Kinshoku-ji Temple was founded by Jikakutaishi, who was the third head priest of Hiei-zan Enryaku-ji Temple. It is said he followed a vision received in a dream and discovered a pine tree in which the spirit resided. He built the temple from the tree and placed a statue of Bishamonten there.
In 1235, more than three hundred years later, Shinran renovated the temple and installed Amida statue. According to a legend, during the renovation of the temple, a heavenly maiden descended on the temple and offered the brocade woven with lotus threads to the statue. Upon hearing the story, the imperial Court gave the temple a name, “Tenjingohou Kinshoku-no-ji”, roughly translated as a brocade temple protected by the heavenly gods, thus, the temple became known as Kinshoku-ji.
In the vast precinct of the temple stands the Amida-dou building in which the main Buddhism statue is enshrined and is designated as a Shiga prefecture important cultural asset. Other notable buildings are Goei-dou where Shinran’s portrait is kept, a treasure storage, a study room, a lecture hall and a bell tower.
Despite the fact the temple was destroyed by fires on numerous occasions, Miyagoden, made from a part of the imperial palace given by Emperor Higashiyama, survived and is intact today along with many valuable artifacts kept inside. One of such artifacts is the portrait of Shinran who just finished writing his masterpiece, “Kenjoudo Kyougyoushoumonrui”. The portrait reveals his profound sense of satisfaction.
It is said that this temple was founded in 794 by the priest Saicho, the founder of the Tendai sect of Buddhism, as the east gate of Hieizan Enryakuji Temple, which had been constructed 6 years before as the headquarters of the sect. When Emperor Kanmu visited the temple, he named it Hieizan Tomonin Moriyamadera, which means the temple guarding the east gate of Mt. Hiei.
During the Edo period (1603-1868), the temple was used as the lodge for Joseon Royal Embassies, the Joseon envoys intermittently sent to Tokugawa Shogunate of Japan. In 1986, the main hall and Kuri (the priests’ quarters) were burned down by a fire. The statue of Juichimen Kannon (Kannon with 11 faces) housed in the main hall was also destroyed by fire. The main hall was reconstructed and the statue was restored to its original form in 1990.
The statue of Fudo Myoo, which is the principal object of worship in Goma Hall and survived the fire undamaged, and the five-story stone pagoda in the corner of the precinct are designated as national Important Cultural Properties. Together with other art objects, they tell us of the temple’s 1,200 year history.
Umamioka Watamuki Shrine at the foot of Mt. Watamuki in Hino Town, Shiga Prefecture, is a historic shrine founded in 545. The enshrined deities are Amenohonohi no Mikoto, Amenohinadori no Mikoto and Takemikumaushi no Mikoto. It was originally founded at the top of Mt. Watamuki and was transferred to the present place in 796.
The spring festival of the shrine “Hino Festival” held on May 2 to 4 every year is the most gorgeous festival on the eastern side of Lake Biwa. The festival dates back to 1170, since when ancient rituals and customs have been passed down to the present time.
On the main festival day on May 3, a lot of Shinto rites are performed in traditional ways. The highlight is the parade with the 3 holy children and the guarding attendants in samurai costumes in the lead, who are followed by a sacred horse, shrine priests and the 3 mikoshi from the attached shrines and sumptuous 16 festival floats, which were donated by wealthy Omi merchants about 130 to 200 years ago. The festival is prefecturally designated as an intangible cultural property.
Saicho was a Japanese Buddhist monk of the early Heian period (794-1192) and the founder of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism. Saicho was born in Omi province in 767. Being the descendant of Chinese immigrant family, Saicho’s worldly name was Mitsunoobito Hirono. He entered the priesthood at Kokubunji Temple in Omi province when he was 14 and was given the name, Saicho.
At the age of 19, he was ordained at Todaiji Temple in Nara, but he was disenchanted with the worldliness of the Nara priesthood. In 788, he founded a small temple, Ichijo Shikanin (present Enryakuji Temple) on Mt. Hiei, where he trained himself for 12 years until he attained enlightenment. This 12 years of seclusion at Mt. Hiei has become a system to be retained in positions in the monastery up to the present time.
In 804, Saicho was sent to china, where he mastered the four teachings of En (perfect teaching), Mitsu (esotericism), Kai (precepts) and Zen (meditation). After returning to Japan, he founded the Tendai sect of Japan with the backing of Emperor Kanmu.
His writings include “the Sange Gakusho Shiki (Rules for Tendai students),” “the Kenkairon (Treatise elucidating the precepts)” and “the Naisho Buppo Kechimyakufu.” He died at Chudoin Temple in Mt. Hiei in 822. 44 years after his death, he was awarded the posthumous title of Dengyo Daishi.
Konpoji Temple, or popularly called Nonodake Kannon, is located at the top of Mt. Nonodake, known as a holy mountain since the ancient times. Konpoji is the 9th of Oshu Holy Place of 33 Kannon. The principal image of worship is Juichimen Kannon (Kannon with 11 faces). Together with Tomiyama Kannon in Matsushima Town and Makiyama Kannon in Ishinomaki City, it is counted as one of the three holy Kannon in the Tohoku region.
Konpoji Temple was founded in 770 by the order of Emperor Konin. The Kannon Hall was constructed by Sakanoue Tamuramaro in 802 after he had conquered the Emishi. As the mountain was often wrapped in a dense fog, the temple was named Mugakusan (literally meaning “Fog Mountain”) Shofukuji Temple. In 849, when Jikaku Daishi visited this place on his missionary tour, he extended a temple building and renamed it Muizan Konpoji Temple.
Going up the steep stone steps, you will get to the eight-legged temple gate, in which two Nio statues are placed. Interestingly, they have cute round eyes. In the precinct stand historic and stately buildings including Hondo (the main hall), the Goma Hall, the Monju Hall, the Amida Hall and the Kannon Hall. The Kannon Hall was destroyed by fire twice in the past and the present building was constructed in 1851.
Tenjiku Shrine in Tenjiku Town in Nishio City, Aichi Prefecture, is the only shrine in Japan which enshrines Niihadakami, the god of cotton.
In 799 in the early Heian period, a Tenjiku-jin (Indian) drifted ashore to the beach of Nishio with cotton seeds. He lived in a village, which was later named Tenjiku Village, and gave the villagers the cotton seeds as a token of his appreciation. Unfortunately, the seeds did not grow well due to the climatic conditions, but Tenjiku Village is considered the birthplace of cotton in Japan.
After his death, the village people had worshipped his portrait as Koso-shin (the god of cotton). In 1883 in the Meiji period, when a shrine was to be founded in this village, people created the name “Niihadakami” for the god of cotton and enshrined it as their guardian god.
In Menso-sai held in October every year, local people carry boat-shaped portable shrine called Funa-mikoshi, reenacting the scene of the god’s drifting ashore. Also, the traditional rite of Watauchi (cotton beating) is performed by priests. The shrine is crowded with visitors including people from the cotton industry.
Gion Yasaka Shrine in Osaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, is a historic shrine, which is widely known as “Gion-sama” in the area. Though its origin is not clear, it is said that it was founded in 804 by Sakanoue Tamuramaro.
The shrine had been left desolated for a long time until 940, when it was restored by Fujiwara no Hidesato, who was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Defense of the North and put down the rebellion of Taira no Masakado. The shrine buildings were, however, destroyed by battle fires in the later periods.
It was in 1601 when the shrine was at last restored again by Date Masamune. Since then, it was worshipped as the guardian god of Shida County (present-day Osaki City). During the Edo period (1603-1868), it was revered by the successive domain lords as Ichinomiya (the highest-ranked shrine) among Japan’s three important Gion shrines. The decorative paintings on the ceiling of the main hall were painted during this period.
The annual festival is held in July every year, when the shrine is crowded with people who come to enjoy seeing the mikoshi (portable shrine) parade and the daimyo’s procession.
You will feel the honorable history of the shrine from the solemn atmosphere of the precinct.
It is said that the Tenjin mask represents the furious countenance of Sugawara no Michizane, before he was deified. It is used for various heavenly gods including Michizane.
In the play “Raiden,” Michizane lost his position as Minister of the Right and was banished to Kyushu on account of an intrigue by a jealous Minister of the Left. Dying in rage, he transforms himself to Raijin, the god of lightening and thunder, and brings calamities to the court and capital, but was defeated by the Priest Hossho-bo from Enryakuji Temple on Mt. Hiei. As the emperor decided to deify him as Tenjin, the god of study, Michizane’s spirit is finally appeased.
The reddish coloring, the hair around the lips, the eyebrows, and the gold metal eyes give the mask an air of heightened emotions and movement. However, the mask's unassuming nose, thin lips, and open mouth exposing upper and lower teeth are simple and human-like.
The mask is also used to portray Idaten, who is a swift-footed deity, in the play “Shari,” and Amatsu Futodama, a deity who defeats the devil by using the golden tablet and the bow and arrow, in the play “Kinsatsu.”