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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.

Another interesting sight at the temple is the screen painting by noted artist Reizei Tamechika (also called OKADA TAMECHIKA, 1823-1864). Tamechika studied the ancient art of Yamato-e, a style of Japanese painting as well as Buddhist-influenced art. This type of art was important during12th and early 13th centuries in Japan and was inspired by Chinese T'ang paintings. Reizei Tamechika was partly responsible for a revival of the Yamato-e paintings. Many examples of Reizei Tamechika's art appear inside the temple. Be sure not to take pictures when you are inside this particular hall.

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

See http://www.kikutv.com/shows/abarenbo_shogun_10/index.html.

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.

The Graveyard of the Matsudiaras is another important place at the temple. Here you will find the tombs of the ancestors of the Tokugawas clan going back 8 generations. These were set up by Ieyasu in 1602. The temple is built with a direct line of sight to Okazaki Castle. This constant connection with the castle signifies that the temple acts as guardian to Okazaki Castle. In fact the building codes of Okazaki actually prohibit high-rise construction to break this sacred line of sight between the two areas. This view to the castle is through the "San-mon Gate" constructed in 1641 by the 3rd Shogun, Iemitsu Tokugawa.

Another of the important sights on the temple grounds is "Taho Tower". This tower was built by Ieyasu's grandfather in 1525. One interesting addition to the tower's garden is a pathway of stones set up to show the path Buddha during his life. Be sure to ask Bishop Nakamura about this addition if you are lucky enough to meet him. He may personally escort you to the gated garden around the tower for a close-up view.

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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