Officially called Joyasan Fukushoji, this temple has been known as Sumadera for many years. Sumadera has a deep connection to both the Minamoto and the Taira clans.
Sumadera houses many priceless items including the bamboo flutes of the samurai Taira no Atsumori (1169-1184) and the bell of the monk soldier Benkei (1155-1189). Visitors to Sumadera will also find a burial mound for Atsumori’s head and a pine tree on which Minamoto no Yoshitsune (1159-1189) once sat.
Sumadera is known throughout Japan for being associated with the Genpei era, a period in the late 12th century when politics in Japan were dominated by the Taira and Minamoto clans. Many literary figures such as Yosa Buson (1716-1784) and Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) visited Sumadera to remember these stories. Their haiku and poems are inscribed on monuments scattered throughout the spacious grounds of the temple.
The Main Hall was established in 886 AD. It is said that the courtier Ariwara no Yukihira (818-893), who was also a famous poet, confined himself here to pray and was pardoned by the emperor.
After being rebuilt multiple times as a result of fires, floods, and earthquakes, the Main Hall—as we see it today—was rebuilt one final time in 1602 by the daimyo Toyotomi Hideyori (1593-1615) under building magistrate Katagiri Katsumoto (1556-1615).
The sanctuary, constructed in 1368, is even older. The main deity Sho Kanzeon Bosatsu is enshrined in its hall, flanked by Bishamonten and Fudo Myo-o.
In recent years, the Agency for Cultural Affairs oversaw a complete dismantling and repair of the building, restoring the Main Hall to its original state of about 600 years ago. After the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, the building was restored again.
Our VR content for this site includes the Wooden Eleven-Headed Kannon Statue, the Main Hall’s Buddhist altar, and the painting Fugen Bosatsu and Ten Female Devas—which is on loan to the Kyoto National Museum. All of these are nationally designated Important Cultural Properties.
The Wooden Eleven-Headed Kannon Statue (Mokuzo Juichimen Kannon Ritsuzo) was created in the Nanboku-cho period (1336-1392). There are eleven faces above the statue’s head: three bodhisattva faces, three angry faces, one laughing face, and a transformed Amida (Amitabha) Buddha face.
The statue was made using the yosegi-zukuri method (where a wood sculpture is made from multiple carved wood blocks joined together) with inlaid eyes and stands at about 84 centimeters tall. Although small in stature, the female figure is intricately carved with a graceful nose and eyes and pursed lips. The Kannon has a slender torso and natural stance with hips pulled slightly to the left and right leg relaxed.
According to the Tozan Rekidai—the temple’s record book—this altar for enshrining a Buddha resembles a small palace and was built in 1368 by Shikibu Hokkyo Nagakata.
The altar is unique, even for one built in setchuyo-style (architectural style from the 14th to 16th centuries). It has two tiers: a Chinese-style lower tier and a Japanese-style upper tier. The palace sits on a platform on top of the altar. The palace has three compartments and the decorative brackets supporting the roof are Chinese-style three-stepped brackets.
The word rasetsunyo originally meant “”demoness.”” In this painting from the Nanboku-cho period (1336-1392), the ten servants of Kishimojin (Hariti) who converted to Buddhism with Kishimojin when the Buddha preached the Lotus Sutra are referred to as rasetsunyo. The names of the rasetsunyo are: Ranba, Biramba, Kyokushi, Keshi, Kokushi, Tahotsu, Muensoku, Jiyoraku, Kotei, and Datsu Issai Shujo Seiki.
Set in the center of the image is Fugen (Samantabhadra) Bodhisattva, riding a white elephant with six tusks. He is surrounded by Tamonten, Jikokuten, Yako Bodhisattva, Yuse Bodhisattva, and the ten rasetsunyo dressed in twelve-layered ceremonial kimonos. They are depicted riding on purple clouds to protect those who receive the Lotus Sutra.
- The Genpei Garden
This garden scene recreates the one-on-one combat between Taira no Atsumori (1169-1184) and Kumagai Naozane (1141-1208) over 800 years ago.
During the Battle of Ichinotani in 1184, Kumagai Naozane, a fierce Minamoto clan warrior, challenged Taira no Atsumori, a young courtier who was trying to escape by riding his horse into the sea. He fought Atsumori on the Suma beach and beheaded him.
This story is one of the saddest and most beautiful in The Tale of the Heike. At the time, Atsumori was a 16-year old flute master. His beloved bamboo flute Aoba no Fue is still preserved in the temple.
- Great Teacher’s Hall
This temple enshrines Kobo Daishi (Kukai, 774-835)—the founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism—and the Eight Patriarchs of Shingon. There is a Suma no Odaishi-san event on the 20th and 21st of every month, and more than 800,000 people visit the temple annually.
At one point during the Taisho era (1912-1926), Ozaki Hosai, the solitary and eccentric free verse haiku poet, lived in the temple as a temple keeper. He wrote many haiku here. One of his most famous, “”Such a good moon. I look at it by myself and go to sleep,”” is inscribed on a monument in front of the main hall. The hall was restored in 2007.
- Head Monk’s Quarters and Study
Along with the Main Hall, this is the center of the Sumadera complex and serves as the main office for the Shingon Sumadera sect of Buddhism. The study is also where Amida Buddha is worshipped, and the head monk’s quarters serve as the headquarters and practice room for the Ichigenkin Suma Koto Preservation Society. Buddhist memorial services are held here as well. Out front, there is a garden with a waterfall and monuments engraved with poems by Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) and Manabe Toyohira (1809-1899).
- Three-Storied Pagoda
This pagoda was rebuilt in 1934 to mark the 1,150th anniversary of Kobo Daishi’s death, the 1,100th anniversary of the temple’s founding, and the 800th anniversary of Taira no Atsumori’s death. The old pagoda collapsed during the Bunroku earthquake 400 years prior.
The pagoda is based on Muromachi period (1336-1573) style. The deity Dainichi Nyorai is enshrined inside. Chinese Buddha reliefs line the ceiling and walls of the inner sanctum, and images of the Eight Patriarchs and the Heart Sutra (inscribed in six languages) appear on the inside of its four doors. The suien ornament on top of the pagoda is a statue depicting Buddha at birth. Sand from the 88 sacred sites on Shikoku Island is enclosed under glass in the ground surrounding the pagoda. Visitors wishing to make a pilgrimage may do so by simply walking over each sample of sand.
The pagoda was repainted in 2014.
- The Nio Gate and Ryuge Bridge
The Nio Gate was rebuilt by Genzan Miyorimasa (1106-1180). The Nio deities are said to have been sculpted by Unkei (1150-1223) and his son Tankei (1173-1256).
- Hall of Treasures
The Hall of Treasures houses Sumadera’s historical treasures and artifacts connected to the Genpei era and Taira no Atsumori, such as his flutes.
- Inner Sanctuary
Kobo Daishi (Kukai, 774-835), the founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, is enshrined here.
Visiting the Thirteen Buddhas and the Seven Deities of Good Fortune on the path to the Inner Sanctuary is a way to pray for the repose of the deceased, the safety and growth of children and other family members, and also for peace of mind in one’s present life and in the afterlife.
- Scan the QR code on the left to access.
- Press the AR button, then slowly scan your device across the floor.
- “Wooden, Eleven-Faced Kannon Statue” will show up on the display, when your device recognizes the flat surface.
Note) You will need to use AR kit for the iPhone and ARCore for Android devices. Even if these apps are used, the AR may not work.