Kongō-ji Temple, located right next to Yasaka-no-To Pagoda in Higashiyama Ward, Kyoto, is a Tendai Buddhist temple commonly known as the Yaskaka Kōshin-dō. Along with the Four-Temple Kōshin-dō in Osaka and the now-lost Iriya Kōshin-dō in Tokyo, it is considered one of Japan’s three major Kōshin-dō temples. The temple grounds are filled with unique monkey-shaped amulets called “kukuri saru,” and there are many events held throughout the year, including “kakuri mochi” (mochi made from konjac), and Kōshin-dō rituals.
In this article, we will introduce the charm and highlights of the Yaskaka Kōshin-dō (Kongō-ji Temple).
The History of Yasaka Kōshin-dō (Kongō-ji Temple)
Yasaka Kōshin-dō (Kongō-ji Temple) was founded in the early Heian period by a monk named Jōzō Kisho.
It is said that the location where Kongō-ji Temple was built originally enshrined the guardian statue of the Qin family, the Aomyō Kongō, which had prospered in Japan after coming from the continent. Jōzō Kisho established the temple so that anyone could visit and pay respects to Aomyō Kongō.
During the Heian period, Kōshin faith (the worship of the Kōshin deity) was brought to Japan from China. Kōshin refers to the day of Kōshin (kanoe saru), which is said to be the day when the three worms (sanshi no mushi) exit the body and report one’s misdeeds to the celestial emperor (the highest god of Taoism). Kōshin faith involves the worship of the Buddha called Aomyō Kongō, who is said to eat the three worms, and various festivals are held on the day of Kōshin. Among them, Kōshin-machi is a particularly famous event where people stay awake and worship Aomyō Kongō all night long on the day of Kōshin. Originally, the Kōshin-dō was a temple dedicated to Aomyō Kongō, but as Kōshin faith spread, it came to be used for Kōshin-machi.
Sights to see at Yasaka Koshindo (Kongoji)
Yasaka Koshindo (Kongoji) is one of the few temples in Japan where the Koshin faith is still practiced today. In this section, we will introduce the charm and sights to see at Yasaka Koshindo.
Good luck charm “Kukurizaru” for wishes.
Kukurizaru is a charm that can be received at Yasaka Koshin-do Temple. It is made of colorful cloth and is designed to look like a monkey with its limbs bound. Monkeys are seen as a symbol of human desire. It is said that by restraining one’s desires, wishes can come true.
There are individual kukurizaru charms as well as sets of five charms in different sizes. You can choose according to your preference. When your wish comes true, you can dedicate the charm to the temple. There are many dedicated kukurizaru charms inside the temple grounds, which make for a lively sight.
In the surrounding houses and shops near Yasaka Koshin-do Temple, you will find many sets of kukurizaru charms hanging on the eaves.
Events held on Koshin Day
At Yasaka Koshin-do, two events called Koshin-machi and konjac gruel cooking are held on six Koshin days each year. The konjac gruel cooking event is named after the legend that Jozokikisho, who built Yasaka Koshin-do, cured his father’s illness by feeding him konjac. The konjac is cut into the shape of a monkey and eaten in silence while facing north three times, which is said to have a miraculous effect on health.
Koshin-machi is an event where the participants stay awake all night and worship the statue of Aomyokong, the main deity. It is believed that any wish made during Koshin-machi will come true. If you have a wish that you really want to come true, it’s worth joining the event.
If you cannot attend the event, you can also make an offering of a substitute lamp. Write your wish on a lamp that has been granted for 1,000 yen or more, and dedicate it. The lamp will be kept lit in the hall all night.
Access information for Yasaka Koshin-do (Kongō-ji)
Address: 390 Kinen-cho, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto
Phone number: +81 075-541-2565
Visiting hours: 9:00-17:00
Admission fee: Free within the temple grounds
available Access: Take the 86 or 100 bus from JR Kyoto Station, get off at Kiyomizu-michi, and walk for 7 minutes.