Thursday, October 3, 2013

Eikokuji Temple – Hitoyoshi, Kumamoto, Kyushu Island

This temple is known as “Horai-san Eikokuji.” It is a temple of the Soto sect of Zen Buddhism and is a direct branch of the Daihonzan Sojiji temple in the Tsurumi Ward of Yokohama City. Eikokuji is the principle temple of the 16 temples of the Soto sect in the Kuma Hitoyoshi area. The temple was established in the 15th year of the Oei Period (1408). It was built by the 9th Daimyo of the Sagara clan, Daimyo Sakitsugu, and headed by the monk Jittei Choshin Osho. The current head priest is now the 40th generation head priest at the temple.

The principle Buddhist images enshrined at the temple are the Shakyamuni Buddha, the Monju Bosatsu and the Fugen Bosatsu. It is estimated that they were created between the end of the Kamakura and the beginning of the Muromachi period, and it is recorded inside the images that maintenance was done by Hokyo Koyu, Buddhist artist in Kyoto from the first year of the Enpo period (1673) until the third year of that period. Later, in 1976 maintenances was done for the first time after a roughly 300 year period when the current head priest came to the temple. The Chinjuinari Tomikatsu Daimyojin is also enshrined on the peak of Mt. Hitoyoshi. On the other left side of the main temple building the Akiba Daigongen is enshrined. Akiba Sanjakuho is the avatar of Chinbo Kashoku fire prevention.

The Ghost Scroll

It is said that the scroll was written by Jittei Chosin Osho, the founder of the temple. At the time the temple was built there was a well known samurai in nearby Kinoe. The samurai kept a mistress who was distraught over the jealousy of his wife. She threw herself into the Kumagawa River and died an unnatural death. Her resentment lived on in the form of a ghost and caused his wife much misery. The samurai’s wife chose to appeal to the priestly powers of Jittei Osho and fled to the temple. Osho spoke to the ghost that appeared before him about the path of karma and the ghost was shocked at the hideousness of the form she had taken. The ghost asked that Osho perform the prayer for her and then became a Buddha through Jittei Osho’s prayer, never to appear again.

The pond behind the main temple building where it is said that the ghost appeared is a spring water pond and it offers such delights as azalea and aronia in the spring and lotuses blooming in the summer, making it possible to enjoy the changes in the pond that occur with the four seasons.

The temple is sometimes called Yureidera (the Ghost Temple) in connection with the story.
The Ghost Scroll

Saigo Takamori and Eikokuji

In the 10th year of the Meiji Period (1877), while playing a part in the Satsuma Rebellion, Saigo Takamori (also known as the “Last Samurai”) was defeated at Tabaruzaka and moved his headquarters to this temple for a period of 33 days. In response to the advance of the imperial army, however, Saigo Takamori retreated over the Kakuto Pass while the rifle corps under general Nagaike Kamishiro guarded his rear on May 29th. In the street fighting in the town of Hitoyoshi that followed on June 1st the temple was destroyed by fire and the current main temple building was rebuilt in 1891.
The "Last Samurai"

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