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One of Kyoto's oldest temples, Koryu-ji was founded in 622 by Kawakatsu Hata in memory of Prince Shotoku (572-621). Shotoku, known for issuing the Seventeen-Article Constitution, a set of Confucian-inspired moral dictates, was the first powerful advocate of Buddhism after it was introduced to Japan in 552. In the Hatto (Lecture Hall) of the main temple stand three statues, each a National Treasure. The center of worship is the seated figure of Buddha, flanked by the figures of the Thousand-Handed Kannon and Fukukenjaku-Kannon. In the Taishi-do (Prince Hall) is a wooden statue of Prince Shotoku, thought to have been carved by him personally. Another statue of Shotoku in this hall was probably made when he was 16 years old.
The most famous of the Buddhist images in the Reiho-den (Treasure House) is the statue of Miroku Bosatsu, who according to Buddhist belief is destined to appear on Earth in the far-off future to save those unable to achieve enlightenment. Japan's first registered National Treasure, this rustic wooden statue is thought to date from the 6th or 7th century and might have been carved by Shotoku himself. Of all the Buddhas in Kyoto, this may be the most captivating. The epitome of serenity, the statue gently rests the fingers of its right hand against its cheek (one finger, sadly, was broken off when an ardent student clutched the statue in the late 1960s). Once a year, on November 22, the central Buddha which is hidden here—the Buddha of medicine (Yakushi)—is shown to the public. From Kyoto Station take the JR San-in Main Line to Hanazono Station and then board Bus 61. From Shijo-Omiya Station, in central Kyoto, take the Keifuku Electric Arashiyama Line to Uzumasa Station. From central or western Kyoto, take Bus 61, 62, or 63 to the Uzumasa-koryuji-mae stop.
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