Sanjusangendo is a temple in eastern Kyoto famous for its 1001 statues of Kannon, the goddess of mercy. It is believed that Kannon will assist humans in distress and lead them to enlightenment.
The temple was founded in 1164 and rebuilt a century later after the original structure had been destroyed by fire in 1249. The rebuilding was completed in 1266.The temple hall at 120 meters is Japan's longest wooden structure. The name Sanjusangendo means literally "33 intervals" and is derived from the number of intervals between the building's support columns, which is a traditional method of measuring the size of a building.
Kannon is said to be able to assume any of thirty-three forms to be of aid, hence the building symbolically has thirty-three bays and is called the thirty-three ["sanju-san"] bay ["gen"] hall ["do"].
The large, wooden statue of Kannon sits in the center of the main hall (whose head was rescued from the fire along with 156 of the standing images) and is flanked on each side by 500 statues of human sized 1000-armed Kannon standing in ten rows. The sight of all these figures when entering the temple is unforgettable.
It is said that if you are patient and watch carefully, one statue will momentarily assume the form of a loved one.
From the Edo period onwards, an archery contest has been held on the west veranda of this temple.It has been said that a duel between the famous warrior Miyamoto Musashi and Yoshioka Denshichirō, leader of the Yoshioka-ryū was fought just outside Sanjūsangen-dō in 1604. This event has been imortalised in the film ‘Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple’, 1967 Dir. Hiroshi Inagaki.