Chimanji Temple located in Kawane-Honcho, Haibara-gun, Shizuoka Pref. is a historic temple of the Soto sect Buddhism. The principal object of worship are Hasso Shakamuni Nyorai (the eight aspects of Shakamuni), Hokan Shakamuni Nyorai (crowned Shakamuni), Senju Kanzeon Bosatsu (Kannon with 1,000 arms) and Yakuyoke Enmei Jizo Bosatsu (life prolonging Jizo).
According to the temple record, it originates in a hermitage built by Kochi, a second generation student of Priest Ganjin, in the Nara period (710-794). Some say that it was founded as an attached temple of Chimanji Temple in Shimada City to teach priests of the Tendai sect. After the mid-Heian period, it was flourished as a training ashram for mountain practitioners. In 1491, the temple sect was changed to the Soto sect and a Zen monk Kaifu Keimon of Dokeiin Temple in Suruga province was invited as the first resident priest of the new temple. During the Warring States period (1493-1573), the temple was revered by the Imagawa and Tokugawa clans.
Located in a scenic place with refreshing air, the temple is proud of its fine groves in the precinct including ten cedar trees of 800 to 1,200 years old, which are nationally designated Natural Monuments.
Chosenji Temple in Kakuda City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a temple of the Soto sect and one of the most distinctive temples in the Tohoku region. The principal object of worship is Shakamuni Nyorai. Its mountain name is Kogenzan or Rokkokubo. It has a historical connection with Soneiji Temple (Ichikawa City, Chiba Prefecture), which was appointed as one of the three head administrative temples in eastern Japan during the Edo period (1603-1868).
Chosenji Temple was originally founded in Ishikawa Town in Fukushima Prefecture in 1436 by Zen Priest Sokuan Sogaku under the sponsorship of Ishikawa Mochimitsu, the castellan of Miyoshi Castle in Iwaki province (present Fukushima Prefecture). When Ishikawa Akimitsu was removed to Kakuda by Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s Oshu Shioki (punitive action against powerful clans in the Tohoku region) in 1598, the temple was also relocated to its current location.
Although the temple buildings were constructed in relatively recent times, the temple is composed of the main hall, the Zazen hall, the guest house, the hall to enshrine ancestral tablets, priests’ quarters, bell tower, the main gate and the middle gate. The middle gate, Gagyu-mon, used to be the inner gate of Kakuda Castle. In back of the main hall is Otamaya (the mausoleum), where the painted wooden statues of Ishikawa Akimitsu and his seven loyal retainers, who followed their lord to the grave.
Morinji, a temple of the Soto sect, is in Horiku-cho, Tatebayashi City, Gunma Prefecture. The principal object of worship is Shakamuni Buddha. It was founded in 1426 by a Zen monk, Dairin Shoutsu. The temple is famous as the setting of the nursery tale “Bunbuku Chagama,” in which a Japanese raccoon dog changes itself into a chagama (tea kettle) and repays the priest for his kindness. The Bunbuku Chagama and old documents concerning the story are treasured at the temple. Visitors will be welcomed by many pottery statues of raccoon dog with humorous expressions on their faces, which create an amusing ambience.
Since 2002, “the Raccoon Dog and Cherry Blossom Festival” is held in April. A lot of visitors come to enjoy listening to the tune of “Bunbuku Chagama” played on the Satsuma-biwa (Japanese lute in the Satsuma style) and the story read by Kodan storyteller as well as seeing traditional dances. The first 100 visitors can be treated with mochi (rice cake).
Koshoji Temple in Urakawa Town in southern Hokkaido is a temple of the Soto sect. The principal object of worship is Shakamuni Nyorai. It was founded in 1882 on the advice of the priest Kai Yuzen, who was on a missionary tour in this area.
In 1908, when a fire broke out and about 80% of the town was destroyed, Koshoji Temple acted as one of the town’s evacuation centers. The fire, starting from a carpenter’s workshop, expanded into the biggest fire that the town has ever experienced.
After the temple building was damaged by Tokachioki Earthquake in 1952, the repair work was given to the building. As the statue of the Saigoku 33rd Kannon, which had been placed in the grove in the precinct, was also damaged, it was relocated neat the main hall.
Visitors can enjoy the wonderful landscape of the historic garden with an old wisteria tree as well as Sargent cherry (Prunus sargentii) blossoms, which are in full bloom in May.
The Shaka mask represents Shakamuni Buddha. This mask is only used in the play “Daie.” In the plot, a Tengu living in Mt. Atagoyama one day visits a priest performing the ascetic practices in Mt. Hiei. As the Tengu was saved his life by this priest before, he says he would gratify whatever wish the priest has. The priest replies that he wishes he could see Gautama Buddha’s Great Assembly at Mt. Gridrakuta. The Tengu wears the Shaka musk and mimics Gautama Buddha’s preach. Deeply moved to see Buddha’s preach, the priest bows the knee to the Tengu in spite of himself, with which Taishakuten (Lord of the Center) gets very angry because the holy Buddha-dharma was corrupted by a low creature of Tengu. Taishakuten destroys the illusionary assembly and punishes the Tengu. As the Shaka mask is worn over the Tengu mask, it is larger than other masks. In this play, the quick transformation scene is the highlight.
Heirinji Temple in Nobitome, Niiza City, Saitama Prefecture is a temple of the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect. The main object of worship is Shakamuni-butsu (Sakyamuni Buddha). It was originally built in the town of Iwatsuki (present-day Iwatsuki-ku in Saitama City) in 1375 by Ota Shami Untaku. Kaizan (the priest who founded the temple) was Sekishitsu Zenkyu. In 1663, Matsudaira Nobutsuna, the lord of the Kawagoe domain, made it his family temple and ordered his son, Terutsuna, to move it to the present place. It first belonged to the Kenchoji school, then to the Daitokuji school and finally to the Myoshinji school.
The temple building with Japanese maple trees in the precinct stands just like old times. In spring the precinct is covered with cherry blossoms. As the place which still has the ambience of the old Musashino copse, the area around the temple was designated as a National Natural Monument in 1967.
Butsugenji Temple located in Monomigaoka, Ito City, Shizuoka Pref. is one of Nichiren-shu Reiseki Honzan (the temples where Nichiren himself conducted an important deed). The temple was given its name by Nichiren, who was exiled to Izu in 1261 and spent three years at this temple. The principal image is Kuon no Honshi Shakamunibutsu (Eternal Buddha, Shakamuni). The temple is formally named Kaiko-zan (literally meaning “Sea Light Mountain”) Genbutsuji (Emergence of Buddha) Temple, which comes from the episode that Ito Hachirozaemon, the Jito (the local manor manager) of this area presented Nichiren with the standing statue of Buddha, which he had brought up from the sea. Butsugenji Temple is counted as one of Ito Shichifukujin (the Seven Deities in Ito), where Bishamonten (the god of war and warriors), who brings good luck, purification of the evil, and luck with money, is worshipped. The temple also owns a mysterious scroll called “Tengu no Wabi-shomon (the apologetic letter from a Tengu),” which has been indecipherable until now. This is a historic temple with a lot of legendary stories.
Zuisenji Temple located in Nikaido, Kamakura City, Kanagawa Pref. is a temple of Engakuji School within Rinzai Sect. The main object of worship is the Statue of Shaka Nyorai. The temple was founded in the late Kamakura period (1327) by Doun Nikaido, a high-ranking retainer of the Kamakura Shogunate, naming Priest Muso Soseki as the founding priest. Entering the Muromachi period (1336-1573), the temple was revived by, Motouji Ashikaga (Takauji’s fourth son), the first governor-general of Kamakura (called Kamakura Kubo). Since then the temple received continual government support as the family temple of Kamakura Kubo, which made it the first-ranked temple among the 10 most powerful temples in Kanto Region, being second only to Kamakura Gozan (top 5 temples in Kamakura). Behind the main hall lies the garden designed by Muso Soseki, whose believers included Emperor Godaigo and Takauji Ashikaga. It is a simple rock garden, using natural cliff and putting a pond in its center. It is the only one garden built in the Kamakura period that is designated as a National Scenic Spot. Zuisenji Temple is also famous for seasonal flowers and autumn leaves. The flowers of plum, Narcissus, azalea, camellia, and hamamelis japonica continuously bloom at each season.