Shinran was a Japanese Buddhist monk of the early Kamakura period (1192-1333) and the founder of the Jodo Shinshu of japanese Buddhism. Born in Hino (now a part of Fushimi, Kyoto) in 1173, Shinran had been a monk of the Tendai school of Buddhism at Mt. Hiei, where he studied for 20 years since he was at the age of nine. In 1201, Shinran met Honen and became his disciple. He arrived at the conviction that “Tariki Nenbutsu (reciting Buddhist invocation to takes refuge in the other power of Amida Buddha)” is the only way to lead us to the Pure Land.
Shinran together with the desciples of Honen spread this new doctorine in the streets of Kyoto, but their movement was banned by the Imperial court. Eight monks including Honen and Shinran were exiled. Shinran was sent to Echigo province (present-day Niigata Prefecture) and was stripped of his religious name.
After Shinran was pardoned, he left for Hitachi province (present-day Ibaraki Prefecture), where he spent 20 years being engaged in missionary works. He took a stand that he was neither a monk nor a layman.
In 1224, he authored his most significant text, “Kyogyoshinsho,” which is a series of selections and commentaries on Buddhist sutras pertinent to Pure Land Buddhism. The sayings of Shinran, “the Tannisho (the Lamentations of Divergences)” is still read by many people today.
In 1234, Shinran returned to Kyoto, where he died in 1263 at the age of 90. The Japanese imperial court awarded Shinran the honorific designations “Kenshin Daishi (Great Teacher Kenshin)” in 1876.
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.
This temple is Bekkaku Honzan (a special headquarters) of Jodo-Shinshu. The Buddhist priest Shinran, who had been exiled to Echigo (present Niigata Pref.), was given absolution and invited to this place. He stayed here and promulgated his faith from 1214 to 1232 before going back to Kyoto. The temple is known as the place where Shinran wrote his famous “Kyogyo Shinsho (A Collection of Passages Revealing the True and Real Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way).” There is a unique gingko tree planted by Shinran himself in the precinct, which is called “Ohatsuki Icho (seeds grow on the leaves).” This Ohatsuki gingko tree was designated as a cultural property by the prefecture on November 15 in 2000. A gingko tree is a known example of a living fossil and is thought to have existed for more than one million years. Though Ohatsuki is not confined to old trees, visitors are glad to pick up a nut and bring it home to plant as a token of their visit. Thinking that the tree was planted by the holy man, they may find a special meaning in the nut.
Otorikoshi Service and the Plant Fair are the events held at Sanjo Betsuin in Honcho, Sanjo City, Niigata Pref. from November 5-8 every year. Sanjo Betsuin was established as a Betsuin (a branch temple) of Higashi Honganji, the head temple of Jodo Shin-shu Otani School, in 1690 to supervise all the Shin-shu temples located to the north of Yoneyama town (presently Kashiwazaki City, Niigata Pref.). Since then it has been called “Gobo-sama (sacred monk)” and respected by the local people. Otorikoshi Service, or formally called “Ho-on-ko Ohikiage-e” Service is dedicated in memory of Shinran Shonin, the founder of Shin-shu. Otorikoshi service, which is held at every Shin-shu temple all over the country in advance of Shinran Shonin Memorial Day, is the most important service for the believers of Jodo Shin-shu. During this period, the Plant Fair is also held along the main approach and in the area near the temple. A lot of visitors from all over the prefecture come to buy young or potted flowering plants, young fruit trees, or garden plants. Otorikoshi Service and the Plant Fair are the events that are indispensable for the autumnal season in the city of Sanjo.
Mt. Hiei is covered with forests of old-growth cedars and fir trees, which are left intact since the ancient times. The whole mountain belongs to Enryakuji temple, which was founded by the monk Saicho and has served as the headquarters of the Tendai sect. It is considerd to be the most important mountain in the establishment of Japnese Buddhism, because Honen, the founderof Jodo Sect, Shinran, the founder of Jodo Shin-shu Sect, Eisai, the founder of Rinzai Sect, Dogen, the founder of Sodo Sect, and Nichiren, the founder of Nichiren-shu Sect all trained themselves in this mountain when young. The trees in the smoky mist looks especially beautiful. “Forest on Mt. Hiei” is counted as one of Eight Views of Lake Biwa. The halls of Enryakuji Temple surrounded with old-growth trees in smoky mist create mysterious and fantastic atmosphere.
Tsukiji-honganJi, officially called “Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha Honganji Tsukiji Betsu In” is a temple located in Chuo district, Tokyo. It was constructed in 1617 as a branch temple of Nishi Honganji in Kyoto. After experiencing fire disaster and the Great Kantō earthquake, it was reconstructed in an Indian style in 1934. It is rare to see a pipe organ in the main hall. It does not seem in appearance to be a Japanese temple. However, inside, you can see a shining gold Amitabha statue, a wooden statue of Prince Shōtoku and a scroll painting of previous abbot Sho-nyo Sho-nin. Jodo Shinshu is a Buddhist sect that was founded by Shinran Shonin, and Tsukiji-honganji is one of those temples that closely expound his teachings.