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JAPAN GUIDE: Daijuji Temple
By Barry Demillion (SILAC)
Daijuji is one of the major historical sites of Okazaki. Founded in 1475 the temple has played a significant role in Japanese history, contains many items of Japanese cultural significance and is high on the list of cultural attractions of Okazaki. Daijuji Temple is most famous in Japanese history by its connection with Ieyasu Tokugawa (1543-1616). This connection is enormously significant as Ieyasu Tokugawa was the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate whose 264-year reign was one of the major turning points in Japanese history. The importance of Ieyasu Tokugawa to Japan can be grasped by the fact that Kodansha's widely respected guide to Japan, "Gateway to Japan" placed Ieyasu Tokugawa as one of the ten most important rulers in Japanese history.
Daijuji was a favored temple during the long Tokugawa rule. The temple was established by the ancestors of the Tokugawa clan, the Matsudairas. This family connection made the temple important to Tokugawa Ieyasu, but in addition to this, the temple was in fact responsible for saving Ieyasu's life. Before the days when the Tokugawa shogunate ruled Japan, the Tokugawas were weak compared to many other, more powerful, clans. During this time Ieyasu Tokugawa was involved in many battles one of which took place at Daijuji Temple. During the temple battle Ieyasu fled into the temple where he and a small number of followers were under siege. Ieyasu was determined to commit suicide in front of his ancestors. At this time a Daijuji temple priest, Toyo, intervened. The priest counseled Ieyasu not to give up hope saying, from the text of a sutra: Enriedo Gongujodo. This translates to English as, "Leave the depraved land. Pursue the peaceful world." Following the words of Toyo, Ieyasu fought back and with the help of the temple priests survived the battle.
The rest, as they say, is history and Tokugawa Ieyasu went on to change Japanese history by unifying Japan under his rule and laying the groundwork for a long era of peace and political stability. Of course, Daijuji remained a place of some importance by the Tokugawas. You can still see the Tokugawa family symbol throughout the temple grounds.
While our Yamasa group was visiting the temple,
we were lucky enough to have Bishop Dwight R. Nakamura, 61st Abbot of the
temple, to show us around. Bishop Nakamura spent about 40 years in Hawaii, and
so was able to explain much of the historical significance of the temple to us
in English. He was also kind enough to offer insights into Buddhist
teaching and ritual.
A sight most people would also find interesting
is the hall where the "ihai" are displayed. These are memorial tablets of
the generations of Tokugawa shoguns. Note the size of each tablet. The size
corresponds to the height of the shogun in real life. Ieyasu's tablet is
here, as well as that of another very famous shogun, Tokugawa Yoshimune
(1684-1751). Yoshimune was the eighth shogun in the Tokugawa dynasty
and one of Japan's greatest rulers, introducing many important reforms to
the government. Most might know him from the popular television series
"Abarenbo Shogun," which was first broadcast some years ago in Japan
As a fan of the series, I was lucky enough to have my picture taken in front
of Yoshimune's memorial tablet with Bishop Nakamura.
As a fan of the series, I was lucky enough to have my picture taken in front of Yoshimune's memorial tablet with Bishop Nakamura.
There is quite a bit of information available on the internet about Tokugawa Ieyasu, the Tokugawa reign in Japan and the importance of Daijuji in the history of both Japan and Okazaki, but nothing tops visiting it in person to feel the history all around you and seeing it with your own eyes.
Transportation: Meitetsu Daijuji bus. 8 min.
walk from the Daijuji bus stop (tel. 21-3917). 10 minutes by car or taxi from
Hiagashi Okazaki train station along route 248.
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