Japan Mt. Takao Mt. Takao

Yakuoin Temple

Home to the Medicine Buddha and a site of mountain worship

Photo of Yakuoin Temple, Japan (高尾山薬王院 本堂 by KENPEI)

Located on the slopes of Mt. Takao, Yakuoin Temple has been a place of spiritual significance for over a millennium. Established in the 8th century, this temple is dedicated to the Buddha of healing and offers visitors a retreat amidst the mountainous landscape.

About Yakuoin Temple

Yakuoin Temple, officially known as Takao-san Yakuoin Yuki-ji, represents a significant facet of Japan’s cultural heritage. Established in 744 by Emperor Shomu and founded by the Buddhist monk Gyoki, Yakuoin has long been a site of faith and healing. Affiliated with the Shingon sect’s Chizan branch, the temple exemplifies the historical blend of Buddhist and Shinto beliefs before their formal separation.

The temple complex includes culturally significant structures and statues, such as the main hall that venerates the principal deities Yakushi Nyorai and Iizuna Gongen, emblematic of the temple’s historical significance as a center for Shugendo. The Tengu-do Hall venerates the Tengu, mythical supernatural mountain protectors, while the Daishido and the Inner Sanctuary house Tokyo Metropolitan Cultural Properties, including a wooden statue of Fudo Myoo.

Yakuoin hosts various traditional ceremonies that maintain its role as a center of religious activity, such as the Gokaicho, Setsubun, Hiwatari festivals, and the Autumn festival. These events reflect the temple’s lively traditions.

Beyond its historical and religious value, Yakuoin’s grounds feature beautiful autumn colors, enhancing the peaceful atmosphere. Visitors can engage in goma fire rituals or try shojin-ryori, traditional Buddhist vegetarian food. The cedar-lined route to the temple is one of Hachioji’s eighty-eight scenic views, and the ascent to the temple, often starting with a cable car ride from Takaosan Station, is an integral part of the experience.

One unusual chapter of Yakuoin’s history was its involvement in a 1997 legal case addressing the principles of state and religion separation in Japan. The case focused on whether a Tokyo government official’s participation in a ritual at the temple, for a reduced fee, violated this principle. Ultimately court ruled that the event was more like a public spectacle than a religious activity, and thus, government participation did not breach the separation of state and religion.

Today, Yakuoin remains a revered place for spiritual practice and tourism, known for its historical architecture, which includes intricate carvings and colorful paintings. Its Eleven-Headed Kannon statue is among the many significant attractions for visitors seeking tranquility and cultural insight.

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Around Yakuoin Temple

Yakuoin Temple

Buddhist Temple in Mt. Takao

open 24 hours
closed Irregularly


高尾山薬王院, 高尾山

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Updated 13 Mar 2024 • Report an error

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