The Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall) built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi once stood where Hokoji Temple stands today. It is believed to have been built to replace the Great Buddha Hall in Nara, which was destroyed in a war. At that time, the temple was not called Hokoji Temple, but rather a private facility of the Toyotomi family.
However, soon after, the Keicho-Fushimi Earthquake destroyed Hideyoshi’s Daibutsuden as well. After Hideyoshi’s death, even the Great Buddha Hall was destroyed by fire.
His son Hideyori rebuilt the Daibutsuden and built a gilt bronze statue of the Great Buddha in Keicho 17 (1612). But the eight-character inscription on the bell was said to be a curse against Tokugawa Ieyasu. This led to the downfall of the Toyotomi family three years later during the Battle of Osaka.
Even today, visitors are amazed at the enormity of the bell at Hokoji Temple. However, it is not possible to get close to the bell, and it is difficult to read the small letters.
Other than this bell, there are no other existing cultural assets to be seen at Hokoji Temple. Therefore, unless you are interested in Japanese history, especially the feud between the Toyotomi and Tokugawa families, a visit to Hokoji Temple is not worthwhile.
On the other hand, there is a park to the east of Hokoji Temple that marks the site of the Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall). Here, stones indicate the location and size of the pedestal of the Daibutsu (Great Buddha). Everyone will be surprised at the size of the statue. Actually, it was much larger than the Daibutsu statue at Todaiji Temple in Nara.
Nearby spots from Hokoji Temple
Toyokuni Jinja Shrine, also associated with Toyotomi Hideyoshi, is right next door.
Within the same block is the Kyoto National Museum.