Main Hall of Saidaiji Temple
(courtesy of General Incorporated Foundation Nara Visitors Bureau)

Ōchamori Event of Saidaiji Temple
(courtesy of the tourist association of Nara City)

Saidaiji Temple

The head temple of a Buddhist sect called Shingonrisshū in Saidaijishiba-machi of Nara City. It allegedly began in 764 when Emperor Kōken (718 – 770 < the reign: 749 – 758>) set his mind on building the statues of Shitennō, four Buddhist protective gods in order to pray for subjugation of a rebellion called “Emi-no-Oshikatsu’s Ran.” The name “Saidaiji Temple” pairs up with the name “Tōdaiji Temple,” a leading large temple in Nara. “Sai” from “Saidaiji” means “western direction,” while “Tō” from “Tōdaiji” means “eastern direction,” so they become a pair of the east and west. Accordingly, Saidaiji Temple in the Nara Period (710 – 794) was a quite large temple that had a hundred and several tens of buildings. It had gradually declined after the relocation of the Capital to Heian-kyō in 794, but in the Kamakura Period (1185 – 1333), Eizon (also called Kōshō) (1201 – 1290), a priest, restored the temple. An event called “Ōchamori,” in which people share a big cup of Japanese tea, allegedly began with the episode in which Eizon gave Japanese tea as an offering to Hachimanjin, a protective god of Saidaiji Temple, also to worshippers.