The official name of Sanjusangendo is Reneo-in temple, whose structure was registered as a National Treasure by the Japanese government. The work is the creation of the powerful political warrior Taira-no-Kiyomori in 1164.
The original temple building was lost in a fire, but it was rebuilt in 1266. This structure has remained unchanged for 700 years, since then with four major renovations in that period. The architecture of the temple’s long hall, which is about 120 meters long, was done in the Wayo (Japanese) style. As there are thirty-three spaces between the columns, this temple was renamed “Sanjusangendo” (a room with thirty-three spaces between columns).
Other valuable points in this temple are: the covered earth fence and the South Gate, which are registered as Important Cultural Properties. They are related to the leader Toyotomi Hideyoshi and reflect the aesthetics of the 16th century.
The main images of the Sanjusangendo temple are the 1001 statues of the Buddhist deity Juichimen-senju-sengen Kanzeon, who is often called by the simplified name, “Kannon.” One thousand standing statues of Kannon (National Treasure) and a gigantic seated effigy (National Treasure), placed in the center of the standing figures, are found in the temple hall.
The statues are made of Japanese cypress. Among these standing representations, 124 were made in the 12th century when this temple was founded and the remaining 876 were made in the 13th century when the temple was renovated.
The powerful and dynamic statues of the God of Thunder and the God of Wind are located on both sides of the temple hall on raised cloud-shaped pedestals. The images of these gods derive from people’s fear and gratitude for nature in the old days.
The population worshiped them as deities who controlled the rain and the wind, and produced good crops. These statues are representative sculptures of masterpieces from the Kamakura period (12th-14th centuries).
The twenty-eight images placed in a straight line in front of the 1001 Kannon statues are guardian deities that protect the Buddhist deity, as well as the pious Buddhists who believe in it.
Sanjusangendo is one of the most important visits to enjoy in the city of Kyoto.
It is the temple known to have 1,001 images of the goddess of Kannon.
The name of the temple literally translates to a building with thirty-three spaces, which refers to the exactly thirty-three spaces that separate the columns that keep the temple standing.
Taira no Kiyomori completed the construction of the temple under the service of Emperor Go-Shirakawa in 1164.
The temple complex suffered a fire in 1249 and only the main building was rebuilt in 1266.
In January, an event known as the “Rite of the Willow” is celebrated in the temple, in which the worshipers are touched on their heads with a sacred willow branch to cure and prevent headaches.
Also famous is the Japanese archery tournament, called Tōshiya, which has been held since the Edo period in the same place.