Kannonshou-ji temple is located near an east bank of Lake Biwa, the mountaintop of Kinugasayama (Mt. Kinugasa) measuring 433 meters above sea level.
According to the tradition, it is said that Prince Shotoku (Shoutoku Taishi) visited this area in 605 during the period in Japan who served under Empress Suiko and he worshiped a wooden statue of Thousand Armed Avalokiteshwara (the Kannon with One Thousand Arms) which was carved by him for the temple.
It is said that Prince Shotoku erected the temple to grant a wish to "a mermaid" whom he met when he visited this area. Her previous existence was a fisherman, and because he devoted himself to kill fishes, he was reincarnated as a mermaid, and he suffered from the karma. So-called mummy of the mermaid was carried on to the temple, but it was destroyed by fire in 1993.
In Kinugasayama where Kannonshou-ji temple was located, there was the Kannonji castle which was a castle of a Japanese samurai clan, Rokkaku Sasaki that ruled over the Oomi south half district since the Muromachi era and the temple got protection of him and prospered.
The Kannonji Castle was attacked by the army of Nobunaga Oda in Eiroku era 11 (1568) and was took over. The Kannonshou-ji temple related to Rokkaku Sasaki encountered destroying by setting fire and burnt down several years later. The temple was rebuilt in the Keicho era (from 1596 to 1615).
The main hall of the Kannonshou-ji temple was burnt down by an accidental fire in 1993. At the same time, the standing Thousand Armed Avalokiteshwara which was the principal idol of the temple and was appointed to an important cultural property was also burnt down because the temple was located in the mountainous area where fire-fighting vehicles could not access to.
The wooden half-hipped main hall of the temple in existence was rebuilt in 2004. The seated Thousand Armed Avalokiteshwara newly built as the principal idol of the temple was carved by Myokei Matsumoto, a sculptor of Buddhist statues. It is the huge seated wooden statue of 6.3 meters high in total including 3.56 meters high of Kannon and a halo in its back, whereas the old principal idol was less than 1 meter high.
As for the statue, the 23 tons sandalwood imported from India is used. In India, the sandalwood was prohibited to export to any other countries but the chief priest of the Kannonshou-ji temple visited India a couple of dozen times, and it is said that export to Japan was finally accepted as special measures after repeated negotiations.