Oshokyoin Temple located in Nakauchida, Kikugawa City, Shizuoka Pref. is a temple of the Jodo sect. The principal object of worship is the statue of Amida Nyorai (quasi national treasure). The temple originates in Tengakuin Temple of the Tendai sect, which was established in 855 by the priest Jikaku Daishi as an Imperial prayer temple for Emperor Montoku. Later, Honen Shonin (1133-1212), the founder of the Jodo sect Buddhism, placed the statue of Amida here to the memory of his teacher, Koen Ajari, who was said to have transformed himself into the Ryujin (dragon god) to save people in Sakuragaike Pond in the neighboring town. The temple sect was changed from the Tendai sect to the Jodo sect and its name was also changed from Tengakuin to Oshokyoin at this time.
Oshokyoin is a branch temple of Chioin Temple in Kyoto. It is also known as the fudasho (a visiting place for pilgrims) for those who are born in the year of dragon and snake in Enshu (present-day Shizuoka Pref.) area. The temple possesses the manuscript of the Koen Ajari legend and the statue of Hafuki Amida Nyorai (Amida with mouth open). Up the stone steps at the entrance stands the Sanmon Gate (the temple gate), which was erected by the 2nd Shogun, Tokugawa Hidetada. In the precinct are full of unique objet d'art such as Nonbei Jizo (Bottle-man Jizo). There are also two of the Seven Wonders in Enshu, Mitabi-guri (a chestnut tree producing chestnuts three times a year) and Kataba-no-Ashi (the reed grass that has leaves on only one side of the stem).
Myogenji Temple located amidst of the residential district near Okazaki Station is the oldest training ashram of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism in Mikawa province (present-day Aichi Prefecture).
There used to stand a castle at the place where the temple is located today. In 1235, Ando Nobuhira, the castellan who ruled Aomi county (present-day eastern part of Aichi Prefecture), invited Priest Shinran, who was on his way back to Kyoto, and listened to his preach in a small hall called “Taishi-do” in the castle area. Deeply moved by Shinran’s preaching, Nobuhira left secular life as a warrior and entered the priesthood. In 1258, he founded a temple and named it Myogenji (明眼寺).
In the late 16th century, Tokugawa Ieyasu stayed at this temple during the Ikko-Ikki battles because the temple had been worshipped by his father’s family, the Matsudaira clan. He presented the new kanji name (妙源寺) to the temple, allowing it to use the kanji “源,” which was the name of his ancestry family, the Minamoto clan.
Turning down a side street off the main road of Okazaki City, you will find a castle gate in Iyakumon-style. Go along the front approach until you get to the four-legged gate, beyond which you will find the precinct dotted with several temple structures including Taishido Hall, the main hall, the priest’s residential quarters and the bell tower.
Taishido Hall housing the statue of Prince Shotoku at age 16 is supposedly built in the middle of the Muromachi period (1336-1573). As there used to be a willow tree in front of the hall, it is popularly called “Yanagi-do (Willow Hall).”It is nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property.
Usui Checkpoint was built at Usui Pass in present-day Matsuida-cho, Annaka City, Gunma Prefecture as one of the checkpoints, which the second Shogun Tokugawa Hidetada ordered to build on the Nakasendo Road in 1623 to control “Irideppo ni Deonna” (guns coming into Edo and women leaving Edo). It was referred to as one of Three Great Checkpoints in the Edo period. It had functioned as the most important checkpoint on the Nakasendo Road until 1869, when the checkpoint system was abolished.
In 1959, the eastern gate of the checkpoint was restored to its original form after the design by Gaijiro Fujishima, a professor of Tokyo University and Doctor of Engineering. The posts and door boards of the original building were used for the new gate. It is made of zelkova wood, and metal fittings are used to reinforce the structure.
On the second Sunday in May every year, Usui Pass Checkpoint Festival is held, where people come to enjoy listening to Yagibushi song and Japanese drums as well as seeing the local children in the costumes of checkpoint officers.
Myogi Shrine is located in Myogi-machi, Tomioka City, Gunma Prefecture. The enshrined deities are Yamato Takeru no Mikoto, Toyouke no Okami and Sugawara no Michizane. It was founded in 537 at the foot of Mt. Hakuun, one of the peaks composing Mt. Myogi. The shrine had been worshipped by warriors as well as by the common people in the area. It was also deeply respected by the successive generations of the Shogun during the Edo period (1603-1868).
The present black-lacquered main hall in Irimoya-zukuri style with a copper roof and the Karamon and Somon gates with copper roofs were built in 1758. These structures are designated as national Important Cultural Properties. The elaborate carvings of dragons and Chinese phoenixes given to the buildings are said to have been done by the sculptor that worked for Nikko Toshogu Shrine.
The annual festivals are held on April 15th and October 15th. The over 200-year-old weeping cherry trees are in full bloom around the spring festival and the precinct is covered with red leaves around the autumn festival. As it was believed that Tengu lived in Mt. Myogi, visitors can get Tengu talismans at the shrine.
Waki-honjin (sub-honjin) were spare lodgings for honjin, the inns for nobility, daimyo and government officials. Waki-honjin was used when there were any problems with honjin; for example, when the number of guests was beyond the capacity of honjin, or two daimyo happened to stay in the same post town. In the latter case, it was the custom that the low-ranked daimyo stayed at waki-honjin. If there were vacancies, general travelers could also stay at waki-honjin.
Though waki-honjin were smaller in scale than honjin, the equipment including the special room for nobility and daimyo, which was called “Jodan-no-ma,” was in accordance with those of honjin. The proprietors of waki-honjin were mostly wealthy men of the post towns. As the privilege that distinguished honjin and waki-honjin from ordinary hatago inns, it was permitted that those buildings could be equipped with the gate, the entrance hall and the shoin (reception room).
The gate with an imposing appearance stands across Prefectural Road 323 from the prefectural office building. This is what used to be the main gate of the residence of the Minoura family, who served for the Tottori domain lord and were enfeoffed with 2,000 koku of rice during the Edo period (1603-1868). With the white sea slug walls making a beautiful contrast with its black tiled-roof, the gate shows the dignity of the old-time warrior class.
The gate was originally located at the southern corner of the wet moat surrounding Tottori Castle. It was relocated to the present place in 1936, when the school buildings of Tottori Teachers Training Institute were extended and reconstructed. The gate had been used as the school gate of the institute and later of the junior high school affiliated to Tottori University. When a prefectural library was planned to be constructed, the gate was dismantled and repaired for preservation. As the city’s only one existing gate in Buke-zukuri style (the architectural style used for warriors’ residences), it is designated as a cultural property of the city.
From May 3rd to the 4th every year, Hanayu (Flower Bath) Festival is held in Misasa Hot Springs to give thanks to hot waters in the town. The highlight of the festival is a large-scale tug-of-war ritual called Jinsho. The huge male rope and the female rope are made of wisteria vines and are 80 m in length, 2 m in circumference and 2 tons in weight. After they are combined together, the male rope is place in the east of the En-mon gate erected in the center of the Honcho Street, while the male rope is placed in the west of it. The tug-of-war sometimes takes as long as over 30 minutes. It is said that if the east side wins, the town is blessed with rich harvest, and the west side, the business success. Not only local people but also tourists join the tug-of-war. Whichever side wins, it will bring luck to this hot spring town of Misasa. Jinsho is a very popular event that tells people of the arrival of early summer.
Soneiji temple located in Toyosawa, Fukuroi City, Shizuoka Pref. is a Bekkaku Honzan (a special headquarters) of the Shingon sect. The principal object of worship is Sho-Kanzaon Bosatsu and Yakuyoke Kanzeon. The temple was established in 725 by Priest Gyoki under the order of Emperor Shomu.
The two-storied Nio-mon Gate in Irimoya-zukuri (hip-and-gable style) with a Kokera-buki (thin wooden shingles) roof. This high gate has one opening in 3 bays, which gives a magnificent impression. The architectural taste of the Azuchi Momoyama period (1568-1598) can be strongly sensed from the gate. It is a nationally designated Important Cultural Property. Two statues of Kongo Rikishi (protector deities) guard the gate. Two stone monuments are erected inside the gate.
On a New Year’s day, the temple is crowded with a lot of visitors coming from all over the Kanto region. Both sides of the front approach to the gate are lined with stalls of souvenir and food venders.