Dogen is the founder of the Soto sect of the Japanese Buddhism. Born in Kyoto in 1200, he entered a Buddhist monastery in Mt. Hiei at the age of 13. He became a priest in the next year and studied the Tendai Buddhism and Zen doctrines. Then he went to China to study “Shoho (true dharma)” and visited Zen monk Nyojo (Ju-Ching, 13th Patriarch of the Soto lineage of Zen Buddhism) in Mt. Tiantóng in 1225, when he became the Dharma successor. His way of Zen is “Shikan Taza,” which means “zazen alone.”
When Dogen returned to Japan, he stayed at Kenninji Temple in Kamakura, where he wrote down “the Fukan Zazengi (Universally Recommended Instructions for Zazen),” a short text emphasizing the importance of and giving instructions for zazen, or sitting meditation. In 1233, he founded Koshoji Temple in Uji, south of Kyoto, where he stayed for 8 years and devoted himself to the propagation of Zen Buddhism.
In 1243, he was invited to Echizen province, where his followers founded Daibutsuji Temple (present-day Eiheiji Temple) as a comprehensive center of Zen practice. Dogen spent the remainder of his life at this temple teaching young priests.
Dogen’s masterpiece “the Shobogenzo,” collected together in ninety-five fascicles, has been studied even up to the present day as the book that lead us to enlightment.
Nichiren was a Buddhist monk in the Kamakura period (1192-1333) and the founder of the Nichiren sect of Buddhism. Born in Awa province (present-day Chiba Prefecture) in 1222, Nichiren began his Buddhist study at a nearby temple, Seichoji, at the age of 12. He was formally ordained four years later at 16. Then he visited temples in Nara and Kyoto including Shitennoji Temple and Koyasan Kongobuji Temple for more in-depth study. Through the study of Nenbutsu (Buddhist invocation), Zen and Shingon (esoteric practice), he became convinced of the pre-eminence of the Lotus Sutra. In 1253, he founded his own sect of Buddhism at Seichoji Temple and recited “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” for the first time. He changed his name to Nichiren, wherein the kanji character for nichi (日) means “sun” and that for ren (蓮) means “lotus.”
In 1260, he wrote “the Rissho Ankoku Ron (Treatise on securing the peace of the land through the establishment of the correct),” in which he criticized all the other sects of Japanese Buddhism. It prompted a severe backlash, especially from among priests of other Buddhist sects and the Kamakura Shogunate. Nichiren was harassed and exiled four times in his life. When he was exiled to Sado, an island in the Japan Sea, he wrote two of his most important doctrinal treatises, “the Kaimoku Sho (On the opening of the eyes)” and “the Kanjin no Honzon Sho (The object of devotion for observing the mind in the fifth five-hundred year period).” It was also during his exile on Sado, in 1272, that he inscribed the first Gohonzon, the mandala that he intended as a graphic representation of the essence of the Lotus Sutra.
Nichiren spent the rest of his life at Minobu, where he and his disciples erected Kuonji Temple and he continued writing and training his disciples. In 1282, Nichiren died in Edo (present-day Tokyo). The Japanese imperial court awarded Nichiren the honorific designations “Nichiren Daibosatsu (Great Bodhisattva Nichiren)” in 1358 and “Rissho Daishi (Great Teacher Rissho) in 1922.
Tokuzoji Temple in Saruta-cho, Ashikaga City, Tochigi Prefecture is a temple of the Tendai sect. The main object of worship is Amida Nyorai. The temple is popularly called “Ping Pong Temple” or “Teragoya (temple school) Ping Pong,” because it has been striving to create the place where people can have a lively conversation and have a good time.
The 500 Rakan statues at this temple is designated as a prefecture’s Important Cultural Property and is one of Japan’s Three Finest 500 Rakan Statues; the others are at Rakan Temple in Yabakei in Kyushu and at Kenchoji Temple in Kamakura. This temple possesses many other treasures including the statue of Aizen Myoo, the deity who gets rid of the bad luck, Sen-Koshin-to (stone monument) and Kana Jizo. As one of the Ashikaga Shichifukujin (Seven Gods of Good Fortune) temples, Tokuzoji Temple worships the deity Daikokuten.
People gather together at this temple every month to practice ping pong in the precinct. The ping pong tournament is also held on the first Sunday in September every year. The tournament has been held for over 30 years and has been providing the place for citizens to communicate each other.
Heirinji Temple in Nobitome, Niiza City, Saitama Prefecture is a temple of the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect. The main object of worship is Shakamuni-butsu (Sakyamuni Buddha). It was originally built in the town of Iwatsuki (present-day Iwatsuki-ku in Saitama City) in 1375 by Ota Shami Untaku. Kaizan (the priest who founded the temple) was Sekishitsu Zenkyu. In 1663, Matsudaira Nobutsuna, the lord of the Kawagoe domain, made it his family temple and ordered his son, Terutsuna, to move it to the present place. It first belonged to the Kenchoji school, then to the Daitokuji school and finally to the Myoshinji school.
The temple building with Japanese maple trees in the precinct stands just like old times. In spring the precinct is covered with cherry blossoms. As the place which still has the ambience of the old Musashino copse, the area around the temple was designated as a National Natural Monument in 1967.
Jikoji Temple originates in a small Buddhist hall built by Priest Jiko in 1249 to place the image of Amida Nyorai, which Jiko was inspired to take out of the sea. As a legend goes, about 400 years ago, there was an old pious Buddhist practitioner living in Hyogo no Ura (present-day Kobe), who had made a pilgrim trip to Zenkoji Temple in Nagano every year. Worried about his advanced age, Nyorai at Zenkoji Temple said to him one day. “Since you are so old and it must be hard for you to come over from such a long distance, you can go to Jikoji Temple from now on because the same Amida Nyorai resides there at Jikoji Temple.” From this episode, people began to say that three visits to Jikoji Temple corresponded to one visit to Zenkoji Temple, and Jikoji Temple has been called Zenkoji Temple in Harima (present-day Hyogo Pref.). The large stone Hokyointo (three-tiered stupa pagoda) is designated as an Important Cultural Property by the prefecture.
Tamukeyama Hachiman-guu Shrine celebrates the Shinto deity Hachiman and is located in Zoushi Town, Nara. In 749 (the Nara period) Emperor Shoumu transferred part of the spirit of the Hachiman deity from Usa Hachiman-guu Shrine (the head Hachiman shrine in Kyuushuu) and founded Tamukeyama Shrine to act as a guardian of Toudai-ji Temple. The Tamukeyama Shrine became the first branch of the Hachiman shrine. Later, in 1250, Houjyou Tokiyori relocated the shrine to its present site. The main building was burned down by fires during various wars and was rebuilt in 1691. Its treasure storehouse built in the Azekura-zukuri construction style also contains elements of Tempyou architectural style from Toudai-ji Temple, and is designated as an Important Cultural Asset by the Japanese government. The shrine contains many other assets, including Karakura (National Treasure) and Bugaku-men (Important Cultural Asset). The shrine also hosts various annual Shinto religious rituals such as Tegaie on January 5th and the Otaue Festival in February. Tamukeyama Shrine has been surrounded by beautiful red and yellow autumn leaves since ancient times and Sugawara Michizane, a scholar and a poet who is enshrined as a deity of scholarship, composed a poem about the shrine which appeared in One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets.
At the present time,
Since I could bring no offering,
See Mount Tamuke!
Here are brocades of red leaves,
As a tribute to the gods.
Kenchoji is the main temple of the Kenchoji School within the Rinzai Sect, which is the number one of Kamakura's five great Zen temples. The Honzon (the object of worship) is Jizo Bosatsu. Kenchoji Temple was founded by Hojo Tokiyori in 1253. He invited Rankei Doryu, a Zen priest, from China and asked to be the first head priest of the temple. It was the first Zen temple in Japan. At the time of its foundation, it featured a Chinese layout of its 7 main constituents, such as Somon (general gate), Sanmon (main gate), Butsuden (Buddha hall), and Hatto (Dharma hall), which are located in a straight line running through the precinct. The whole complex including 49 Tacchu (small temples in the precinct) was exotic and magnificent. Most of the buildings were burnt down in several fires in the later periods, but in the Edo period, it was reconstructed by the advice of a renowned priest, Takuan Osho. Hansobo at the far end of the temple's precinct is on the way to the Amazono hiking course, which leads to Kamakura-gu Shrine and Zuisenji Temple. At the present time, Kenchoji Temple is a large temple composed of 12 Tacchu temples and well-known for the training ashram of Zen Buddhism.
Constructed by Yoshizane Nanbu during the Kencho era (1249-56), this castle had been resided by successive family heads of Ichinohe clan, which Yoshizane’s son, Yukitomo, founded. Since 1581, when the castellan, Masatsura Ichinohe was assassinated by Masazane Kunohe, the castle had been put under the control of Kunohe clan and fierce battle to capture this castle had been fought between Masazane and Nobunao Nanbu. In 1591, the castle was fallen by Hideyoshi Toyotomi’s punitive force and scrapped soon after that. Standing on the hill on the right bank of the Mabuchi River, this flatland mountain castle consisted of four buildings of Kitadate, Hachimandate, Shinmeidate, and Jonendate. Kitadate is considered to have been the main compound. The west side of the castle was terraced cliff with a height of 20-30 m, which utilized the Mabuchi River as a natural moat. The north, east, and south sides were blocked out by dry moats. The castle ruin has now been coordinated into Ichinohe Park, where part of the dry moats and the main compound of Kitadate still remain.