Doto Pagoda 0

This earthen pagoda (“doto” in Japanese) was constructed to the southeast of the main hall of Ono-dera Temple, founded by the monk Gyoki (668–749). Pyramidal in shape, it’s the only earthen pagoda in all of Japan with archaeological evidence of tiling.

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Located in Sakai City’s Dotomachi (Osaka Prefecture), Ono-dera Temple belongs to the Shingon Buddhist sect and is one of the 49 temples founded by the revered Buddhist monk Gyoki. To the southeast of the temple’s main hall stand the remains of a doto, a Buddhist pagoda constructed from earth. At 53.1 meters on a side and over 8.6 meters tall, the pagoda is shaped like a square-based pyramid with the top cut off. A truly incredible number of tiles have been excavated from the surrounding area, suggesting that the original pagoda was 13 tiers in height with tiles covering the whole of its earthen structure. Additionally, among the tiles excavated, 1,200 are inscribed with what appear to be the names of the people and groups who contributed to the pagoda’s construction. Tajihi-no-muraji; Shin; Yatabe-no-muraji—the names include members of noble families, monks, and commoners from across the Sekkasen area (present-day Osaka and southeastern Hyogo). Even seen from a national scale, the tiles represented a rare find in terms of writing remnants from Japan’s antiquity. The remains of the stone pile-structure Zudo Pagoda in Nara City’s Takabata is similar, but no other pagoda completely tiled in the manner of Ono-dera Temple’s has been unearthed. In 1953, Doto Pagoda was registered as a National Historic Site.

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