Ryūtōki inside of Kon-do

Inside KondoThere are many incarnations of agyō and ungyō statues to be found around Ninna-ji. As I did not manage to get a shot of the other statue you’ll have to take my word on this, but the statue to the left is the closed mouth one of this pair inside of Kon-do. This statue is called Ryūtōki, the complementing statue is called Tentōki. In Kon-do they are both intended for use as candle stands though other versions carry lanterns rather than flat disks.

While you will not be allowed to take pictures, if you would like to see the inside of Kon-do one of the guaranteed ways to be able to see inside is to stay at the temple overnight. If you stay overnight at Ninna-ji you can attend morning prayers with the monks inside of Kon-do the next day. It is pretty impressive inside! I highly recommend taking a look if you have the chance!


On the Roof of Kon-do: “It’s surprisingly cool up here.”

Expedition onto the Roof of Kon-do


They went up on the roof today to do some inspecting and make sure everything was okay up there. Kon-do is a rather tall building, there is no way I would want to go up on the roof, but fortunately I wasn’t the one who needed to go up to do anything! Sounds like there weren’t any problems, and even though those of us on the ground were trying to avoid the very hot sunlight as we watched, apparently it was relatively cool up there.

Bird’s-eye View of the Temple

Ninna-ji Temple

You have to be some distance away from the temple to get a view like this! It is easy to see that Ninna-ji is truly at the base of a mountain in this picture. I’ve tagged several of the structures that appear in the photograph, see which buildings you can identify! There is a large copy available on Flickr, click the image to go to Flickr and download the larger size.

On the Eaves of Kon-do

Atop Kon-do Atop Kon-do

When facing Kon-do, if you look to the left and right corners of the roof, you will see these two figures. It is said that these figures depict Kosekiko (黄石公), the Yellow Stone Elder, riding on top of an ancient tortoise. In Japanese lore, the tortoise is believed to live for up to 10,000 years. These figures were added to the roof of Kon-do some time after it was moved to Ninna-ji and express the wish that Kon-do may stand for thousands of years just as the tortoise and Kosekiko have lived for thousands of years. You can see that the two tortoises have also taken on the role of agyō and ungyō, guardians with one mouth open for the sound “ah” and one closed making the sound “un.”

Fortunes tied near Kon-do

Fortunes tied

You can grab a fortune or “omikuji” near Kon-do. If you end up with a good fortune, you can keep it with you, but some people tie their fortunes whether good or bad to a tree, or in this case metal wires like those above, and leave them at the temple. It is generally considered better to tie a bad fortune to the specified place at the temple rather than carry it around with you.

Kon-do: Main Hall

Kon-do, borrowed from the official Chinese Ninna-ji blog

I mentioned Kon-do in an earlier post about hajitomi (the distinctive lattice shutters on Kon-do, Shinden, and Mie-do), but today I will be offering more background on the main hall of the temple.

Originally built in 1613, Kon-do served as a hall for state ceremonies (shishinden 紫宸殿) at the imperial palace. In the 17th century Kon-do was given to Ninna-ji during the reconstruction of the temple. Kon-do was taken apart at the imperial palace and reconstructed on the temple grounds during the Kan’ei Era. The temple’s principle image of Buddha, the Amida Triad (Amida Buddha and two attendant deities) made by Unsetsu was enshrined within Kon-do in 1644, the same year construction was completed. There were relatively few changes made to the building during its reconstruction; the shingle roof was replaced with tiles and an altar was constructed inside, but other aristocratic architectural elements such as the latticed shutters (hajitomi) remain. Kon-do is 12.6m (41.3ft) across and 9m (29.5ft) deep with a hip-gable roof.  As the oldest building of its style still in existence today, Kon-do has been designated a national treasure of Japan.