Travel and Adventure

Saikoku-ji Temple

Saikoku-ji is a huge temple complex on the slopes of Mt. Atagoyama.

Saikoku-ji Temple

Saikoku-ji is a huge temple complex on the slopes of Mt. Atagoyama. It’s the largest of the many temples in Onomichi. It’s in the middle of the Old Temple Route

Things to see
The long paved approach through a residential area finally reaches the main gate with its Niō temple guardians atop some steps. Built in 1648 in the early Edo period, the temple’s symbol, giant straw sandals, are suspended from the gate. Within the gate, there’s a washbasin on the right, followed by more steps. The Kongō-in complex is to the right. A long flight of steps lined with lanterns leads to the vermillion Kondō, or main hall, built in 1386 by the Yamana clan, the feudal lords of Bingo Province. In the complex on the next level is priests’ accommodation a Daishi Hall and a Bishamon Hall. More steps lead up the hill through a cemetery to a vermillion three-storey pagoda at the top of the complex, built in 1429 by Ashikaga Yoshinori.

According to temple legend, the temple was built in the late Nara period (710-794) by Gyōki. Most of the hall was destroyed by fire in 1066 during the early Heian period (794-1185), but it was restored by Keiho, the abbot at the time, on the orders of the Emperor Shirakawa. In 1081, a huge temple complex was completed from the foot to the middle of Mt. Atagoyama.  In 1082, the temple became a place of prayer for Emperor Shirakawa. In 1108, the temple became an imperial temple under the rule of Emperor Shirakawa, who became emperor of Japan. The temple boasted the largest temple complex in the Sanyo Province, and in 1312, it was renamed Saigoku-ji Temple in accordance with the imperial edict of Emperor Hanazono. During the latter Nanbokuchō period (1375 – 1378), the temple was again destroyed by fire. The Yamana clan, a feudal lord who was the guardian of Bingo Province, rebuilt the temple, and as early as 1386, the Kondō (main hall) was reconstructed and remains as it is today. The three-story pagoda was built in 1429 with a donation from Ashikaga Yoshinori, the sixth shogun of the Muromachi Shōgunate, and remains to this day.

The temple was once the head temple of the Saigoku-ji sect of the Shingon Sect, which split off from the Daigo sect, but now belongs to the Daigo sect.


Name in Japanese: 西國寺

Pronunciation: sai-koku-ji

Address: 29-27 Nishikubocho, Onomichi, Hiroshima 722-0044

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