GROUNDSHIGHLIGHTS OF ZUIGANJI
Hondo (Main Building)National Treasure
Surrounded by towering cedar trees, the main building of Zuiganji Temple stands facing Matsushima Bay.
Built in 1609 as the family temple of the ruler of Sendai, Date Masamune, Zuiganji’s design reflects both his ambition and elegant aesthetic sense. The interior has dark wood beams transported by ship from Wakayama, sculptures crafted by artisans from the Kyoto region and enlivened by brilliant paintings on golden walls.
As Zuiganji was constructed at the end of an age of civil wars, it has unusual features for a temple including a special room, Jojodan no Ma, for exclusive use by the Emperor and Imperial Family. This room remained unused for 267 years until the Meiji Emperor finally spent a night at Zuiganji in 1876.
Reopened to the public in April 2016, each room in the Hondo has been perfectly restored to its original state from 1622 with the exception of the Sumie no Ma room, where the original black ink paintings are still on display.
Kujaku no Ma (Peacock Room) and Butsuma (Room of Buddha)
The central room of the temple is used for Buddhist memorial services to this day. In the rear is a copper image of Sho Kannon (the Goddess of Mercy), enshrined by Date Masamune, as well as the original Buddhist memorial tablets of Date Masamune and his two successors.
The sliding doors are decorated with brilliant paintings on gold ground which depict the changing of the seasons. The room name comes from the paintings of peacocks with their plumage on full display, symbolizing the Pure Land (Buddhist paradise).
Jodan no Ma (High Room)
This room with an elevated floor and luxuriously thick tatami mats was reserved for the samurai ruler of Sendai, Date Masamune, and his successors.
The study has a magnificent black lacquered alcove with staggered shelves.
Sumie no Ma (Ink Painting Room)
This room was used by the temple’s chief priest as a waiting room. The sliding doors feature original 400 year old India ink paintings.
Kuri (Temple Kitchen)National Treasure
This is the kitchen for Zuiganji Temple. The aesthetic sense of samurai ruler Date Masamune can be seen in the arabesque wood carvings under the roof gables which embellish a building intended for practical use.
The interior of the Kuri beyond the entranceway is closed to the public.
Onarimon and Onarigenkan
(Emperor’s Gate and Entrance)Onarimon: National Important Cultural Property
This Zen Buddhist temple has a gate usually only found in samurai compounds called the “onarimon.” It was for exclusive use by the Emperor, Imperial Family and samurai ruler. It leads to a special entrance, the “onarigenkan,” which was built in a Z-shape to prevent anyone from directly viewing the Emperor. This entrance features a wooden transom sculpted by Hidari Jingoro, a famous sculptor of the Edo period.
This cave with the latticed door is named after a famous priest, Hosshin, who practiced Zen meditation in this cave. By the 13th century, Zuiganji Temple had fallen into disrepair. An aspiring Kamakura Shogunate, Hojo Tokiyori, visited this temple and encountered Hosshin. Hojo was impressed by Hosshin’s greatness and ordered that the existing temple be replaced by a new Rinzai-sect Zen temple, and appointed Hosshin as the first chief priest of the new Rinzai Zen Temple.
Surrounding Zuiganji Temple are caves long ago carved by the ocean. Since the temple’s founding in 828, many priests and monks came to Matsushima to live and practice Buddhism in the caves. Inside are Buddhist ruins from the 8th century. The carvings on the surface of the cliffs denote tombstones.
Godaido TempleNational Important Cultural Property
Surrounded by Matsushima Bay and connected to the land by red bridges, Godaido Temple is a symbol of Matsushima. There is no fee to enter and it closes at sundown.
First established in 807AD, the original founder of Zuiganji Temple enshrined the Five Great Wisdom Kings here giving it the name Godaido. It is said that he sculpted these statues with his own hands.
The building seen today was constructed in 1604 by Date Masamune to celebrate victory at Sekigahara, the decisive battle which brought an end to the era of civil wars. Once painted bright red, Godaido is the oldest example of Momoyama period architecture in northeastern Japan.
Map of the Temple and Grounds
- 1 Hondo (Main Building)
- 2 Kujaku no Ma (Peacock Room) and Butsuma (Room of Buddha)
- 3 Jodan no Ma (High Room)
- 4 Sumie no Ma (Ink Painting Room)
- 5 Kuri (Temple Kitchen)
- 6 Onarimon and Onarigenkan (Emperor’s Gate and Entrance)
- 7 Hosshinkutsu Cave
- 8 Museum
- 9 Ticket Window