Ishibaji (Stone Horse Temple) in Gokasho Ishibaji Town in Higashiomi City on the eastern side of Lake Biwa is a historic temple belonging to the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect. The principal object of worship is Juichimen Senju Kanzeon Bosatsu (Kannon with 11 faces and 1,000 arms). The temple is famous as the Horse Temple.
Legend has it that when Prince Shotoku visited this village in 594, his horse was turned into a stone and sank in the pond while he was away. Deeply impressed by this incident, Prince Shotoku built up a temple at this place. Beside the ruins of the Daimon gate at the foot the stone steps is the pond where the stone horse sank. You can see the horse back through the water.
The temple belonged to the Hosso Sect of Buddhism until the Middle Ages. As a temple of the Tendai sect, it fought with Oda Nobunaga in the Warring States period (1493-1573) and was burnt down by his forces. The temple was restored in 1644, as a temple of Rinzai Sect of Buddhism, by Zen monk Ungo.
The temple possesses a lot of cultural properties including the wooden plaques on which three kanji characters representing Ishibaji Temple were written by Prince Shotoku himself and the statue of Prince Shotoku on the horseback.
En no Ozunu is the founder of Shugendou which teaches how to gain mystic powers through ascetic practices in the mountains and, by unifying with nature, to reach Sokushin Joubutsu, attaining enlightenment in one’s present form. As the initiator who first organized the Japanese spiritual doctrine, En no Ozunu has stood out with his enormous influence that still continues today.
He was born in 634 at the foot of Katsuragi Mountain in present day Gose City, Nara Prefecture. He possessed unique talents since childhood teaching himself to carve Buddha statues and learning how to write Sanskrit characters. At the age of seventeen, he left his family home and began spiritual practice in Katsuragi Mountain.
Legend says he spent time with a sennin, a legendary immortal hermit, even chastising Buddha and deities, and became a man of strength who had a demon as his follower. When his supernatural powers became known to the Imperial Court, the Emperor, frightened by his power, ordered him exiled to Izu Ooshima Island.
In his late life, he traveled throughout Japan and visited a number of sacred mountains. Reportedly most of mountains considered sacred mountains today were founded by him. At the age of sixty seven, he passed away while smiling, surrounded by many disciples in Tenjyouga-dake Mountain.
A group of stone statues of Kannon stand at the top of Mt. Niragamiyama (94 m) on the outskirts of the Numabe area in Murata Town, Miyagi Prefecture. Mt. Niragamiyama (literally meaning “Chive God Mountain”) was named so because yellow chives grew in the mountain in the old times. The mountain was a battleground during the war between the Northern Fujiwara clan and the forces of Minamoto no Yoritomo in 1189. It is also famous as the place where Matsuo Basho wrote a poem. At the top of the mountain is a stone monument inscribed with a poem written by Fujiwara no Sanekata, a poet in the middle of the Heian period (794-1192). From the observatory at the mountain top, you can command a panoramic view of the Zao Mountain Range and the Shiraishi River.
The 33 Kannon stone statues stand in two rows near the observatory. They were dedicated and erected by several local worshippers in 1846 by modeling after the Saigoku 33 Pilgrim Route. You will feel the contributors’ simple but faithful religious devotion from these old stone statues.
Mizusawadera, or popularly called Mizusawa Kannon (Mizusawa, Ikaho-machi, Shibukawa City, Gunma Prefecture) is a historic temple of the Tendai sect. It is the 16th temple of Bando Pilgrimage to the 33 Holy Places of Kannon. The principal object of worship is Juichimen Senju Kannon Bosatsu (Kannon with 11 faces and 1,000 arms).
It is said that the temple was founded about 1,300 years ago by Priest Ekan from Goguryeo under the order of Empress Suiko and Emperor Jito and built by Takamitsu Chujo, the provincial governor. According to the temple record, it used to be a magnificent temple enshrining as many as 1,200 images of Buddha housed in more than 33 temple halls including the halls of Kon-do, Ko-do, Jogyo-do and Kanjo-do, the sutra library,, the bell tower and the Tahoto pagoda.
Rokkaku-do (the Hexagon Hall) constructed in the Genroku era (1688-1703) is a two-story pagoda that has a very unique structure, where the 6 images of Jizo Bosatsu are placed on the rotating platform.
The statues of Shaka Triad and other precious statues and paintings are displayed and open to the public in Shaka-do (the Shakamuni Hall), which was constructed in 2001.
It is believed that far in the future, Miroku Bosatsu, or Maitreya Bodhisattva will become a Buddha, and then appear on earth to save those unable to achieve enlightenment, thus bringing universal salvation to all sentient beings.
The most well-known statue of Miroku Bosatsu in Japan is the one housed at Reihokan (the temple museum) of Koryuji Temple in Uzumasa in Kyoto. This Miroku Bosatsu Hankashi-yui-zou statue represents the seated Miroku with the finger of the right hand touching the cheek, as if in deep meditation or musing. The mystic smile and the gentle and sensitive finger put on the cheek are breathtakingly beautiful. The round outline gives feminine-like impression. The smile on its face is generally called an archaic smile.
It is said that this red pine wooden statue used to be decorated with gold powder. There are two theories as to where it was carved; one theory states that it was brought to Japan from the Korean Peninsula judging from the facial expressions and the material wood, and the other theory states that it was carved in Japan. The argument is yet to be settled. The clear eyes seem to suggest that it was brought from the continent.
Zengenji is a Soto Zen temple in Hama-cho in Furubira-cho, Hokkaido. It was founded in 1858 by a Zen monk Taido.
480 paintings of Gohyaku Rakan (500 arhats) housed at Zengenji Temple were painted in oils, which is very unique for Buddhist paintings in Japan. In 1919 Tomitaro Taneda, a local fisherman, was on his way home from fishing in Sakhalin, when he was shipwrecked due to a heavy storm off the coast of Rishiri Island. He was saved by a Russian ship after drifting for two days and two nights. Tomitaro thought that he was saved by Kannon, which he worshipped every day, and decided to dedicate 500 Rakan to express his gratitude.
As a wooden statue is easy to get damaged and a Japanese-style painting is difficult to preserve, he decided on oil painting. Having received a request from him, Takejiro Hayashi, who was teaching fine arts in Sapporo, stated painting Rakan pictures in 1920. It took him as long as 20 years to accomplish this feat.
Shokawa in Toyama Prefecture is a town dominated by water. Water runs from the Hida Mountains into the Sho River and through Mt Goka to appear again at the edge of Tonami Plain, where Shokawa is located. Abundant water also runs to Tonami Plain from mountains in Nanto. Waterfalls and clear water springs occur, too, at many places along the slopes and at the foot of the mountains.
Shokawa features one of Japan's 100 best water sites: Uriwari-no-shimizu, which means 'Split-Melon Clear Water'. To find this site in Shokawa, look for some Buddha stone statues in a shallow cave near the road under a hilly terrace in Iwaguro housing development. In the cave, clear water wells up under the gaze of the Buddhas.
About 600 years ago, legend has it that Shaku-shonin, a founder of Zuisenji Temple in Inami, was visiting this area when one of his horse's hooves suddenly broke through the ground and released clear water. The 'split melon' name refers to a story that a melon once split naturally when cooled in the water here. The water never stops even for extended periods of hot weather, and is thus worshiped as holy water.
Daisenji Temple located in Daisen, Daisen-cho, Saihaku-gun, Tottori Prefecture is a temple of the Tendai sect. It was founded in the Yoro era (717-723) during the Nara period. The main hall with vermillion pillars and green latticed windows used to be called the Dainichi Hall (the hall that housed the statue of Dainichi Nyorai), which was the main hall of Chumonin Temple, one of the three main temples among over 100 sub-temples that composed Daisenji Temple in the ancient times.
The Amida Hall built in the early Heian period (794-1192) is thought to be the oldest existing building in the present Daisenji Temple. It houses the principal image of Amida Buddha, which is said to have been carved by a master Buddhist sculptor Ryoen. The statues of Kannon Bosatsu and Seishi Bosatsu surround the 2.79 m tall Amida Nyorai. The Amida Hall was destroyed by a landslide in 1529. Later in 1552, it was rebuilt into the present form. The building and the statues inside are designated as National Important Cultural Properties.