Audio Guide

観世音寺 Kanzeon-ji Temple

  • 9:00 - 17:00
  • Free (Entrance to the Treasure Room is 500 yen)

A pleasant walk to a quiet part of the city among rice fields and farmland is Kanzeon-ji, once the most important temple in Kyushu. Visit the temple together with nearby Kaidan-in, a Zen temple previously part of the Kanzeon-ji complex. The walk from Dazaifu Station takes a little under 20 minutes. Alternatively, rent a bicycle at the station to get there in half the time.

Kanzeon-ji was founded in the late 7th century by Emperor Tenji in honour of his late mother Empress Saimei. Construction took nearly 80 years and the temple wasn't dedicated until the year 746. Fifteen years later when an ordination hall was added, Kanzeon-ji became one of only three ordination sites in the country. Novice priests would visit from near and far to receive the Buddhist precepts and become fully-fledged priests.

At its height, the Kanzeon-ji temple complex consisted of 49 sub-temples. Most were lost to fire over the centuries and abandoned, but Kanzeon-ji's main hall and lecture hall were restored in the 17th century. The ordination hall also remains, but in the form of nearby Kaidan-in, and no longer a part of Kanzeon-ji.

The highlight of a visit to the temple is its treasure house. It boasts a wealth of culturally significant artworks, including one of the largest displays of Buddhist statuary in Kyushu. Among the collection are several ancient sculptures almost five-meters tall, a 9th century sculpture of the wrathful guardian deity Tobatsu Bishamonten, and three masks used for the dramas and imperial court dances that were regular features at the temple. Admission to the treasure house is just 500 yen for adults, with discounts for children. Entrance to the temple itself is free of charge.