Daizen-ji, Budo-dera (Temple of Grapes)

Overlooking Katsunuma for 13 centuries, Daizen-ji Temple has been deeply connected to viticulture. After having a vision of the Buddha of healing holding a handful of grapes, Gyoki, a great priest, made a statue of the Buddha and founded Daizen-ji Temple in 718 AD. According to local legend, Gyoki cultivated the land for vineyards and taught the locals how to grow grapes.

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Here is a recent rendition of the statue carved by Gyoki. The original is only displayed once every 5 years.

Grapes, which are not native to Japan, made their way to the island nation via the Silk Road some 1500 years ago. The arrival of grapes roughly coincides with the arrival of Buddhism.  The modern Koshu grape of Japan is actually a cross between grapes found in the Caucuses region near the Caspian Sea and wild varieties found in China.

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Here is a view of the main gate at Daizen-ji as seen from the trellises of grapes being cultivated by the current chief priest.

The current chief priest of Daizen-ji Temple, Mr. Inoue, puts his grapes to good use as he produces 800 1.8-litre bottles of Koshu wine and 450 1.8-litre bottles of Bailey A wine. Of course you can both taste and buy the wines at the temple.

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This is the current chief priest at Daizen-ji, Budo-dera.

The temple grounds are very attractive with a staircase leading from the main gate to the main building. The main gate (Sanmon Gate) was constructed in 1798, while the main building (Yakushi-do) was built in 1286. It was a delight to tour the main building as you can feel the beautiful texture of the hand-hewn floorboards beneath your feet.

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The main gate
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A view of the entrance to the 730-year-old main building

Once you are inside the main building, you will be astonished to see ancient graffiti on one of the main support beams.

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Don’t miss the graffiti as you enter the main building.

The main attraction inside the building has to be the Juni-shinsho (12 Heavenly Generals). I have never seen such a collection of statues as this in a temple before. The colours and features were truly captivating.

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Half of the Heavenly Generals

If you are coming to the Katsunuma area for a wine-tasting tour, you should consider visiting Daizen-ji Temple. You can stay at the temple inn and enjoy 2 meals for just ¥6,000 per night. However, if you cannot speak Japanese, it might be difficult to book a room. Of course you could try to show up at the temple and request to stay a night, but the meal might be a problem as it needs to be planned in advance. Here is the temple-inn’s website in case you are interested:

http://katsunuma.ne.jp/~daizenji/shukubo.html

Visit my detailed blog post describing local transport and accommodations.

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