Head temple of the Tendai Sect in the Kanto region, Kitain Temple was originally part of a three-temple complex built in 830 and slowly became the Tendai Sect’s main temple around the 17th Century. This took place under the influence of Tenkai, a Japanese Buddhist monk, also known as Nankōbō Tenkai (南光坊 天海), who developed a deep and trusted relationship with the first 3 shoguns of the Edo period.
Heavily damaged by fire in 1638, Kitain Temple has been saved by the Shogun Iemitsu, who ordered the removal of several palace buildings from the Edo Castle (Tokyo) to Kawagoe. This move ended up saving them, without knowing it, from the great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the destruction during WWII. This makes Kitain today one of the only places in Japan where you can visit surviving buildings from Edo Castle.
Finally, and located just in front of Kitain’s main hall, you will find a very unusual garden made of 540 stones statues : Gohyaku Rakan. Each stone represents a disciple of Buddha and comes with its own unique facial expression.