History of Tōunji
Nembutsuzan Tōunji, familiarly known as “Kamadera,'' is a Jodo Shu temple, whose principal image is a statue of Amida Nyorai. One of our invaluable cultural properties enshrined here is the statue of "Migawari Jizoson” (a guardian deity sacrificing itself for people), which the popular name “Kamadera” derives from.
During the Warring States period, in 1573, a holy priest Ichian from Bizen came to this place dedicating Migawari Jizoson, the Anju and Zushio's guardian deity. Ihei Suzuki, a large landowner of Honan who devoted himself to this, donated his mansion in order that it would be used as Nembutsu-do Hall. This is the story of how the temple began to open its doors, as told in Yuisho-gaki (a history book) written in 1701 by a holy priest Yubon, a former chief priest of the temple.
The legend has is that this "Migawari Jizoson" took the form of a monk to rescue Zushio, who was about to be boiled in an iron pot by Sansho Dayu. It is said that the iron pot was set on the roof of the temple back then in tribute to the story. The iron cauldron as we see today was donated by a local believer after the main prayer hall was destroyed by fire in 1945 during the war—it is believed to be able to cook a bale of rice all at once.
We have preserved precious cultural assets, including Hansho (a half-size temple bell) with an inscription dated 1689, Koshinto pagodas and stone Buddhas from the early and middle Edo period. When you visit us, you will first find Sanmon (the main gate), which was originally a side gate of Ukyo-dayu Tamura's Edo residence (Asano Takumi no Kami is said to have passed it through), and later donated to the temple and preserved to pray for the souls of those associated with it. All of what you find at the temple invite you to the temple’s ancient history.
Another valuable asset which is a rare treasure is that there are several stocks of the precious tree "Kaiju," which the Confucius family in Shandong had gifted to us, planted in the precincts.
In 1926, Kamadera temple merged with Tōunji Temple in Shitaya Iriya-cho (founded in 1651 by a holy priest, Mozan Shonin) and came to be Nembutsuzan Tōunji as you see today.
Sanmon (Temple’s main gate)
It was originally used as a side gate of the Tamura residence in Shiba (Ukyo-dayu Tamura, the lord of the Ichinoseki Domain in Iwate) where Asano Takumi no Kami committed seppuku (ritual suicide). It was a samurai gate built in the early Edo period combining parts without nails. At one time, it served as the gate of Oda Urakusai Joan's tea house (a national treasure).
Migawari Jizoson (a guardian deity sacrificing itself for people)
Anju and Zushio's guardian deity, it was dedicated to the temple by a holy priest Ichian from Bizen (Okayama prefecture), who came to this place during the Warring States period, in 1573. Legend has it that the deity took the form of a monk to save Zushio who was about to be boiled in a pot by Sansho Dayu. It is one of the three Buddha statues that escaped the air raids of the war, along with Amida Nyorai, the principal image of Buddha that sits straight at you in the main prayer hall, and the Shokan Yakushi, who is connected with the Tokugawa family. The statue is usually kept in storage, but will be unveiled at Hanamatsuri（The Buddha’s Birthday) on April 8th.
A Buddhist statue associated with the Tokugawa shogunate family that had been handed down at Tōunji Temple in Iriya. The 13th shogun, Iesada, had twenty-seven siblings, but all of them were in poor health, and only Iesada was able to reach adulthood. But Iesada was also in poor health. It was inscribed in the paper found in the miniature temple Zushi that his mother, Honjuin, made a written prayer for another boy born to be strong. Unfortunately, the Zushi was destroyed in an air raid during the war, and only the Shokan Yakushi remains at Tōunji Temple. The statue will be unveiled at Hanamatsuri（The Buddha’s Birthday) on April 8th along with the "Migawari Jizoson".
Hansho (a half-size temple bell)
Hansho, a tangible cultural property designated by Suginami Ward, was donated during the Greater East Asian War, but after the war given to the Setagaya Kasuya Fire Department, later respectfully returned to the ward because it had the temple's inscription on it. Casting by Tanaka Tambamori Shigeyuki, a famous caster in Edo (Tokyo in the Edo period). It has the oldest age description found in Suginami Ward. Currently it is stored in the temple’s main prayer hall.
Kaiju no ki (birch tree)
A rare tree grown from seeds gifted to us by descendants of Confucius. Designated as a valuable tree in Suginami Ward.
Isono Reizan and Frog Stone
Isono Reizan (June 29, 1876 - July 17, 1932)
Haiku painter, Zen painter and calligrapher born in Saga Prefecture. Eiji Yoshikawa, with whom he had a close relationship, said, “Isono Reizen is the first artist among modern painters who has shown the freedom and sophistication of ink painting through his devotion to painting.'' After graduating from Tokyo School of Fine Arts, he drew article illustrations for the Takada Nippo in Niigata Prefecture. He had a close relationship with the 33rd head of the temple, Keigan, and temporarily settled in the precincts of the temple and devoted himself to creative activities. He passed away at the age of 55 and rests in the cemetery of this temple.
Inscribed on the monument of Reizanshi (the pen name of Reizan), is " A staring contest with a frog, Reizanshi" (penned by haiku poet Kobayashi Issa).
A frog stone is placed facing the monument.
Tōunji Temple, a Jodo Shu religious institution
2-5-4 Honan, Suginami-ku, Tokyo
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