Shiofune Kannon Temple located in Shiofune, Ome City, Tokyo, is a Bekkaku-Honzan (the special headquarters) of the Daigo school of the Shingon sect. The main object of worship is Juichimen Senju Sengan Kanjizai Bosatsu (Bosatsu with 11 faces, 1,000 arms and 1,000 eyes). It is the 72nd of the Kanto 88 Holy Sites.
It is said that the temple was founded during the Taika era (645-650), when Yaobikuni, a legendary character who had eaten the flesh of mermaids to get immortality at age 17 and later became a nun, dropped in at this village and placed the Kannon statue here.
At the annual festival held on May 3 every year, the Saito Goma Fire ritual is performed. Torches are thrown into the huge goma stage set up in the center of the open space in the precinct, where a dozens of yamabushi (mountain practitioners) stand in a circle, chanting Shingon prayers to invite the main object of worship into the fire and pray for attainment of people’s wishes. Then the Hiwatari ritual is performed, in which some of the yamabushi with a sward in their hand run through the burning fire one after another, yelling with vigor. This is a very gallant and solemn religious event.
Chimanji Temple located in Kawane-Honcho, Haibara-gun, Shizuoka Pref. is a historic temple of the Soto sect Buddhism. The principal object of worship are Hasso Shakamuni Nyorai (the eight aspects of Shakamuni), Hokan Shakamuni Nyorai (crowned Shakamuni), Senju Kanzeon Bosatsu (Kannon with 1,000 arms) and Yakuyoke Enmei Jizo Bosatsu (life prolonging Jizo).
According to the temple record, it originates in a hermitage built by Kochi, a second generation student of Priest Ganjin, in the Nara period (710-794). Some say that it was founded as an attached temple of Chimanji Temple in Shimada City to teach priests of the Tendai sect. After the mid-Heian period, it was flourished as a training ashram for mountain practitioners. In 1491, the temple sect was changed to the Soto sect and a Zen monk Kaifu Keimon of Dokeiin Temple in Suruga province was invited as the first resident priest of the new temple. During the Warring States period (1493-1573), the temple was revered by the Imagawa and Tokugawa clans.
Located in a scenic place with refreshing air, the temple is proud of its fine groves in the precinct including ten cedar trees of 800 to 1,200 years old, which are nationally designated Natural Monuments.
Yakuoin Yukiji Temple located in Takao-machi, Hachioji City, Tokyo is one of the three Daihonzan (head) temples of the Chizan school of the Shingon sect in the Kanto region. The main objects of worship are Yakushi Nyorai and Izuna Gongen. The temple is the 5th fudasho-temple of the Kanto 91 Pilgrimage to Yakushi Nyorai, the 8th of the Kanto 36 Sites Sacred to Fudo Myoo and the 68th of the Tama 88 Holy Sites. As many as 2,500 ancient documents are preserved at this temple.
It is said that the temple was founded in 744 by the monk Gyoki under the order of Emperor Shomu. As the statue of Yakushi Nyorai was placed at the foundation, the temple has been called Yakuoin. Later, a priest from Mt. Daigo in Kyoto founded a mountain practice ashram to worship Izuna Gongen, the deity who is believed to be residing in Mt. Iizuna in Nagano Prefecture. In the Edo period, an organization of mountain practitioners named “Takao-kou” was formed. Since then the temple has been the center of Takao Shugendo practice up to the present time.
En no Ozunu is the founder of Shugendou which teaches how to gain mystic powers through ascetic practices in the mountains and, by unifying with nature, to reach Sokushin Joubutsu, attaining enlightenment in one’s present form. As the initiator who first organized the Japanese spiritual doctrine, En no Ozunu has stood out with his enormous influence that still continues today.
He was born in 634 at the foot of Katsuragi Mountain in present day Gose City, Nara Prefecture. He possessed unique talents since childhood teaching himself to carve Buddha statues and learning how to write Sanskrit characters. At the age of seventeen, he left his family home and began spiritual practice in Katsuragi Mountain.
Legend says he spent time with a sennin, a legendary immortal hermit, even chastising Buddha and deities, and became a man of strength who had a demon as his follower. When his supernatural powers became known to the Imperial Court, the Emperor, frightened by his power, ordered him exiled to Izu Ooshima Island.
In his late life, he traveled throughout Japan and visited a number of sacred mountains. Reportedly most of mountains considered sacred mountains today were founded by him. At the age of sixty seven, he passed away while smiling, surrounded by many disciples in Tenjyouga-dake Mountain.
Kamitera Fudoson Shokeiin is a temple of the Shingon sect of Buddhism. It was founded in 1591 by the priest Jitsuetsu.
In those days, there was a pine grove with old palm trees in the area around the temple, which was located between the Tajiri River and the Bijo River. Likening the buds coming out from the ground by the river to bamboo trees, Jitsuetsu said, “This is a very celebrated place, where pine, bamboo and palm trees grow together. I am going to build a temple for ridding people’s bud luck and bringing them better luck,” and named the temple “Baikozan Shokeiin,” which literally means “Pine Landscape Temple in Palm Light Mountain.”
The temple was called Kamitera (God’s Temple) because the ascetic training in the Shugendo method (mountain practice in which Shinto and Buddhism were mixed together) has been performed at this temple. Even after the Meiji period (1868-1912), when the movement of Haibutsu Kishaku (the anti-Buddhism movement) arose, the tradition of Shinbutsu Shugo (fusion of Shinto and Buddhism) has been uniquely handed down at this temple.
The principal image of worship, Kamitera Fudoson, is about 7 m tall and weighs 40 tons. It is the world’s largest clay statue. The statue is made of clay in which the ashes of 210,000 prayer sticks, which were burned for 21 days in the Goma fire kept burning by the priest who was observing a fast, were mixed.
Kumanodo Bugaku is a folk performing art performed at the annual spring festival of Kumano Shrine in Takadate Kumanodo, Natori city, Yamagata Prefecture. Bugaku is a repertoire of dances of the Japanese Imperial court, derived from traditional dance forms imported from China, Korea, and India.
It is said that the Bugaku dance was introduced to the Kumanodo area by the Hayashi family in Risshakuji Temple in Yamadera, Yamagata City, Yamagata Prefecture, but there is no precise records concerning its origin. The Hayashi family was the hereditary musician family serving the Japanese Imperial Court. As the Hayashi family moved to present Yamagata Prefecture before Bugaku was japanized in the mid-Heian period, the old dancing style of the imported dance has been precisely handed down in the Kumanodo Bugaku dance. It is designated as a prefecture’s folk cultural property.
In the Kumanodo Bugaku dance, neither dialog nor words are employed in the dances and songs. It is a kind of pantomime in dedication to the god. Although it has an origin in the Shinto dance, it also has several features of the dances performed by Shugendo practitioners.
The 3.6 m square temporary stage is built over the pond in the precinct. In back of the stage, the ensemble composed of one drum, one pair of large clappers and one Japanese flute play the music.
Fire Festival held at Matsuzawayama Komyoin Temple in Marumori Town, Miyagi Prefecture, is a festival that brings the tradition of Shugendo to the present day. Marumori Town is located in the southernmost part of Miyagi Prefecture. The town is surrounded by the Abukuma mountains and blessed with bountiful nature. This quiet town boasts a lot of historical and cultural heritage.
The fire festival held at Komyoin Temple on April 29 every year is a Shugendo ritual, in which mountain practitioners and worshippers walk through the burning fire to purify their sins, evil deeds, diseases and bad luck. The ritual is said to have been introduced by the mountain practitioners in Mt. Chokai.
When the sun set in the evening, the Goma fire stage built at the center of the purified zone is set on fire and glowing flames blaze up into the night sky. The Goma fire is surrounded by mountain practitioners, who sit still and chant mantras.
When the fire burns down and ashes are flattened, the mountain practitioners start to walk on the burning ashes. After that, general worshippers walk on the ashes. As it is dangerous, they walk in complete seriousness.
The deer dance and the sword dance are traditional folk performing arts handed down in Izumi-ku, Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture. The sword dance was introduced to this area in 1649 and the deer dance in 1792. The two dances have been handed down as one set of performing art.
Originally, both of the dances were performed to pray for the repose of ancestors’ souls, but later the deer dance has come to be danced for prevention of natural disasters and a rich harvest and the sword dance for driving away evils and bringing peace and stability to their land.
Several features of the old Shugendo religious style can be found in costumes, ohayashi music, dancing, chanting and movements of these dances. It is said that many of the similar dances spreading in the southern part of Iwate Prefecture and the northern part of Miyagi Prefecture have their origins in these dances. A lot of same features can be also seen in the deer dance handed down in Uwajima City in Ehime Prefecture, which was introduced by Date Hidemune, who was transferred to the Uwajima domain in 1615.