Isshin-ji is a Buddhist temple of the Pure Land in Osaka, Japan. The temple was founded in the 12th century and has a lot of history, though it was rebuilt after the destruction of Osaka during the last years of World War II, like most other temples and shrines in the city. Surprising is its completely unique entrance, which has nothing in common with other gates in temples in Japan. The gate and other structures were designed by the current high priest, who is also an architect.
Founded in 1185 by Honen, the founder of the Pure Land sect, to which the temple still belongs today, retired Emperor Goshirakawa also spent some time here religiously. In 1614, Tokugawa Ieyasu made the temple his headquarters in his fight against Hideyoshi’s son Hideyori, who settled near the Osaka Castle.
The reason why there are so many visitors here is not because of the history or unusual architecture, but because Isshinji is home to the remains of millions of ancestors of the Osaka people, more specifically, something called Okutsu Butsu, which means ‘bone buddha’. The first known example of an Okutsu Butsu is a large statue of Jizo at a temple in Kanagawa, which was made in 1700 by a priest. At the end of the 19th century, Isshinji run out of space to store the ashes he had brought to the temple and developed a modern version of Okutsu Butsu.
Across the street from the main temple is a sort of outbuilding called Sanzenbutsudo. From the outside, with its plain concrete façade and glass doors, it looks like a commercial space, on maps it’s even called a theater, but if you step inside, you’re in front of a huge dome whose façade is covered with 3000 golden statues. The interior is laid out like a church with rows of chairs in front of an altar, behind an impressive mural.