History, Prayer, Art, Culture.. Passing down something valuable to the future generations
A shrine or a temple is and has always been a place that people feel they want to visit from time to time.
For an instance, Japanese people visit shrines and temples around New Year’s time, but what is the reason behind it? Isn’t it perhaps because when we visit a shrine or a temple, we hope to gain energy to move forward from the next day by organizing our minds and also to pray for the peaceful life ahead?
In Fuefuki city, there is a temple unlike any other with charm you cannot find anywhere else.
Kando Shonin, who was an illegitimate child of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the third Shogun of Muromachi Shogunate, restored Daizoukyouji Temple. Mr. Shuten Inoue is the 37th chief priest since the temple was restored. He is the second son in the family of Daizenji Temple in Katsunuma but he’s been linked to Daizoukyouji Temple by fate and been working on the restoration of the temple approximately for the last 20 years. He’s nicknamed the temple “Buddhist Painting Temple” and started the exhibition of Buddhist paintings painted by Teruo Nishiumi, who is an artist from Fuefuki city.
A place filled with spiritual energy
Around temples and shrines, it is not uncommon to find deep forest or fresh clear water, which help you focus your mind and calm your soul, or nature in quiet surroundings that survived there for years and years, and you might also hear about emotionally stirring myth or historical anecdotes.
“Daizoukyouji Temple” in Isawa town, Fuefuki city is one of those temples. When you take a bow and pass through the temple gate, you get embraced in the special atmosphere.
“When they were making temples and shrines back in the day, people were more religious compared to these days, and they were choosing specific spots to build temples and shrines on. Where you find temples and shrines are places ’filled with spiritual energy’ or places ‘with strong spiritual energy’. That’s probably why temples and shrines are called ‘power spots’.”
A temple is a place protected by gods and worshipped by people. Therefore it attracts people but it also gets burned down from fear over and over again when conflicts occur, yet it never loses its presence.
In fact, its history even adds charm and attracts people to visit even today and it’s filled with prayers… That is what a temple is.
“Temples and people have sort of grown apart from each other these days. For an instance, it’s not uncommon to have people visit only for New Year’s and memorial service.”
However, a temple is originally a place where people can wash off the dirt and earthly desires they pick up living in the mundane world. Just like when we take a bath and feel refreshed, a temple is a place where you can wash off the dirt on your body and soul and cleanse yourself.”
The generation of restoration
The temple gate with a statue of Dragon God and a statue of Thunder God is magnificent and the exposed joists on the high ceiling of the main hall are beautiful. Looking at the well-kept garden, Mr. Inoue tells us, “These plants and rocks were all donated.”
Mr. Inoue was born as the second son in the family of Daizenji Temple in Katsunuma, which is known as grapes temple, but he was linked to Daizoukyouji Temple by fate and became the chief priest there 20 years ago. Mr. Inoue tells us that at the time he took over, the state of the temple was completely different.
“20 years ago, it was really a run-down temple that looked miserable. It was dirty and dark, and I could understand why it was abandoned.
When I was invited to this temple, I thought about my role and what I could do.
I always liked restoring or repairing something very much. So the fact that I was linked to this temple by fate, I felt that I was being called to come here for restoration when the temple with a history of 1,300 years was almost being buried under the historical sand. You can’t just become a chief priest because you want to, the fate will bring that role to you.”
Mr. Inoue tells us that the restoration process was a rocky road. However, he continues with a smile, “I was blessed with the representatives of the temple parishioners.”
“I believe that because there’s ‘something’ here at this temple, it attracted Takeda Shingen to have faith in it and Tokugawa Ieyasu to protect this temple, and it still continues to exist here now after many generations. As I continued to restore one thing at a time, the belief grew stronger.
Since this is a place where people cleanse their body and soul, it’s very important to keep the building itself clean. I want to continue restoring the damaged parts and leave this temple in the state as clean and beautiful as possible to future generations.”
Temple and Art
Fresh air, the quiet historical atmosphere and the beautiful Japanese garden…Visitors to Daizoukyouji Temple would have those etched in their minds. But that is not all.
When you see those colorful Buddhist paintings exhibited in the temple, your eyes get hooked on them. The paintings are exhibited in a way you see a story and it looks like an art gallery. On the ceiling of the main hall, they have a painting of a dragon that gives you completely different impressions depending on which angle you look at the painting from.
“Most of these paintings are of Mr. Nishiumi, who is an artist from this area. I met him about 11 years ago. Through my acquaintance I was given three of his paintings and that’s how it started.
I told him that I had hung his paintings on the wall in the temple and maybe he was moved by it. At that time, Mr. Nishiumi’s doctor had already told him how long he had left to live and he asked me to keep his paintings here because he didn’t want his paintings scattered around to many different places.
I believe that he’s an artist who leaves his name in history. What we have exhibited here is only part of his work.
You see marriage of the paintings and the temple here, as a visitor from Western Europe, who was well versed in art, said “The art is integrated with the temple” and was very impressed.
Mr. Inoue has a passion to promote the temple to people of today and pass it down to future generations because he believes there’s something good here. His passion can be seen in many different spots throughout the temple.
“There’s nothing I don’t like doing here. Because I’m able to play my role here.”
The temple continues to evolve. The people on the temple’s side also move closer to people outside the temple and they’re working on many things to help us understand about temples.
If you feel a bit tired in the hectic everyday life, you can visit here to look at paintings, look at the garden or just spend some time reflecting on yourself…
We want to remind ourselves that we have “a place to cleanse ourselves”
If you come this way, you stop by for a bit.
It might be good to have this kind of close relationship between temples and us.