Motsuji Temple has records dating back to its founding in
850 by Priest Ennin of the Tendai Sect. The story goes
that Ennin became lost in a thick fog while traveling
around northern Japan. The fog was so thick he was
unable to take another step until he looked down at his
feet and saw hair belonging to a white deer. He
proceeded to follow the trail until he saw the white stage,
which then dissipated into the fog to reveal an old man.
The old man told Ennin, “This is a sacred place. If you
build a temple here, the Buddhist law shall surely spread
among the people.” Ennin believed the old man was an
incarnation of the healing Buddha, Yakushi, and heeded
his words to build a temple there.
He built a hall on the grounds and named it Kashoji. Many of the structures were not constructed until Fujiwara no Motohira put efforts into expanding the grounds after a dispute with his brother resulted in the destruction of the buildings built by his father. His son, Fujiwara no Hidehira, completed the project and at its peak Motsuji Temple had 40 halls and 500 quarters for monks. When the Fujiwara Northern Branch fell so did the prominence of Motsuji. Consequent fires and war demolished Motsuji leaving only remnants of its former glory. The grounds were left unattended to until an excavation in 1954 brought to light the splendor it used to be. The main temple was rebuilt in 1989 along with a treasure museum.