Dogen is the founder of the Soto sect of the Japanese Buddhism. Born in Kyoto in 1200, he entered a Buddhist monastery in Mt. Hiei at the age of 13. He became a priest in the next year and studied the Tendai Buddhism and Zen doctrines. Then he went to China to study “Shoho (true dharma)” and visited Zen monk Nyojo (Ju-Ching, 13th Patriarch of the Soto lineage of Zen Buddhism) in Mt. Tiantóng in 1225, when he became the Dharma successor. His way of Zen is “Shikan Taza,” which means “zazen alone.”
When Dogen returned to Japan, he stayed at Kenninji Temple in Kamakura, where he wrote down “the Fukan Zazengi (Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen),” a short text emphasizing the importance of and giving instructions for zazen, or sitting meditation. In 1233, he founded Koshoji Temple in Uji, south of Kyoto, where he stayed for 8 years and devoted himself to the propagation of Zen Buddhism.
In 1243, he was invited to Echizen province, where his followers founded Daibutsuji Temple (present-day Eiheiji Temple) as a comprehensive center of Zen practice. Dogen spent the remainder of his life at this temple teaching young priests.
Dogen’s masterpiece “the Shobogenzo,” collected together in ninety-five fascicles, has been studied even up to the present day as the book that lead us to enlightment.
The Hashihime mask is used in the play “Uji no Hashihime (Bridge Princess).” In the story, a woman, whose husband had abandoned her and married to another woman, gets enraged by jealousy and goes to the Kibune Shrine, where she petitions the gods to turn her into a demon so that she can have revenge. She is told by the shrine priest that if she wears a red kimono, paints her face red, puts on an iron ring with burning candles on her head and has the flame of rage in her mind, she will be able to become a demon. She does as she is told, and then her ex-husband begins to suffer from a nightmare. When he consults an Onmyoji about his dream, he is told that he will be killed by the woman’s deep grudge on this night. Astonished with this oracle, he asks the Onmyoji to offer a prayer, when the living spirit of the jealous woman taking on the form of the demon appears and tries to take him away. The mask used in this scene is the Hashihime mask. Expressing the jealous mind and worldly karma that a woman bears, the mask has the pale forehead with lines of bursting veins, the clenched teeth, and the eyes slanting upward. It has a furious but somewhat sorrowful countenance.
The fugitives of Heike (the Taira clan), who were defeated in the battle of the Uji River and driven into the mountains, died a violent death in present-day Tanba City in 1184. Feeling sorry for them, the villagers erected several stones and placed flowers in front of them to pray for the repose of their souls. By and by the stones became famous as Jizo statues, which have the power to fulfill people’s wishes. 3 statues of Jizo with no heads stand side by side on the stone steps and 7 in the small hall. Those statues are known for fulfilling the wishes concerning the head such as academic accomplishment, prevention of becoming forgetful with age, and recovery from illness. A lot of students taking an entrance examination to a university come to pray for these Jizo statues during the season of the entrance exams. On the days of Jizo Festivals held in March and September every year, a lot of visitors come to the mountain, which is also known as a nice place for hiking.
Eisanji Temple overlooks the Yoshino River in Nara. It is an ancient temple that conserves the glory and eminence of the Tenpyo even today. It is said that the temple was built in 719 during the Nara period, by Muchimaro, the first-born child of Fujiwara no Fuhito.
The temple was originally called Sakiyamaji during the time that it was first constructed, but as it developed and became part of the Fujiwara family's Bondaiji temple, it was renamed Eisanji.
The main feature of the temple is without doubt the Hakakudo, which was designated as a national treasure. The Hakakudo, as one of the Endo of the Tenpyo period, is a very precious ruin on par with the Yumedono of Horyuji temple. It is said that the Hakakudo was built by Nakamaro, son of Muchimaro, in order to grieve for his father's bodai. The seated figure of the Yakushinyorai (master of healing) located within the temple is also designated as an important cultural property. Moreover, an inscription written in an Ononotou style can be seen on a bell (national treasure), which is acknowledged as one of Japan's three great bells, along with the bell of the Uji Byodoin.
Azalea and yamabuki blossom all over the grounds of the temple from the end of April to the beginning of May, creating a beautiful and vibrant scene.
The path to the Inner Shrine (Kotai Jingu, or Naiku) of the Ise Grand Shrine crosses the Uji-bashi Bridge. The Ise Grand Shrine is near the town of Ise in Mie Prefecture. The bridge is also known as the Mimozuso-bashi and is not associated in any way with the Uji-bashi Bridge in Kyoto.
Made of cypress wood, the bridge spans the Suzukawa River, and is 101.8m long and 8.42m wide. It used to be rebuilt each year during a ceremony known as Shikinen Sengu, when the transfer of a deity took place. During World War II, there was a time gap, and after that, the bridge was rebuilt every four years for the Sengu.
Two torii gateway, standing 7.44m high, are placed at either end of the bridge. The outer torii is made from the old pillars of the Geguu-Seiden (Outer Shrine Main Hall) and the inner torii is made from the old pillars of the Naiku-Seiden (Inner Shrine Main Hall). When the Uji-bashi is rebuilt, the outer torii becomes the torii of the Kuwana-no-nanasato-no-Watashi and the outer torii becomes the torii of the Suzukatouge-no-kan-no-Oiwake. These torii must endeavor to function as building materials for a total of 60 years.
The Uji-bashi acts as a spiritual bridge and is said to sit on the border between the world and a holy place.
Oharai-machi is a town located at the main entrance to the Ise Shrine in Mie prefecture. The town is famous for its array of traditional souvenir shops and restaurants.
Oharai-machi extends from Uji Bridge, near the inner shrine, along the Isuzukawa river. It grew and developed into a town beginning from the main torii (gateway) at the entrance to the shrine, and up to the Naiku (the inner shrine).
Oharai-machi has a wide variety of stores, including gabled souvenir shops, shops for mothers- and wives-to-be, famous longstanding candy stores, as well as inns and hotels. Many historic buildings can be found here, including the shrine dojo (training center) and the house of the master of religious rites.
Some 800m from Uji Bridge, in one corner of the town, was where the Okage-mairi (pilgrims arrival path to the shrine) once flourished in the Edo period. This road has since been restored as a resort spot lined with souvenir shops and restaurants, which has become known today as the Okage-yokocho (Okage Lane).
Time passes quickly as one walks past the town's traditional restaurants and souvenir shops lining the roadsides of Oharai. Indeed, Oharai-machi is a place where you can forget time, and appreciate the pure enjoyment and gratifications the town has to offer.
Manpukuji Temple is located in Uji, Kyoto Prefecture. It is a Chinese-style temple, built in 1661 by the monk Ingen who came to Japan from Fujian, China, at the invitation of Emperor Go-Mizunoo and Tokugawa Ietsuna, who both revered him.
The balcony, which has a swastika ('manji-kuzushi') design, and the arched 'kikabe tenjo' ceiling are just some of the unique features of Manpukuji.
Manpukuji represents one of the three Japanese Zen sects (Rinzai, Soutou and Obaku). Ingen, along with Mokuan and Sokuhi, are the chief abbots of the Obaku Sect.
Another major characteristic of Manpukuji is that the temple itself has not changed since it was first built. The 23 buildings, the corridor, the frames on the windows and doors and many other articles have been designated as Important Cultural Property of Japan.
The Obaku monks have made significant contributions to Japanese society, including constructing the first public library, pioneering rice fields in Chiba Prefecture, and guiding construction of the arch-shaped Kintaikyo bridge in Iwakuni. There are 22 enshrined statues of Buddha of the Obaku Zen sects today. These foreign-style statues differed significantly from Japanese-style ones, but came to influence and alter the image of Buddha in Japan.