Shouemon Kotabe was born in the Ibaragi Prefecture in 1971.
Mr. Kotabe is the 37th successor to his family’s foundry business which has been handed down for over 800 years.
Since his childhood, Mr. Kotabe helped his father make temple bells. After graduating with a Metal Engineering degree from National Takaoka College (now Toyama University), he went into training at an iron kettle studio in Morioka. He then, returned to the Kotabe Foundry run by his father and took charge of it at the age of 25.
At the foundry, on the foot of Tsukuba Mountain, Mr. Kotabe makes temple bells, fire bells and rainwater bowls. Orders come from all over Japan as well as from other countries.
After consulting about letters and patterns, he creates a mold with local sand and clay and then pours copper and tin heated to 1200 ºC into the mold. Because he doesn’t color the bells, he takes considerable time to create an elaborate mold. It takes four to six months and occasionally as long as one year to make one temple bell. A bell newly taken out from a mold is orange-brown in color. Its tone gradually changes to red, then purple and finally to blue-green. As time passes, the local air makes the bell change its color.
Wanting the sound of his bells to resonate in people’s hearts, Mr. Kotabe continues his quest for the perfect bell-tone.
Jizou Bosatsu or Jizo Bodhisttava is one of the Bodhisttavas or saints worshiped in Buddhism. Jizou is a Japanese translation of the Sanskrit word, Kshitigarbha, the name of a Bodhisattva which means “Earth Womb”.
Jizou appears generally as a shaven-headed figure wearing a Buddhist priest’s surplice with a tin cane in his right hand and a houjyu ball in his left hand.
For 5 billion 670 million years between the death of Buddha and the emergence of Miroku Bosatsu or Bodhisattva Maitreya, Jizou is believed to save mankind caught in the “Six Realms of Reincarnation”. It is therefore common to see Six-Jizou statues, each representing a state of six different rebirths, being worshipped in all parts of Japan.
In Japan, belief in Jizo Bosatsu started to spread among people after the “Pure Land” belief took popularity in the Heian period. Later, Six-Jizo worship became prevalent all over Japan, eventually merging with Douso - an ancient belief born in Japan, These were the foundation of what we see today.
Bosatsu is the second highest Buddha after Nyorai or the Healing Buddha. Despite that elevated status, Jizo Bosatsu declared he won`t go back to the world of Bodhisattva until he realizes the salvation of all beings. He is believed to continue travelling the six realms of reincarnation on foot to salvage the souls of all beings.
These illumination lamps can be seen at the HOTEL CLASKA, in Meguro district, Tokyo. The ceiling lamp on the left-hand side is made of tin. The design emphasizes the characteristics of tin, transforming it into a drum shape, and using it as a chandelier. Tin is one of the most stable of metals, and because the chandelier is 100% tin, it will not change color. Moreover, the inside of the chandelier gives out a clear luminous color. The lamp on the right-hand side creates a strange impression, because the light reflected by the brass plate seems to be floating. Brass is formed by the synthesis of copper and zinc. The color, the degree of hardness and the durability of the brass changes with the proportion of zinc added to it.
■ HOTEL CLASKA tin chandelier (left) ・ Wire foil lacquering ■ Illumination lamp (right) ・ Brass, glass, lighting apparatus ・ Size W×D×H (mm) 135mm×135mm×300mm ・ Designed (both) by Intentionars
The 31st Sacred Place on the 88 Shikoku Pilgrimage. In the Nara period, Emperor Shomu (reigned 724-749) had a dream that he was worshipping Monju Bosatsu (Bodhisattva) in Mount Wutai in China. He thought there must be a holy place that looked like Mount Wutai in Japan and ordered Priest Gyoki to make a search for it. In 724, Priest Gyoki found such a mountain, where he founded a temple and named it Godaisan (Japanese translation of Mt. Wutai) Chikurinji Temple. Later in the Heian period, Kobodaishi Kukai (774-835) visited the temple and designated it as a Sacred Place.
The present main hall called Monju-do (Bodhisattva Hall) was built during the Bunmei era (1469-1486). It is a one-story building in Irimora-zukuri style with a Kokera-buki (thin wooden shingles) roof. It enshrines the secret statue of Monju Bosatsu. Opposite the main hall stand Daishi-do Hall and the 32 m tall five-story pagoda painted in bright vermillion.
Located on top of the 115 m hill about 6 km away from the central part of Kochi City, the temple is also the most popular scenic spot in Kochi City. Visitors can command a fine view of the whole city and Urado Bay as well.
The making of bronze gongs was introduced to present-day Ishikawa Prefecture about 400 years ago and it has become a traditional handicraft of the prefecture since then. The origin of the instrument is said to be in the percussion instruments in the ancient southern islands of Java and Sumatra. Later the gong came to Japan through China and Korean Peninsula. In Japan, they were mainly used as the signal for a start on a voyage and the tea ceremony. In Ishikawa Prefecture, gong manufacturing developed as tea ceremony gained popularity in the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568-1598).
It was Iraku Uozumi (1886-1964) who devoted himself to gong making in Kanazawa. He got absorbed in the study on sahari (alloy of copper and tin) casting and succeeded in creating gongs with superb resonance. He was designated as a Living National Treasure.
The pivotal point of a gong is its tone quality. The material used in bronze gong is sahari, or alloy of copper and tin. Sahari is one of the most difficult metals to alloy and the balance of composition decides the resonance quality. At the present time, the 3rd Iraku Uozumi has succeeded to the traditional techniques.
Yakuoji Temple is situated on Mt Iozan, and belongs to the Koya school of the Shingon sect. It is located at Hiwasa-cho, Kaifu-gun, Tokushima Prefecture. The temple is dedicated to the Medicine King Yakushi Nyorai (Bhaisajyaguru in Sanskrit).
The monk Gyoki, at the request of the Emperor Shomu, erected Yakuoji in 726 (Jinki 3). The temple was opened in 815 (Kounin 6), when Kobo Daishi carved the image of Yakushi Nyorai by order of the retired Emperor Heijo.
It is the 23rd temple on the Shikoku pilgrimage, and is also known as the temple for expelling evil. The temple’s formal name is Jigou Muryo-Jiin Iozan. This title indicates Buddhist concepts of infinite life and refers to the Medicine King, or the Medicine Buddha.
Yakuoji is regarded as the main temple of the Kouya school of the Shingon sect. Here, the emperors Saga and Junwa prayed to expel evil, while in the second year of the Karoku period, the retired Emperor Tsuchimikado stayed here. The Emperor Gosaga rebuilt the temple in the first year of the Kangen period and the prince Jinsuke had preached at the rebuilding ceremony of the temple.
Pour the water over the statue of the Togenuki-Jizou (The Needle-pulling-out Ksitigarbha) and rub him with a towel.
In the year 1713 (Shoutoku 3), the wife of Matashiro Tazuki, who lived in Edo, had caught an incurable disease, even though she had always believed in the Jizo (the bodhisattva Ksitigarbha). The doctors had given up on her, and said she was scourged by spirits from the dead. The wife resigned herself to death.
Tazuki prayed fervently and desperately to Jizo every day. Then, one day, a black-robed monk appeared by his pillow and revealed how he could save his wife. As instructed by the monk, Tazuki made 10,000 figures of Goei (images of God) from small sections of a wooden Jizo left by his pillow and floated them down the river. The next morning, the monk had swept away the lemurs that had appeared in Tazuki’s wife’s dream with his wand. The wife miraculously recovered and was for ever after free from the illness.
Two years later, when a maid of the Mouri family accidentally swallowed a needle, she was told to swallow one of the Goei figures that Tazuki had made. The maid threw up the needle, which had become stuck in the Goei figure. This story is where the name “Togenuki-Jizou (The Needle-pulling-out Ksitigarbha)” derives.
Since then, the belief has developed that diseases can be cured by pouring water then rubbing with a towel the Togenuki Jizo of Kougan Ji (Kougan temple) in Sugamo, Tokyo.