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Head Temples

Temple Name: Kokutai-ji 國泰寺

Mountain Name: Machozan 摩頂山

Address: 184 Ota, Takaoka-shi, Toyama-ken, 933-0133 Japan
Tel: 0766-44-0610; Fax: 0766-44-1020


Kokutai-ji was established by Jiun Myoi 慈雲妙意 (1274–1345). Jiun as a young monk had lived in a hut on Mount Futakami, south of where Kokutai-ji is presently located, practicing meditation as a hermit. The monk Koho Kakumyo 孤峰覺明 (1271–1361), who happened to be on pilgrimage in the area, suggested that he visit the Zen master Shinchi Kakushin 心地覺心 (1207–1298), who was Kakumyo’s own teacher. Jiun followed this advice, traveling to Kakushin’s temple, Kokoku-ji 興國寺, located in Yura in present Wakayama Prefecture. Jiun stayed with Kakushin until, at the age of twenty-four, he experienced a deep enlightenment. Receiving Kakushin’s sanction, he returned to his hut on Mount Futakami and continued his practice. In 1300 Jiun founded the temple Tosho-ji 東松寺 there, attracting a large number of disciples from throughout the land. Subsequently he won the support of Emperor Go-Daigo 後醍醐 (r. 1319–1339), who in 1327 awarded him a purple robe and the honorary title Seisen Zenji 清泉禪師, and who bestowed upon his temple the imperial name Kokutai-ji 國泰寺, the Temple of National Peace, with a rank equal to that of Nanzen-ji in Kyoto. The temple was, furthermore, included among the Ankoku-ji 安國寺 (Temples for National Peace) system established by the Ashikaga shogunate, at the request of the Northern Dynasty emperor Komyo 光明 (r. 1336–1348). In 1345 Jiun passed away, leaving the death verse, “In the heavens, the moon; on the earth, a spring.” He was awarded the posthumous title Enichi Shoko Kokushi 慧日聖光國師 by Emperor Komyo.


The temple suffered a decline during the era of the warfare that continued from the 1470s until the 1550s, particularly during the incursions of the forces under the warlord Uesugi Kenshin 上杉謙信 (1530–1578). However, the temple was restored in the mid-sixteenth century by the twenty-eighth abbot, Settei Shukuyo 雪庭祝陽, at the request of Emperor Go-Nara 後奈良 (r. 1526–1557).

The year 1580 appears to have been the time when Kokutai-ji was moved from its original location on Mount Futakami to its present site. The Daihojo building was constructed in 1686, and the Tokugawa shogunate designated Kokutai-ji the headquarters of the Hatto school of Rinzai Zen. In the 1720s a large renovation of the buildings was carried out; the present Dharma Hall dates from this time. The temple felt the effects of the government’s anti-Buddhist policies following the Meiji Restoration in 1868, but the abbots Etsuju 越受 and Setsumon 雪門 were able to restore many of the temple buildings with the aid of the imperial advisor and master swordsman Yamaoka Tesshu 山岡鐵舟 (1836–1888). Setsumon was also one of the earliest Zen teachers to the famous scholars Nishida Kitaro 西田幾多郎 (1870–1945) and Suzuki Daisetsu 鈴木大拙 (1870–1966). Kokutai-ji remains the largest Zen monastery in the Hokuriku region, maintaining a formal training hall (sodo) and opening its doors to meditation students both lay and ordained.