09-15.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "The End of a 1,400-Year-Old Business". Bloomberg. April 17, 2007. Archived from the original on March 11, 2016.
  6. ^ 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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