Shouemon Kotabe was born in the Ibaragi Prefecture in 1971.
Mr. Kotabe is the 37th successor to his family’s foundry business which has been handed down for over 800 years.
Since his childhood, Mr. Kotabe helped his father make temple bells. After graduating with a Metal Engineering degree from National Takaoka College (now Toyama University), he went into training at an iron kettle studio in Morioka. He then, returned to the Kotabe Foundry run by his father and took charge of it at the age of 25.
At the foundry, on the foot of Tsukuba Mountain, Mr. Kotabe makes temple bells, fire bells and rainwater bowls. Orders come from all over Japan as well as from other countries.
After consulting about letters and patterns, he creates a mold with local sand and clay and then pours copper and tin heated to 1200 ºC into the mold. Because he doesn’t color the bells, he takes considerable time to create an elaborate mold. It takes four to six months and occasionally as long as one year to make one temple bell. A bell newly taken out from a mold is orange-brown in color. Its tone gradually changes to red, then purple and finally to blue-green. As time passes, the local air makes the bell change its color.
Wanting the sound of his bells to resonate in people’s hearts, Mr. Kotabe continues his quest for the perfect bell-tone.
Sairinji Temple is a Shingon sect temple located in Furuichi, Habikino City, Osaka Pref. The principal image is the standing statue of Yakushi Nyorai. According to the temple record, it originates in Kogenji Temple established by the Kawachi no Fumi clan, the descendents of a Confucian scholar Wang In of Baekje.
The excavated tiles and other items indicate that the temple was established at some time during the Asuka period (the late 6th C. to the early 8th C.). The foundation stone of a pagoda placed in the garden of the temple is nearly 2 m tall and over 27 tons in weight. It is the largest foundation stone of a pagoda identified with the Asuka period. The formal seven buildings had been completed by 679 and it is confirmed that those buildings had existed until 743. Most of the buildings and the pagoda were destroyed by the battles in the Warring States period (1493-1573) and Haibutsu Kishaku (the anti-Buddhism movement) in the Meiji period (1868-1912).
As one of the Kawachi Asuka Shichifukujin (Seven Gods of Good Fortune) temples, Sairinji Temple worships the deity Ebisu, who wears the Kazaori Eboshi (a tall hat) and the Kariginu (hunting garment) with holding a fishing rod and a red sea bream. Sairinji is a temple with a long history since the ancient times.
Rokutanji Temple located at the foot of Mt. Nijo in Taishi-cho, Minami-Kawachi-gun, Osaka Pref. is the oldest rock-cut temple in Japan. In the Nara period (710-794), the temple was created by carving natural tuff rock bed. At the center of the precinct stands a 13-story stone pagoda. The sitting images of Nyorai Sanzon-butsu (Nyorai Triad) are carved in line on the rock in the alcove hollowed in the eastern cliff. The head and chest of the Nyorai on the left have already been weathered away. Although a lot of rock-cut temples ruins are found in the Asian continent, they are rare in Japan. Rokutanji Temple ruin is one of those rare rock cave temple of Japan’s ancient Buddhism.
Mt. Katsuragi is located on the border of Kushira, Gose City, Nara Pref. and Chihaya Akasaka-mura, Minami Kawachi-gun, Osaka Pref. It is a part of Kongo-Ikoma-Kisen Quasi-National Par. Among the Kongosan mountains, this 959-meter mountain is the highest mountain next to Mt. Kongo.
Mt. Katsuragi is believed to be the residence of Hitokotonushi no Okami. Legend has it that when En no Ozuno, the founder of mountain practice, was building a bridge from Mt. Katsuragi to Mt. Kongo, this god helped him with his work only at night because he was ashamed of his ugly face.
The tableland at the top of the mountain called “Katsuragi Highland” is famous for mountain azaleas in spring and Japanese pampas grass in fall. Its diversified mountain path with natural beauty that changes from season to season is popular among hikers.
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.
Gyoki was a Japanese Buddhism priest of Nara period. He was a charismatic monk of the ancient Japanese Buddhism. He was called by the honorific title of Gyoki Bosatsu (Bodhisattva Gyoki).
Gyoki was born in Kawachi province (present-day Osaka Prefecture) in 668. He studied Buddhism under the priest Dosho of hokoji Temple in Asuka, and took Buddhist vows at the age of 15. He also studied civil engineering under Dosho. Advocating hat Buddhism should be independent of the regal power, he propagated Buddhism for salvation of the suffering people. He also contributed to social welfare like building temples, roads, bridges, irrigation reservoirs. The Imperia court was afraid of his overwhelming influence on common people and clamped down on his activities blaming that he had violated the law to regulate priests and nuns.
However, when Emperor Shomu asked Gyoki to help raise funds to build Daibutsu (a great Buddha statue) in Nara, Gyoki accepted the emperor’s request, and immediately began fund-raising campaigns. He was recognized by the Imperia court and was given a rank of Daisojo (the Great Priest). At the age of 80, he had passed away at Sugawaradera Temple in Nara in 749 just before the consecrating ceremony for the statue took place.
The legends about Gyoki Bosatsu are referred to in many books such as “the Nihon Ryoiki,” “the Honcho Hokke Kenki” and “the Nihon Ojo Gokurakuki.” It is said that he might have drawn the oldest Japanese map, “Gyoki-zu.”
Kouchi Festival takes place at Koza, Kushimoto-cho, Wakayama prefecture on July 24th and 25th each year. It is also known as “Mifune-matsuri”, or Boating Festival, and is held on the banks of the Koza River. The festival is designated as an important intangible folklore cultural asset by the Japanese government.
The festival dates back to the Gempei War in 12th century when the naval forces of Kumano who fought for Genji Clan celebrated their victory at Kouchi Shrine. The festival replicates the triumphal return of the military force.
Three boats decorated with vividly colored battle cloth, mizuhiki paper strings, spears, halberds and lanterns enter the river after the opening ceremony at the Koza Shrine and slowly move up to Seisho Island where Kouch Daimyoujin, the local deity, is enshrined. The boat takes two days to reach the island and therefore all prayers and offerings take place on the 25th.
Shishi dances are demonstrated in the town and an exciting boat race called “Kaitenma Kyousou” is undertaken by junior high school students further enchanting the crowd.
Yoroboshi Noh Mask, used in the Noh play called “Yoroboshi”, represents an unfortunate boy who was driven out from his home and his unbearable grief caused him to go blind, forcing him become a beggar. The mask has exaggerated ragged hair to emphasize his life as a wanderer. The mask has a slight rounded face to show the boy’s youth. His closed eyes looking down are also characteristic of the mask. There is another blind mask called Semimaru.
In the play, Saemonnojou Michitoshi, who lived in Kawachino-kuni, today’s eastern Oosaka, heard slanderous accounts of his son, Shuntokumaru, and drove him out from his house. Later when Michitoshi realized that the charge was false, he prayed to undo his actions at Tennou-ji Temple. Meanwhile, Shuntokumaru, with so much suffering from his sorrow, went blind and became a beggar called Jakuhoushi. Using a cane for support, he managed to reach Tennou-ji Temple. Although Michitoshi realized the beggar was his son, he didn’t say a word to his son to avoid attention. Jakuhoushi suffered from many conflicted feelings but managed to pull himself back from insanity. Michitoshi acknowledged he was his father in the evening and they went back home together.