Nichiren was a Buddhist monk in the Kamakura period (1192-1333) and the founder of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism. Born in Awa province (present-day Chiba Prefecture) in 1222, Nichiren began his Buddhist study at a nearby temple, Seichoji, at the age of 12. He was formally ordained four years later at 16. Then he visited temples in Nara and Kyoto including Shitennoji Temple and Koyasan Kongobuji Temple for more in-depth study. Through the study of Nenbutsu (Buddhist invocation), Zen and Shingon (esoteric practice), he became convinced of the pre-eminence of the Lotus Sutra. In 1253, he founded his own sect of Buddhism at Seichoji Temple and recited “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” for the first time. He changed his name to Nichiren, wherein the kanji character for nichi (日) means “sun” and that for ren (蓮) means “lotus.”
In 1260, he wrote “the Rissho Ankoku Ron (Treatise on securing the peace of the land through the establishment of the correct),” in which he criticized all the other sects of Japanese Buddhism. It prompted a severe backlash, especially from among priests of other Buddhist sects and the Kamakura Shogunate. Nichiren was harassed and exiled four times in his life. When he was exiled to Sado, an island in the Japan Sea, he wrote two of his most important doctrinal treatises, “the Kaimoku Sho (On the opening of the eyes)” and “the Kanjin no Honzon Sho (The object of devotion for observing the mind in the fifth five-hundred year period).” It was also during his exile on Sado, in 1272, that he inscribed the first Gohonzon, the mandala that he intended as a graphic representation of the essence of the Lotus Sutra.
Nichiren spent the rest of his life at Minobu, where he and his disciples erected Kuonji Temple and he continued writing and training his disciples. In 1282, Nichiren died in Edo (present-day Tokyo). The Japanese imperial court awarded Nichiren the honorific designations “Nichiren Daibosatsu (Great Bodhisattva Nichiren)” in 1358 and “Rissho Daishi (Great Teacher Rissho) in 1922.
Gyoki was a Japanese Buddhism priest of Nara period. He was a charismatic monk of the ancient Japanese Buddhism. He was called by the honorific title of Gyoki Bosatsu (Bodhisattva Gyoki).
Gyoki was born in Kawachi province (present-day Osaka Prefecture) in 668. He studied Buddhism under the priest Dosho of hokoji Temple in Asuka, and took Buddhist vows at the age of 15. He also studied civil engineering under Dosho. Advocating hat Buddhism should be independent of the regal power, he propagated Buddhism for salvation of the suffering people. He also contributed to social welfare like building temples, roads, bridges, irrigation reservoirs. The Imperia court was afraid of his overwhelming influence on common people and clamped down on his activities blaming that he had violated the law to regulate priests and nuns.
However, when Emperor Shomu asked Gyoki to help raise funds to build Daibutsu (a great Buddha statue) in Nara, Gyoki accepted the emperor’s request, and immediately began fund-raising campaigns. He was recognized by the Imperia court and was given a rank of Daisojo (the Great Priest). At the age of 80, he had passed away at Sugawaradera Temple in Nara in 749 just before the consecrating ceremony for the statue took place.
The legends about Gyoki Bosatsu are referred to in many books such as “the Nihon Ryoiki,” “the Honcho Hokke Kenki” and “the Nihon Ojo Gokurakuki.” It is said that he might have drawn the oldest Japanese map, “Gyoki-zu.”
Chugu-ji Temple is one of the three major Yamato Monzeki temples. It is close to Horyuji-temple in Ikaruga Town, Ikoma County, Nara Prefecture, and is associated with Shotoku Taishi.
Chugu-ji Temple was established in the 29th year of the Suiko Emperor period (621), when Shotoku Taishi changed a house of his mother, Anahobe-no-Hashihito Queen, into a temple.
After Sonchi Queen became a nun in the temple, Chugu-ji Temple became a Monzeki temple, one in which the imperial family or aristocrats live and train themselves.
The Miroku Bodhisattva statue, a national treasure preserved in one of the main buildings, was made in the late Asuka period and is the oldest example of marquetry work in the country. The figure, with its left leg folded under it and its right finger lightly touching its cheek, is beautiful and famous. 'Tenjukoku-shuchu' is a collection of valuable embroidery dating to the Asuka period. A princess, Tachiba-no-Ooiratsume, mourning over Shotoku Taishi's death, was ordered to embroider the other side. Now, you can see its replica in the temple.
Hokiji is a temple of the Shotoku sect and is located in Ikaruga Town, Ikoma County, Nara Prefecture. It is a world heritage site.
There are several old temples related to Prince Shotoku such as Horyuji, Horinji and Chuguji in Ikaruga. This place is a traditional Buddhist place.
The site of Hokiji was originally the Okamoto-no-miya palace, where Prince Shotoku lectured on the Lotus Sutra. In the 10th year of the Jomei period (638), Prince Shotoku's son, Yamashiro-no-oeno, changed Okamoto into a temple according to Shotoku's will.
The remains of a golden building and a tower have been found here. An additional fact is that the three-storeyed pagoda is the only remaining original building and is the oldest of its kind in Japan.
Kichidenji Temple is located in the north of the village of Koyoshida near Ikaruga Town in Nara Prefecture. The temple is commonly referred to as Pokkuri Temple.
The Tenji Emperor ordered a grave to be built at this site for his sister, Hashihito-no-himemiko, and in the first year of the Eien period (987), Genshin built a temple here.
The name 'Pokkuri' ('drop dead') derives from the story that Genshin prayed to keep off evil spirits as his mother lay dying, so she could die without pain.
You should not miss the statue of seated Amida in one of the main buildings. It is about 4.85m tall and is the biggest wooden statue in Nara as well as a National Important Cultural Asset. It is said that if you pray in front of this statue, you will live longer.
The rare Taho pagoda, also in Nara, was built in the fourth year of the Kansei period (1463), and has been designated as an Important Cultural Asset.
Futai-ji is a temple of the Shingon-risshu sect and is located near Mt Kinryu in Nara Prefecture. The temple is also known as Narihira-ji.
In the 14th year of the Jowa period (847), after the Heijo Emperor had abdicated, he left Nara, the capital, and built Kayano-gosho, the origin of Futai-ji. Apo Shinno and his son, Arihara Narihira, succeeded to the building. After Apo Shino died, Arihara Narihira made the Sei-Kannon statue to mourn his father's death and founded this temple.
Inside the temple are some Important Cultural Assets, including a wooden Sei-Kanzeon Bosatsu statue, otherwise called 'Narihira Kannon', and a wooden Godai-myoo statue.
The temple features a Yosemune-style building from the Muromachi period, a tile-roofed main building, a 'four-leg' south gate from the late Kamakura period, and so on.
The temple has a third name name, 'Nanto Flower's Old Temple', and you can enjoy beautiful flowers in the garden throughout the four seasons.
Hiromichi Osaka was born in 1937, in Kurayoshi, Tottori prefecture. In 1997, he was designated as a Living National Treasure for his woodcraft work.
After graduating from the Tokyo Gakugei University art department, Hiromichi Osaka became a public school teacher. He also became a disciple of Himi Kodo, another Living National Treasure. Under Kodo, Osaka studied woodcraft techniques such as 'kara-sashimono'. After much hard work, Osaka's work won a prize at the Traditional Japanese Crafts Exhibition.
In 1980, when he was 43, he was appointed by the Imperial Household Agency to copy a treasure from the Shoso-in. At this point, he retired from teaching and concentrated on the restoration project. The restoration imitation of a shitan wooden box was completed in 1986 and placed in the Shoso-in collection. His usage of materials such as 'kokushi' and 'shitan' using techniques and motifs from the Shoso-in wooden pictures and carvings have been highly praised.