The Thatched-Roof Temple in Hyogo
Tesshin-ji is a 17th century Buddhist temple located in Kamikawa City, of Hyogo prefecture in Japan. Its particularity lies in its traditional rural roofs covered with thatch. It shelters the tombs of the Fukumoto Clan, a branch of the Ikeda lords related to the Tokugawas.
Built between 1661 and 1672, this modest temple is worth the detour for its outdoor wooden architecture topped by thatched roofs, in the same way as the famous historical villages of Shirakawa-go and traditional tea houses.
Tesshin-ji’s monuments were offered to Hyogo prefecture and they have been designated Cultural Treasures and Properties:
- The main hall Hon-do was built in 1762;
- The San-mon gate at the entrance dates back to 1838.
Historically, they were the properties of one of the five sons of Ikeda Terumasa, the lord of Himeji Castle 🏯 in the early Edo period (1603 – 1868) ; and consequently by marriage to the grandson of Ieyasu, the first Tokugawa dynasty shogun.
The two pavilions’ thatched roofs are perfectly maintained. Each roof is large, with a double slope and a gentle curve, and are visually impressive as they constitute half of the buildings’ size. With a 20 to 30 years lifespan, the authentic roofing must be preserved, which comes at a rather high cost due to the rarity of this type of framework nowadays.
Thatch was precious plant-based resource and used to be a staple in the Japanese countrysides due to its versatile uses from cultivation of stubble in the fields, fodder to cattle and manure. The susuki reed stem was also used as roofing material for the minka rural houses of farmers and merchants.
In a confidential place not far from Himeji, Tesshin-ji offers an insight on ancient building techniques, but also on their ecological significance as they are in harmony with the surrounding nature.
Other similar thatched buildings can also be found in the surroundings of Kyoto: near Adashino Nenbutsu-ji temple in Sagano, or in the preserved village Kayabuki-no-Sato in Miyama.