Saidaiji Temple was originally built in the 8th century by Anryu Shonin after having a vision of a god with a rhinocerous horn telling him to build the Kannon temple here (he was already enroute to rebuilding the Bizen Kannon Temple which was also said to have come from a vision while he was a priest at Hasedera Temple in Nara).
The original temple was destroyed and rebuilt over the years, but the structures you see today are all still quite old. The pagoda dates back to 1678, the Hondo was built in 1863, the Niomon Gate is from 1740, the Ishimon Gate was built in 1819, etc. The characters used to write the original temple’s name meant “Rhino Temple” which came from the rhino horn but the first character was later changed so that today it means “(Large) Western Temple”.
The temple is impressive. There is a large painting inside the temple on the ceiling of the the Saidaiji Eyo, also known as the Hadaka Matsuri or Naked Man Festival. It’s the largest event held here and the largest Naked Man Festival in the nation! The painting is quite beautiful and the overall architecture of the temple is intriguing. There are many other paintings painted on the actual temple ceiling, as well. The Ishimon Gate is unique, appearing to have a Chinese influence.
The temple is also the first temple of the Chugoku 33 Kannon Temple Pilgrimage route.