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Gravestones and surrounding stone lanterns at Fukushô-ji
  • Established: 1394, Sekioku Shinryô
  • Destroyed: 1869
  • Other Names: 玉龍山 (Gyokuryuuzan)
  • Japanese: 福昌寺 (Fukushou-ji)

Fukushô-ji was a Sôtô Zen temple in Kagoshima, which served as the family temple (bodaiji) for the Shimazu clan. At its height, it was the largest temple in Satsuma domain, with some 1500 monks in residence.

A branch temple of Shogakuzan Sôji-ji in Noto province,[1] it was one of the Three Temples of Kagoshima (mikedera, 三ヶ寺), along with Jôkômyô-ji and Dairyû-ji.[2]

The temple was established in 1394 when Shimazu Motohisa invited the Zen priest Sekioku Shinryô to Kagoshima to establish a bodaiji for the Shimazu clan. It later became one of the three largest head temples for monk registrars (僧録, sôroku) in the country, overseeing all the Buddhist monks in southern Kyushu, as well as a chokuganjo, a prayer hall that could be used by the Emperor. Fukushô-ji branch temples were established in numerous locations across Kyushu, Shikoku, and the Chûgoku region. In the 15th century, Fukushô-ji was the site of a notable meeting between Francis Xavier and the Buddhist monk Ninshitsu, in which they discussed the possibility of Christian missionary activity in Kagoshima.

Fukushô-ji remained the chief Shimazu family temple throughout the Edo period, with each successive head of the family being buried there. Ryukyuan scholar-officials on missions to Japan regularly paid formal visits to the temple, as well as to the Shimazu temples of Nansen-in and Jôkômyô-ji.[3]

Fukushô-ji was abolished in 1869, as part of the haibutsu kishaku anti-Buddhist campaigns of the early Meiji period. The following year, some 375 Christians fleeing persecution by the Meiji government in Nagasaki came to Kagoshima seeking refuge, and took up residence on the former site of the temple. They are said to have been treated well there, and most returned to Nagasaki by 1873; however, 53 Christians who died while in Kagoshima were buried at a Christian cemetery on a hill just above the samurai cemetery, created for that purpose in 1905 by Father Emile Raguet.

Though the temple is no longer in operation, the Shimazu clan cemetery which houses the graves of numerous generations of clan heads continues to be maintained on the site. Gyokuryû Middle School & High School now stands on the former site of the Fukushô-ji temple buildings.

Selected Burials

Shimazu family heads

Other Burials


  1. Miyagi Eishô 宮城栄昌, Ryûkyû shisha no Edo nobori 琉球使者の江戸上り, Tokyo: Daiichi Shobô (1982), 80.
  2. Plaques on-site in Kanmachi, Kagoshima.[1]
  3. Ono Masako, Tomita Chinatsu, Kanna Keiko, Taguchi Megumi, "Shiryô shôkai Kishi Akimasa bunko Satsuyû kikô," Shiryôhenshûshitsu kiyô 31 (2006), 237.

External Links