Nyonin-Koya, Four Temples for women

Nyonindo in Koyasan, Muroji, Kongoji, Jisonin are four temples which welcome women. Until modern era, women were prohibited to enter into temples of Shingon Buddhism.
The four temples were called “Nyonin-Koya” which means temples like Koyasan, but welcome women.


“Women cannot enter into Koyasan, but Jisonin Temple welcomes women. Therefor this temple is called “Nyonin-Koya”. This is the biggening of the famous novel “Kinokawa” written by Sawako Ariyoshi.
Kukai was given Koyasan by emperor Saga in 816, then Koyasan set prohibition against women. This is because to protect trainee monks from committing adultery. It was not the same thing as “Nyonin-Kinsei” which connects women and uncleanness.

This prohibition was dissolved by the proclamation of the Grand Council of the Cabinet in 1872, but it was delayed until the latter Meiji era in Koyasan. More than 1,000 years has passed which prohibited women. In these years, there were four temples called “Nyonin-Koya” which heard the voice of women who wanted to make a connection with Kukai.

Buildings in Benichi-san Muroji were repaired by the donations of Keishoin, mother of 5th Tokugawa Shogun Tsubayoshi. So, it was called “Nyonin-Koya”. Amano-san Kongoji became a prayer hall for Hachijoin who was younger sister of the ex-emperor Goshirakawa. And two sisters who served for Hachijoin became priests and owner of the temple. So, it was called “Nyonin-Koya”. Mannen-san Jisonnin where Tamayori-Gozen, mother of Kukai stayed and it was said that she incarnated to Miroku-Bosatsu. So, it was called “Nyonin-Koya”. Koyasan Kongobuji Nyonindo was a temple built at the top of the mountain which prohibit against women entering a sacred area.

“Meisho Zue” and travel of women

These four temples called “Nyonin-Koya” were described on “Meisho Zue” with a drawing of local temples and a scenic spot. “Meisho Zue” was a guide book of travel issued in Edo period. It was an era that Tokugawa government became stable and due to the economic development people can travel to Koyasan, pilgrimage to western temples.

Travel in these days cost several months. Especially for women, the check at the government check point was severe and it was hard rising path for mount Koya.

There were seven gate ways to the Koyasan. For each way Nyonindo or women hall was built at the top end of the way which means prohibition against women. Women sit up all night praying in the Nyonindo. These seven Nyonindo were connected each other by one way which was called “Nyonin-Michi”. This is a ridge way of eight mountains surrounding Kongobuji Temple as the center. Women walked through this steep road pressing her open hands together in prayer, seeing Danjo-Garan or Okunoin. Women came to Koyasan from all over Japan.

Women descended the mountain seeing Kinokawa river after staying at Nyonindo. Women who could not climb mountains stayed in Jisonin Temple which was at the foot of Koyasan or stayed in Kongoji Temple which was located near Koya-Kaido. In other case, women visited Muroji Temple which is near the Ise-Kaido, and they also visited Ise-Grand-Shrine.

Sacred places looking intently for women

Nyonin-Koya which prays for the repose of relatives, hearing the voices of praying for ease is visited by many women today. They pray for a recover from breast cancer, easy delivery, childcare, recover from breast cancer.

In the temple two-storied pagoda is painted pink at Pink-Ribbon Day, praying for recover from breast cancer and have an enlightenment action using important cultural assets.  Choishimichi which is designated as world heritage site connects foot of the mountain and Okunoin, Nyoninmichi which connects Nyonindo are routes blessed with nature and greenery. Recently many visitors from over the world come to ease their mind. It breathes now with women beyond ages.


By Masa

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