Ryuoji Temple


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A temple with 1,300 years of history and made more colorful by legend

Ryuoji, situated below Mount Yukinoyama to the south, was originally established as a monastic training center called Yukinodera in 710, the year that the capital was relocated to Heijo-kyo. It is a temple of the Tendai sect with more than 1,300 years of history since its founding. The temple is said to have prospered greatly from the Nara Period to the early Heian Period, with a thousand monks and a thousand followers in residence. The principal object of worship is Yakushi Nyorai, the deity of healing. In mid-autumn of every year, a Gourd Ritual called Hechima-kaji is conducted in which asthma sufferers shut their asthma up inside a gourd.
The temple bell at Ryuoji is officially an important cultural property, presented as an offering by Ono Tokikane, the lord of what is now Nara Prefecture, more than sixty years after the temple’s founding. The hanging bell, 1.16 meters high, is mostly unornamented, but it features a beautiful dragon’s head design. Strange legends abound concerning the bell, such as that water will gush from the bell tower if the main temple catches fire, and that the bell will not sound if it is struck by someone with bad intentions.

The tale of tragic love that surrounds the temple bell

Yukinodera was the center of devout worship by the people of the area, and the temple bell was known to work miracles, such as bringing the blessing of rain in times of drought if rainmaking rituals were performed at the bell tower. These stories reached the ear of the Emperor, who presented the temple with a plaque on which he had written “Ryujushoden” in his own hand. The temple was therefore renamed Ryuoji. The dragon’s head design on the bell is always covered with a white cloth. It is said that rain will fall if the cloth is removed, so the dragon’s head is never visible except when a rainmaking ritual is performed.
Another tale that involves the temple bell is that of the tragic love between Ono Tokikane and Princess Miwa. Tokikane desired Princess Miwa, who was an incarnation of a giant serpent, and when Tokikane opened a treasure chest that had been entrusted to him, a temple bell on which a dragon was carved came out of the chest. This is the bell that Tokikane presented to Ryuoji. Princess Miwa had transformed into the giant serpent and disappeared into a pond. The water in the pond turned a cloudy white, and it became known as the White Water Pond of Ryuoji. Many other tales are also told of this mountain village temple.

Ryuoji Temple


41 Kawamori, Ryuo-cho, Gamo-gun, Shiga Prefecture


9:00 am to 5:00 pm (If presentation by chief priest is required, make arrangement in advance)


Open daily


400 yen




By omi Tetsudo Bus Hachiman Ryuo-sen from JR omi Hachiman Sta. to Kawahori, then walk about 10 min

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