2005/05/15

Further Back In Time

A few weeks after I found the Rinzai Temple, I went looking for another temple that I had seen marked on a local map. It too was only a kilometer from the house (as the crow flies). I walked around for some time looking for it and finally caught a glimpse of its golden spire through some trees.
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It turned out to be a very old Shingon (a Japanese Buddhist sect) temple called Daifukuji (or great fortune temple) that was built in 1189. Wow, Mr. Peabody to Sherman - "set the wayback machine for 1189"!

That was during the Kamakura period (1185-1333) which started when the Genji clan ousted the Taira clan and set up their own military government just South of present day Tokyo, and Japan fell under control of the Shoguns for several centuries. According to a sign at the temple, the daughter of Kagekiyo, who was the highest ranking warrior and leader of the Taira, fled to this area after the defeat of her father.

Kagekiyo himself gouged his own eyes out after his defeat, and was exiled to Kyushu in Western Japan, where his daughter later found him. There is a famous Noh play about that.

Within the temple, which is about the same size as the Rinzai one I had found earlier, there is a gold leaf covered statue of Juichimon, or eleven headed Bosatsu. It is a Buddha of Compassion or Mercy. The statue dates to the 14th century in the Muromachi period and is 90 cm (neary three feet) in height.

Next to the temple, a grave yard with stones commemorating those who have gone before us for centuries past. I have since learned that the priest of this temple is the father of the priest at another Shingon temple just down the street from me. I had not thought of looking into local temples until I stumbled onto the Rinzai "hidden" temple. Now the subject of the local history which is far more rich and connected to Japan's history as a nation than I ever thought possible intrigues me.

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