Ishibaji (Stone Horse Temple) in Gokasho Ishibaji Town in Higashiomi City on the eastern side of Lake Biwa is a historic temple belonging to the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect. The principal object of worship is Juichimen Senju Kanzeon Bosatsu (Kannon with 11 faces and 1,000 arms). The temple is famous as the Horse Temple.
Legend has it that when Prince Shotoku visited this village in 594, his horse was turned into a stone and sank in the pond while he was away. Deeply impressed by this incident, Prince Shotoku built up a temple at this place. Beside the ruins of the Daimon gate at the foot the stone steps is the pond where the stone horse sank. You can see the horse back through the water.
The temple belonged to the Hosso Sect of Buddhism until the Middle Ages. As a temple of the Tendai sect, it fought with Oda Nobunaga in the Warring States period (1493-1573) and was burnt down by his forces. The temple was restored in 1644, as a temple of Rinzai Sect of Buddhism, by Zen monk Ungo.
The temple possesses a lot of cultural properties including the wooden plaques on which three kanji characters representing Ishibaji Temple were written by Prince Shotoku himself and the statue of Prince Shotoku on the horseback.
Tofukuji Temple in Nishiizu Town in Shizuoka Prefecture is a temple of the Rinzai sect. The principal object of worship is Amida Nyorai. It was founded during the Tenpuku era (1233-1234) and originally called Tenpukuji Temple. It was relocated, however, to the present place during the Kagen era (1303-1305) and renamed Tofukuji Temple.
The temple is famous for the frescos of 500 Rakan (Buddha’s disciples) painted on the ceiling of the main hall. The frescos were painted by Toshimitsu Tamura, a Buddhist painter of the Taisho period (1912-1926), who was known as a deep drinker. It is said that it took him 4 years and 8 months to finish the work.
With the dragon in the center, the heavenly maiden at every corner and 500 Rakan surrounding them, this pictorial diagram of the heavenly world is really magnificent. The plastered ceiling and walls give the three dimensional effect to the marvelously colorful paintings.
Yatsuhashizan Muryojuji Temple in Chiryu City, Aichi Prefecture, is a temple of the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect. It was founded as the temple named “Ryounji” in 704 but the founder is unknown. In 822, the priest of the Shingon sect, Mitsuen, moved the temple to the present place and renamed it “Muryojuji.” The temple was converted again to the Rinzai sect by the priest Genten in 1670.
Muryojuji Temple is famous for Kakitsubata, or the rabbit-ear iris (Iris laevigata Fisch.), about which Ariwara no Narihira wrote a poem in the Chapter 9 “Yatsuhashi” of his famous “Ise Monogatari (the Tales of Ise).” In 1812, the iris garden was built after the design by Hogan Baisa, a master of the Sencha tea ceremony. This iris garden is now arranged into a famous iris garden named Yatsuhashi Iris Garden, where the city’s biggest event, Iris Festival, is held from the end of April through the middle of May every year. It may be nice to write a poem like Ariwara no Narihira, viewing lovely iris flowers.
Chokoji Temple in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture, is a Bekkaku (a kind of title, which literally means “special”) temple of the Tofukuji school of the Rinzai sect of Buddhism. The principal object of worship is Juichimen Kanzeon Bosatsu (Kannon with 11 faces). Its mountain name is Shuunzan.
The temple was founded in 1335 by Nakajo Hidenaga, the castellan of Koromo Castle, as his family temple. The temple thrived in the early Muromachi period (1336-1573) possessing the precinct of 545 meters from north to south and 436 meters from east to west, where as many as 18 branch temples were built. After the Onin War (1457), when the Nakajo clan declined, the temple also lost its power. It was attacked by Oda Nobunaga and destroyed by fire in 1567. However, the temple was immediately restored by a retainer of Nobunaga, Yogo Masakatsu.
Chokoji Temple possesses several cultural properties, one of which is the portrait of Nobunaga. It was painted by Kano Motohide by the order of Yogo Masakatsu after his master’s death. The picture is now designated as a cultural property by the national government.
Tenonji Temple in Okazaki City, Aichi Prefecture, is a temple of the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect. The temple was founded by the Zen monk Kensho Goshin in 1362 by the order of the 3rd Shogun of the Muromachi Shogunate, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, on behalf of his grandfather, Ashikaga Takauji, who had made a vow before he died that he would construction a temple at this place in appreciation for the fulfillment of his prayer for victory.
The stately main gate built in the Yakuimon style looks like a castle gate. The main hall is a Chinese-styled building with the large camber on the outer side of the roof. It is nationally designated as an Important Cultural Property. In front of the main hall is a Hojo-ike Pond (set living things free pond), which is typical to a Zen temple.
In the precinct stands a huge cedar tree named “Ieyasu-ko Mikaeri-no-sugi (the cedar tree that Ieyasu looked back at).” According to a legend, when Tokugawa Ieyasu visited this temple to pray for his victory, he heard someone calling his name. He turned around to see who it was, when an assassin was just going to launch an arrow at him from behind a huge cedar tree. It was Enmei Jizo Bosatsu (Life Lengthening Jizo) that called him and Ieyasu narrowly escaped from being shot. When he left the temple for a battle field, Ieyasu looked back at the cedar tree over and over again to show his gratitude to Jizo Bosatsu.
Zuiganji Temple in Matsushima Town, Miyagi Prefecture, is a temple of the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect. It was founded as Enpukuji Temple in 828 by Jikaku Daishi En’nin, a high-ranked priest of the Tendai sect. The temple received faithful protection from the Oshu Fujiwara clan as a temple built at the Emperor's behest. The principal object of worship is Sho Kannon Bosatsu.
In 1259, it became a temple of the Rinzai sect, and was prosperous for some time and then declined in the Warring States period (1493-1573). It was revived in 1609 by Date Masamune and renamed Zuigan Enpuku Zenji Temple.
Kuri (the priests’ quarters) and the corridor were constructed presumably during the Keicho era (1596-1614). They are elaborately designed precious historic structures. Kuri is connected to the main hall by the corridor, which has railings with incised decorations. Kuri has a huge tiled roof in the Kirizuma-zukuri (gabled) style. The embellishment of gable pediments and the layout of the corridor are especially wonderful. They are collectively designated as a National treasure.
Kenryuji is a temple of the Rinzai sect located in Wakuya Town in Miyagi Prefecture, known as a castle town at the foot of Wakuya Castle, where the Wakuya Date clan resided. The principal image of worship is Nyoirin Kanzeon.
In 1591, Watari Shigemune, the ruler of the area, restored the deserted temple and named it Endoji Temple. In 1671, when Date Aki Muneshige died, it was renamed the present name after his Buddhist name. Date Aki Muneshige was the 4th generation of the Wakuya Date clan and one of the central figures of Date Turbulence. The details of the incident are as follows.
In 1671, Aki complained to the Shogunate of the mismanagement of the Sendai domain under Date Hyobu Munekatsu, the guardian of the young lord, and Harada Kai, a magistrate. When all the Date retainers involved were summoned to the Tairo’s mansion for questioning, Harada Kai suddenly drew his sword and killed Aki. Harada was also killed moments after by the officials. In a trial held soon after the incident, it was decided that the Harada family was destroyed and Hyobu was punished, while Aki was judged to be a paragon of loyalty, and no action was taken against his family.
In the precinct is Otamaya (the Kenryubyo mausoleum) of Date Aki Muneshige, which is designated as an important cultural property by the prefecture. The mausoleum was built in 1673. It is a 3.6-meter square building made of zelkova wood and has Kohai (a step canopy). Together with a copper roof in Hogyo-zukuri (a pyramid style), it is a precious example of the architectural style of the time.
Entsuin Temple is a historic temple that belongs to the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect of Buddhism. It is the 1st Holy Place of 33 Kannon Pilgrimage in Sanriku. Located in Matsushima, one of Japan’s Three Finest Views, the temple is popularly called “Rose Temple” or “Moss Temple.”
In the precinct is Otamaya (the mausoleum) named Sankeiden, where Date Mitsumune, a grandson of Date Masamune, is buried. Constructed in 1647, it is the oldest mausoleum structure in the precinct. It is a square building with a pyramid-styled tiled roof. The railing is built around the building. It is one of the few 3-bay square mausoleums in the Tohoku region.
Inside the mausoleum is Zushi (a miniature Buddhist shrine) housing the statue of Mitsumune on the horse. The painted decoration given on Zushi is very gorgeous. Interestingly, some Western-styled patterns influenced by the Kirishitan (Christianity) culture can be seen among the decorations.
The mausoleum had been closed to the public for 350 years. However, it was open to the public since it was designated as an Important Cultural Property by the national government.