Buddhist temples of Japan

Kujaku-Myoo, Buddha on Peacock, A.D. 1200, Koyasan Museum.

Garuda or Karura, Daiyuzan-Saijoji, near Odawara.

Garuda or Karura, Kofokuji Museum, Nara.

Kubera, or Vaisravana or Bishamonten, Kamakura Period, 12-14th centuries, Kurumadera temple, Kyoto Prefecture. He is one of the four heavenly kings of the Indian tradition and he rules over the northern direction.

Kubera or Vaisravana or Bishamonten, Shibamata Taishakuten, Indra temple, formerly known as Daikyoji, Tokyo.

Kamadeva, Meguro Ryusenji, Tokyo. Kamadeva, or ‘Deity of Love’, is worshipped by many young people at this temple in Tokyo.

Kubera, or Vaisravana or Bishamonten, Heian Period, 8th-12th centuries, Kurumadera temple, Kyoto prefecture.

Chandra, or Gnatoo, moon deity taken from the Indian tradition, screen painting, Daigoji, Shiga prefecture.

Todaiji temple, Nara. This is one of the oldest and most revered temples of Japan.

Nagarjuna, Gokokuji, Tokyo. Nagarjuna is known as Gujio in Japan. He is the most prominent intellectual and teacher who established Vajrayana Buddhism. According to Japanese priests, without his teachings, the Buddhism of the Great Vehicle would not have existed.

Chamundi, Rokuhara Mitsuji Museum, Kyoto.

Naga Bodhi of Nalanda University, Gokokuji, Tokyo. The great intellectuals of Nalanda University are known to have formulated Esoteric, or Vajrayana, Buddhism. They are deeply venerated by many sects of Buddhists in Japan.

Big Buddha, Todaiji Temple, Nara. This 48-foot high Vairochana is the largest bronze statue in the world.

Varuna, or Suiten, Shibamata Taishakuten, or Daikyoji Indra temple, Tokyo. Varuna is worshiped in numerous temples in Japan.

Varuna, or Suiten, pond, Meguro Ryusenji, Tokyo. A shrine was dedicated to Varuna here in 1836.

Varuna, or Suiten, A.D. 1127, National Treasure from Toji, Kyoto, courtesy Kyoto National Museum. Varuna has been worshipped in many temples in Japan to prevent droughts, typhoons and floods, which occur often in Japan.

The Indian priest Bodhisena, or Baramon Sojo (Brahmin priest), being received by Gyoki Bhodhisattva. Ryosenji, Nara, Scroll Painting. Bodhisena was received in Japan with great honours and was named one of the four saints of the Todaiji temple.

Bodhisena statue, Ryosenji, Nara. In the eight century, Bodhisena was invited by the Japanese Emperor. He conducted the eye-opening ceremony of the great Buddha of the Todaiji temple in 752. Bodhisena is believed to have been from South India.

Bodhisena commoration stone, Ryosenji, Nara. Bodhisena stayed in Nara at the Daianji temple. He passed away in A.D. 760 when he was 57 years old.

Apsara, or Tennin, Gokokuji, Tokyo. Apsaras are among the earliest representations of Indian art, profusely used since the 2nd century B.C. They are made equally profusely in Japanese art, and the Japanese name means "Heavenly Beings". In the words of Dr. Kusano Kenshi, President of Otani University: “In Japan, they have always called India tinico. The ten in tinico means heaven, so from that we can see the high regard and respect which the Japanese people have had for India.”

Krishna Venugopala-like figure, Todaiji temple, Nara. The philosophic imagery of India has been fully adopted by the Japanese. One can come across in Japan almost all the representations from Indian temples.

Havan, or Homa or Goma, Takahata Fudo temple, Tokyo. In the Shingon and Tendai Buddhist sects, Goma has striking parallels with the early Hindu rites of agni worship. There are also deep similarities with the later Tantric traditions. In Japan, the havan is perhaps conducted as often as in India. The tantric Shingon school sings Sanskrit hymns. To this day, followers of the sect perform their worship in 1,200 temples throughout Japan. In the words of His Excellency Yasukuni Enoki, Former Ambassador of Japan: “This should be recognised by the Japanese people that at the bottom of Japanese culture, Indian culture is very strongly imprinted. It is then developed in the Japanese way.”

Havan, Saidaiji temple, Nara. In the words of Prof Kitamura: “In Japan, they are preserving the old Indian tradition, because they are following the ancient scriptures. They are also doing the puja and the mudras, as well as the sadhna. There is nothing called Japanese or Japanese elements in these. It is all Indian and it is, all of it, the Indian Buddhist Tantric tradition.”

Asanga, Kofokuji Temple, Nara. Asanga was a major exponent of the Yogacara school of Buddhism in India. He is deeply venerated in Japan, and this is one of the very few statuesof him in the world.

Vasubandhu, Kofokuji temple, Nara. Half-brother of Asanga, he was also a major exponent of the Yogacara school of Buddhism in India. He is deeply venerated in Japan and this is one of the very few statues of him in the world.

Fudo Myoo, Achalanatha, Enryakuji Museum, Shiga prefecture. In Japan, Achalanatha is revered in Shingon, Tendai, Zen and Nichiren Buddhism and in Shugendo. In the words of Chief Priest Tomokazu Tsukahara: “There are four types of Shingon mantras of Fudo Myoo in Japan. They are taken from the Sanskrit language. Fudo Myoo seems to have had his origin in the Hindu deity Siva. The Myoo is called 'Vidya-raja' in Sanskrit. Here, it can be safely stated that Fudo Myoo has his origin in the Hindu deities of India.”

One of the four directional kings, or Shitenno, Meguro Ryusenji, Tokyo. They have been taken from the Indian tradition and are Vaisravana, Virudhaka, Dhrtarastra and Virupaksa.

1 / 0
Kujaku-Myoo, Buddha on Peacock, A.D. 1200, Koyasan Museum.
Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment