You can see a statue of a monk and a child staring at each other as you pass through the gate. This statue depicts a scene from a story about a father and son tied to this temple.
There once was a man who left his pregnant wife to become a monk at Mt. Kōya. His wife gave birth and named their son Ishidomaru, and when he grew up, he wanted to meet his father. He traveled to the monastery at Mt. Kōya with his mother, but as a woman, she was forbidden from entering the monastery. Even though he had never met his father and didn’t know what he looked like, he decided to go on alone and leave his mother to wait for him at the foot of the mountain.
He went around the monastery asking, “Are you my father?” to the monks who passed him by. His father saw this happening and knew it was his son that was looking for him. When the fateful moment came and his son asked him, “Are you my father?” he became filled with embarrassment and couldn’t muster the words. Instead of admitting that he was the father who abandoned his family, he told his son “I’m not your father. Your father is dead.” After he heard this, Ishidomaru lost all hope and decided to return to his mother. His father held back his tears as he sent Ishidomaru off.
Ishidomaru descended Mt. Kōya only to find that his mother had died while waiting for him. Lost and alone, finding out that both his mother and father had died, he decided to head back to his village. As he walked back, he remembered the face of the monk who told him about his father. Little did he know how closely related they were.
One day many years later, Ishidomaru’s father had a dream where Amitabha ordered him to go to Zenkoji. He went there right away and started praying every day. The more he prayed, the more he realized this was where he was meant to be all along. With the spiritual power of Amitabha, he could face his son Ishidomaru and reveal his identity. “Was this why Amitabha brought me here?”
Unfortunately, that day never came. Ishidomaru became a monk at Mt. Kōya and didn’t visit Zenkoji until his father had already died. Amitabha came to him in a dream and told him of his father’s death, and that was when he went to Zenkoji, to pay respect to his father. He built a tomb for his father at the nearby temple of Saikō-ji.
While they never had a chance to be together during their lifetime, Ishidomaru, his father, and his mother all rest in peace side by side.