Hogonji Temple is located on the sacred Chikubu Island in Shiga Prefecture, dedicated to the goddess Benzaiten. Japanese history called the name of Chikubushima island the very first time in some 1300 years ago. It is said that while the sun deity Amaterasu-sume-okami gave a sacred message to Emperor Shomu, Amaterasu-sume-okami mentioned a small island inside the lake Biwa, saying that the island was the divine destination of the deity Benzaiten descending from heaven. The Emperor obeyed the god to send the priest Gyoki to the island to build a temple here. Thus in 724, the temple was built and becoming the 30th stop in the Pilgrimage to the 33 Sacred Places of Kannon in the Western Provinces.
Gyoki Bosatsu came to the island in command of the Emperor and first, built the Hoden with the image of a female Benzaiten carved by himself, then building a second Hoden with an image of the thousand-armed and thousand-eyed Goddess of Mercy. Often visited by outstanding priests namely Dengyo Daishi, Kobo Daishi and Jikaku, Hogonji has continued its Buddhist tradition of more than one thousand years. Even though the Benzaiten in Hogonji is one among Three Benzaiten in Japan together with two others at Itsukushima shrine in Hiroshima and Enoshima shrine in Kamakura, Hogonji is always considered ad the true location of the coming of Benzaiten to Japan.
You can see a collection of treasures at Hogonji Temple, including a corridor that is a designated Important Cultural Property and a gate that is a national treasure. Karamon Gate, originally from the Toyokuni Shrine in Kyoto, was moved to its current location during the temple’s renovation in 1602. It is an excellent example of Momoyama Period artwork with vibrant colors of both Chinese and Japanese gathering in the presence of Buddhist iconography. The walls are decorated with wooden carvings, metal ornaments, polychrome, and sculptural forms while the roof is ornately decorated with embellished tiles that cover the ridges on the rooftop.
Looking around the structure, you can see images of a wheel-like flower representing the cycle of reincarnation together with other bright gold floral on the beams of the eaves, at the top of the doors and on various joints of the gate. On the side of the roof or at the top of the door, they decorate gold phoenixes in patterns of cloud and also Japanese Lion dogs on the left door. Karamon Gate is connected with Tsukubusuma Shrine by the Funa Corridor constructed by the wood of Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s ship. The pagoda, an other main structure of Kongorinji is three storied, dyed in traditional orange and red, consisting of three bays and a central core running the entire height of the structure ending in the sharp pointed top.