The Temple-Museum in Shirakawa-go
Myozen-ji is a temple of the Buddhist Jodo School or "Pure Land school", founded in 1744 and located in Ogimachi village, a part of Shirakawa-go, in Gifu prefecture in Japan. The vast and ingenious former monk’s residence, of gassho-zukuri style architecture, is now a museum and one of the highlights of the place.
Myozen-ji’s grounds include a temple and a building formerly used for housing and agricultural practices. The temple is remarkable for its thatched roofs, a rarity in temples’ architecture.
The former monks’ residence and farm
The impressive monks’ residence Kuri, built two hundred years ago by the area’s carpenters, is a five-story construction, whose floors’ size get smaller with height, based on a good 330m² ground floor. The structure was built without using nail or screw but is still quite sturdy, with cypress and zelkova pillars carefully selected for their reliability.
The central fire is permanently burning and welcomes visitors for their discovery of the different levels and of past daily life reconstitutions. The monks, who were also farmers, used every inch in the attic for rice culture purposes and silkworm cultivation since the end of Edo period.
Myozen-ji temple’s main hall, Honden, appears after passing by a rice paddy, covered with a majestic and unique thatched roof. The inside is charming, even though there is only one room. Its lavish decoration however contrast with the sober aspect of the monks’ residence. Buddha is of course represented, but there are also fusuma sliding doors painted in the nihonga Japanese style by artist Taisuke Hamada (b. 1932).
Myozen-ji temple’s visit starts and finish under a wonderful bell tower or Shoromon, covered by an original roof and marking the entrance. When walking through it, it is possible to admire its bell that was recreated after WWII.