Hakusan Shrine located in Nakayama, Hachioji City, Tokyo is a historic shrine. The enshrined deity is Izanagi no Mikoto. The exact era of its foundation is unknown, but according to the postscript of the Lotus Sutra excavated from the sutra mound in the precinct, the shrine had already existed in the late Heian period (794-1192), The postscript indicates that there used to be a temple named Choryuji as a jinguji (a temple housed in a shrine) in the precinct and the sutra is presumably dedicated in 1154 by the monk Benchi, a kinsman of Musashibo Benkei, who is said to have copied and dedicated the Lotus Sutra to seven shrines in the Kanto region.
The shrine was burned down by fire in the battle fought between the Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s forces and the Hojo clan at the siege of Odawara in 1590, but it was rebuilt in 1613. The 1,000-year-old Japanese umbrella pine tree in the precinct was designated as a Natural Monument by Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
The seven Gods of Fortune, or Seven Lucky Gods, are the seven Shinto deities, who are believed to bring good luck. Generally they are Ebisu, Daikokuten, Bishamonten, Benzaiten, Fukurokuju, Jurojin, and Hotei. Shojo and Inari, who were once included as the members, are now precluded from membership because they are not in human form, it is said. Neither six nor eight, the number “seven” is said to originate in a phrase in a Buddhist sutra “shichi-nan-sokumetsu, shichi-fuku-sokujou” (seven calamities immediately vanish, seven happiness immediately come), or “Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove” in China. Shichifukujin Meguri (the pilgrimage tour) is still very popular in Japan. It is believed that on New Year’s Day, if you put a picture of the Seven Lucky Gods on their ship, Takarabune (Treasure Ship), you will have a lucky hatsuyume (the first dream of the year).
Shoboji Temple in Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture houses an image of the Buddha that is 13.63 meters high. This is Japan’s largest Kanshitsubutsu (an image of Buddha made of dry lacquer). It is popularly called “the Basket Buddha” because of its rare method of woven bamboo construction. It consists of wood and bamboo frame that was plastered with clay and then covered with washi on which Buddhist scriptures were written. After that the image was finished with coats of golden lacquer. After 38 years of construction work, the statue was completed in 1832. With his upper body leaning a little forward and the thumb and index finger on the right hand forming a circle, the Great Buddha shows a very gentle countenance. The cross section drawing of the Great Buddha Statue shows that inside the Buddha, there is another statue of the Yakushi Nyorai, which we cannot see directly.
Engaku-ji, located in Yamanouchi, Kamakura-City in Kanagawa Prefecture, is the second of the Five Kamakura Mountain Zen Temples and the head temple of the Engaku-ji branch of Rinzai-shuu Zen Buddhism. Shakanorai is enshrined there as the principal image of Buddha. Engaku-ji was founded in 1282 by Hojo Tokimune who invited his Zen teacher, the Chinese priest Mugaku Sogen, or Wuxue Zuyuan, to bring peace to the spirits of all those who had perished during the Genkou War with the Mongols. The temple was embraced and protected by the Imperial Court and the government lead by the Hojo clan, and the construction of the temple complex was completed by the end of the Kamakura period. On a number of occasions between the Muromachi period and the Edo period, the temple was damaged by fire. Its important buildings, including the inner gate and the meditation hall were restored by Daiyou Kokushi at the end of the Edo period and became the base of the structure that remains today. The temple was named Engaku-ji, “Temple of Perfect Enlightenment”, because the Engaku-kyo sutra, a part of the Mahayana Buddhism Sutra, was unearthed during its construction. The temple structures that remain today were rebuilt after the Great Kanto Earthquake. The vast grounds covering 60,000 square meters contain both the main temple buildings (arranged in a straight line) as well as 15 sub temples. Engaku-ji is an imposing Zen temple, rich with history and tradition.
Nara-sumi is high quality India ink and a local specialty of Nara prefecture which once housed the capital city of Japan and is still filled with temples, relics of the Imperial Court, and other significant historical artifacts. Sumi-making techniques were originally brought to Japan from China by Koubou-Daishi Kuukai in the Heian period. Later, in the Muromachi period, a priest of Koufuku-ji Temple manufactured Yuen-zumi by burning rapeseed or sesame oil, this is said to be the origin of Nara-sumi making. Sumi-making, which once thrived all over Japan in the Heian period, began to wane and eventually, it was only the main temples in Nara that continued to make sumi. Among those temples, Kofuku-ji Temple, which was built by the Fujiwara clan in the Nara period, was the leading sumi-maker and produced sumi exclusively for writing, transcribing sutras or woodblock - printed sutras, called Kasuga-ban. As is evidenced by a history of over 1000 years, the best way to preserve written documents for decades, or hundreds of years, is to write them on Japanese paper, using sumi. Even now, with computers integrated into our everyday lives, sumi-making remains one of the great traditional crafts that will surely continue successfully into the future .
Tsukui braid is a traditional handicraft manufactured in Tsukui-cho in Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Pref. Braid was first introduced to Japan with mantras and beadrolls when Buddhism came from China in 538. In 1882, when a braiding machine was imported from Germany, braid-making was established as an industry. In Tsukui, sericultural industry had been actively done as a by-work of the people living in the mountain area since old times, and raw silk and fabrics were manufactured as home industry. In 1921, Tokitaro Sato established a braiding factory in Tokyo and some people from Tsukui worked there. Later they went back to their hometown and started their own business of braid making. The technique to make elegant braid in Tsukui is highly evaluated all over the world and Tsukui braid is exported to many countries at the present. It is a practical craft that is used for various articles for everyday use.