Doryuji Temple is said to have been built in 1243 during the Kamakura period by a Chinese Zen Buddhist monk named “Rankei-Doryu.” This Zen master from South Song Dynasty subsequently went to Kamakura, where the Shogunate was established, and built one of the most famous Zen temples in Japan, Kenchoji Temple, with the help of rulers.
The fate of this historic temple met a tragic turn in the beginning of Meiji period when the newly-established government decided to designate Shinto as Japan’s state religion and ordered the destruction of anything related to Buddhism, including temples.
Partly because Kagoshima had played an important role in toppling the Tokugawa Shogunate and created the new Meiji government, the forces of destruction were intense and wide-spread throughout Kagoshima, including Kimotsuki. Most of the temples in Kimotsuki were destroyed during those years of vandalism, including Doryuji.
Since the destruction, very few signs of the temple were visible at the site until about 30 years ago when a local government official, named Mr. Taira Fukutani, started single-handedly a project to restore the temple. His efforts had later caught the attention of people and the local government, and resulted in a fine work of restoration with the help of those people.
The current temple is only a part of what it used to be. The only visible remnants from the old days are stone monuments, including tombs and pagodas. Unfortunately there are no actual temple buildings to be seen at the site.
The best season to visit the temple is either in the late spring or in the fall. In spring, the whole area is covered by fresh green leaves which will lift up the spirit of anyone visiting the site. On the other hand, in the fall, visitors will be impressed with the changing of the colors on the trees.
If you are lucky, you may actually come across Mr. Fukutani and have a chat with him, who visits the temple regularly for clean-up. He is a very friendly man, so he’d be happy to share his story with you.