Nyoirinji Temple located in Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Nara Pref. is a temple of Jodo sect. It was founded in the Engi era (901-923) by the priest Nichizo Doken Shonin, a son of the Monjo Hakase (Professor of Literature) Miyoshi Kiyoyuki. The principal image is Nyoirin Kannon. In 1336, when Emperor Go-daigo was defeated in Nanbokucho Wars and set up the Southern Court in Yoshino, the temple became the place where the emperor offered prayers. The temple is known for the episode that when Kusunoki Masashige set out for the battle of Shijo Nawate in Osaka, he carved the death poem on the door of the hall with an arrowhead.
In 1650, when the priest Tetsugyu restored the main hall, the temple was converted from the Shingon sect to the Jodo sect. A lot of precious cultural properties are displayed in the Treasure House of the temple including the statue of angry-faced Zao Gongen and the picture of Kannon, which is popularly called “Ne-ogami Kannon (Kannon to be worshipped in the lying posture)” because it is painted on the ceiling and which is said to be the largest one of this type. Standing in the precinct, visitors can feel the long history and tradition at this temple of Nyoirinji.
Saigyo-an located in Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Nara Pref. is a hermitage, where Saigyo supposedly spent three years. Saigyo (1118-1190) was a great poet in the Heian period and wrote poems for “Shin-Kokin-shu” and “Sanka-shu.” The wooden statue of Saigyo is placed inside the hut. Cherishing the memory of Saigyo, Matsuo Basho visited the hut and composed a poem in 1684. Two stone monuments respectively inscribed with a poem by Saigyo and Basho stand in front of this serene hermitage. Surrounded with cherry blossoms in spring and autumnal foliage in fall, the hermitage will impress you with the wabi-sabi aesthetic and inspire your poetic mind.
A clear water called “Koke-Shimizu” springs out in the vicinity. It is counted as one of 31 Fine Water in Yamato.
Saigyo was a famous Japanese poet of the late Heian period (794-1192). Born to a military family in 1118, he started his careear as an Imperial Guard to retired Emperor Toba at the age of 18. He was a handsome young man, who was both a good warrior and a good scholar. He came to be known in the political circles of the time, but for some unknown reasons, he quit worldly life to become a monk at the age of 23. Later he took the pen name “Saigyo” meaning Western Journey.
He did not belong to any sect of Buddhism and stayed in a hermitage in a deep mountain to seek for enlightment through writing waka poems. Being attracted by the beauty of nature, he made his temporary hermitage in the suberbs of Kyoto and Nara including Mt. Ogurayama in Saga, Mt. Kuramayama, a holy mountain of Yoshino and Mt. Koya, the sanctuary of the Shingon Buddhism. He also made a number of trips to visit temples and shrines in Shikoku and Ise.
94 poems of Saigyo’s work are collected in “the Shin Kokinshu.” His other important collections of poems are “Sankashu (Mountain Home Collection),” “Sanka Shinchu Shu,” and “Kikigakishu.” He died at Hirokawa Temple in Kawachi province (present-day Kanan-cho in Osaka Prefecture) in 1190.
Katte Shrine located in Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Nara Pref. is one of the eight Myojin shrines in Yoshino. It enshrines Oyama Tsumi no Kami and Konohanasakuya-hime no Mikoto. Legend has it that in 672, when Prince Oama (later enthroned as Emperor Tenmu), who had stayed in Yoshino and gathered an army to battle with the crown prince, was playing the Japanese harp in front of the hall at this temple, a heavenly maiden appeared and showed him a lucky omen.
It is also said that in 1185, when Shizuka Gozen, who parted with Minamoto no Yoshitsune in Mt. Yoshino, was caught by the pursuers, she performed elegant dance in front of the hall at this shrine to make time for her husband to escape.
The main hall was once destroyed by fire and restored in 1776, but in 2005 it was burned down again by the fire of suspicious origin. Presently, only a part of wooden structure remains and there is little possibility of the restoration of this important cultural property.
Yamaage Festival held in July every year in Nasu Karasuyama City, Tochigi Prefecture is a dynamic performance of outdoor kabuki, which is nationally designated as an Important Intangible Cultural Property. The history of this outdoor kabuki dates back to 1560, when Nasu Suketane, the castellan of Karasuyama Castle enshrined Susanoo no Mikoto at Yakumo Shrine and prayed for the country’s stability and a rich harvest. During the Kanbun era (1661-1672), a dance performance was first dedicated to the deity in addition to the sumo wrestling matches and Kagura Loin Dance. In the Horeki era (1716-1763), kabuki dances began to be performed and later it took the form of the outdoor kabuki plays.
On the day of the festival, about 150 young stagehands quickly build a kabuki stage with “yama (backdrops),” which is made of bamboo and traditional Japanese paper produced in the Nasu area. When musicians start playing the Tokiwazu-bushi shamisen, local kabuki players appear on the stage and play kabuki dramas such as “Masakado,” “Modoribashi,” and “Yoshinoyama.” After the performance, the stagehand staff quickly breaks up the set, carries all necessary parts to the next locale and re-builds the stage for the next performance. The performances are held five to six times a day.
Sakuramotobo Temple located in Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Nara Pref. is a Shugendo temple founded in the late 7th century by Emperor Tenchi, who had became a priest and Buddhism at Hinoo Imperial Villa in Yoshino when young. Legend has it that one day he was dreaming of a cherry blossoms in full bloom, and then when he woke up and found a cherry trees really blossoming in winter. After his enthronement, he founded a temple where the cherry tree stood giving it a name of Sakuramotobo (a temple under the cherry tree) and invited Hinoo no Kakujo, a senior apprentice of En no Gyoja, as the resident priest.
The main object of worship is En no Gyoja Jinben Daibosatsu (the deified En no Gyoja, the founder of Shugendo) and the statues of Shaka Nyorai and Jizo Bosatsu. Originally the temple was located near Kinpusenji Temple and was the largest tacchu temple (attached temple) of Kinpusenji. Sakuramotobo Temple is one of the three temples that comprise Kinpusen Syugen Honshu. It was also the largest of all the Omine Gojiin Temples until the Meiji period. As the pantheon of Yamabushi culture, the temple is known for possessing a large number of treasures. It was once abolished by the Haibutsu Kishaku (abolition of Buddhism) movement in the Meiji period but was revived later.
Kinpu Shrine is located in Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Nara Pref. It enshrines Kanayamahiko no Mikoto and Kanayama Himegami. Kanayamahiko no Mikoto is the deity who guards the land of Yoshinoyama and gold mine. It was once thought that there were gold mines in this area, which was called “Mikane no Take,” meaning the mountain of gold. One ancient literature says, “Mt. Kinpu is covered with gold.”
Located in Oku-no-Senbon,” the deepest part of Mt. Yoshino, it is very cool even in summer with old cedar and cherry trees covering the precinct. Going down the path beside the shrine, you will find the pagoda called “Yoshitsune Kakure-to,” where Yoshitsune hid himself from his pursuers. Kinpu Shrine is used as an ashram of Shugendo, where hundreds of mountain practitioners in Yamabushi costume drop in on their way to Ominesanji Temple at the top of Mt. Sanjogatake.
Myohoden Hall is one of the structures consisting Kinpusenji Temple in Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Nara Pref. The principal image is the statue of Shaka Nyorai. This place is thought to be where Emperor Go-daigo resided as the emperor of the South Court. In 1963, Kinpusenji Temple constructed a hall named “Nancho Myohoden” to appease the soul of the four emperors of the South Court and other people who lost their lives in many battles since the Nanbokucho period (1336-1392).
The sitting statue of Shaka Nyorai, probably made from the late 9th century to the early 10th century, is the oldest among many statues of Buddha possessed by Kinpusenji Temple. This very precious statue is carved out from one block of Hinoki (Japanese cypress).
In spring, Mt. Yoshino is all covered with cherry blossoms. Surrounded with cherry blossoms, the hall looks beautiful especially on the days after the rain or snow. Myohoden Hall is a serene place to offer a requiem prayer.