In Minami Ward, Kosoji Temple is home to an old tomb called the Anakannon dating back to the late Kofun era (6th century). The tomb mound measures approximately 20 meters in diameter and features a multi-room chamber made from massive stones. The Amida Buddha is carved in relief on the back wall of the chamber with Kannon (Goddess of Mercy) on one side and the bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta on the other. This is where the name Anakannon comes from. (In Japanese, ana means hole.)
According to one legend, when Nagamasa Kuroda was looking to use stones from this area to build Fukuoka Castle, Kannon appeared to him in a dream and warned him that her home was about to be destroyed. Upon closer inspection, he found the carving of Kannon on one of the stones and decided to build a temple on the site. The site was revered by successive feudal lords, and in 1693, Kosoji was erected inside the stone cavern.
Another interesting attraction is the graves of 47 ronin that were reproduced on the temple grounds. The 47 ronin were a group of leaderless samurai who sought revenge for the death of their lord and later committed ritual suicide in a historical event called the Ako vendetta. This incident is the basis of the famous puppet theater and kabuki play Chushingura. The actual graves are located at Sengakuji Temple in Tokyo, but in 1935, a local investor paid to have a reproduction made at Kosoji.
The temple now holds a festival every year on December 14, the date of the Ako vendetta, to commemorate the 47 ronin. You won’t want to miss the demonstration of the yoryu-kakae ozutsu, a hand-held cannon from the Edo era with ties to the Fukuoka Domain. Similar demonstrations are also held during the Fukuoka Castle Cherry Blossom Festival (Mar. ~ Apr.) and at the Hakozaki Shrine Satsuki Festival (May).
Originally published in Fukuoka Now Magazine (fn252, Dec. 2019)