The Unveiling of the Sacred Kannon

This event has ended.

A hidden Buddhist statue opened for public every 33 years and in the next year of enthronement of a new emperor

Our honzon, the principal image of Ishiyamadera, is usually concealed in a miniature shrine (zushi) and an alternative statue is settled in front of it instead. The doors of the zushi are unlocked only for a limited period: once every 33 years and the year after a new emperor is enthroned. In 2020, we hold a special opening of the hidden honzon (go-kaihi) in the celebration of the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito. The ceremony of unveiling (kaifū-shiki) takes place in the presence of an imperial envoy. You can see the honzon, the statue of Nyoirin Kannon (Buddhistava Cintāmaṇicakra) sitting in the half-lotus position. It is the excellent masterpiece designated Important Cultural Property, which has been widely worshiped since created in 1096. It is a nearly five-meter giant statue but the figure is gentle and graceful. The reason why the statue appears every “33” years is based on “Kanzeon Bosatsu Fumonhon (Kannon-gyō Sutra)”, a chapter in Hokke-kyō Sutra (Lotus Sutra), which says that Kannon saves people by transforming into 33 different figures.

Event Overview General participation possibility

Hours 10:00 – 16:00 (entry to the Main Shrine is permitted until 15:45)
Chancel of Hondō (Main Shrine)
Entrance Fee
Adults, Junior high school and high school students 500 yen
Elementary school student 250 yen
Adults, Junior high school and high school students 400 yen
Ishiyamadera Temple
Entrance Fees
Adults, Junior high school and high school students 600 yen
Elementary School Student 250 yen
Adults 500 yen
Junior high school and high school students 350 yen
Elementary School Student 200 yen
Set Ticket ①Admission Fee to Ishiyamadera Temple
②Admission Fee to Chancel of Hondo
Individual 1,000 yen
※Available at 9:00 am – 3:30 pm.
VenueChancel of Hondō (Main Shrine)

Four small Buddhas found in 2002 such as the oldest asuka-butsus

Researchers made an investigation of the honzon in August of 2002. They discovered four gilt bronze Buddhas and a crystal five-ring pagoda out of the body. Those small statues are valuable historical materials from the Asuka Period to the Tempyō Period (7C–8C). Especially three Buddha sculptures made in the Asuka Period (called asuka-butsu) are said to be the oldest among Japanese statues of Buddha. According to ink writings left on the zushi, the four figures had been kept inside the body of the old honzon, which was destroyed by fire caused in Hondō in 1078. It is also implied that they were repaired in the Kamakura Period (around 13C) and placed into what remains as the honzon today.


Remaining fragments of the first honzon

The first honzon of Ishiymadera is a clay model that was supposedly made in the Nara period (around 8C). It is said that the statue was broken due to a fire in 1078. Although only small fragmented pieces are left at present, you can imagine the original tall figure from the fragments of upper arms or toes, among others.

Flanking attendant statues: Zaō Gongen and Shukongō-jin (Vajrapāni)

The two flanking attendants of the principal image are called Zaō Gongen and Shukongō-jin (Vajrapāni). These Buddhas are related to Priest Rōben, who is the founder of Ishiyamadera. The old wooden core of a statue of Zaō Gongen is also exhibited in the same room with the honzon in Hondō (main shrine). The core (Important Cultural Property) was used as a part of the earthen figure until recent years after the creation in the Nara period (around 8C).