Betsuganji


Access Map


History

betsuganMHThe Temple originally belonged to the Shingon sect and was named 'Nojoji'. Later, it changed denomination to Ji sect when Priest Kakua-Konin, the founding priest, turned adherent of Priest Ippen-Chishin (1239-1289), who founded theJi sect.

Meanwhile, the head temple of the Ji sect is Yugyoji located in Fujisawa, a neighboring city of Kamakura. The sect was, if anything, popular among the lower class people because of its nature. The Kamakura Shogunate did not support the sect, and therefore, the Temple was not always flourishing during the Kamakura Period (1185-1333). It began to thrive in the early Muromachi Period (1336-1573) backed by the Ashikaga Shogunate and its family. In fact, it served as Ashikaga family's temple for three generations from Motouji Ashikaga (1340-1367), first Kamakura Kubo, or Governor in Kamakura, Ujimitsu (1359-1398), the second Kubo, to Mitsukane (1378-1409), the third. Under the patronage of these families, the Temple was once the stronghold and among the largest in Kamakura as far as the Ji sect was concerned.

In 1438 when Mochiuji Ashikaga (1398-1439), son of Mitsukane, was the fourth Kubo, a revolt broke out between the Kubo in Kamakura and the Shogun in Kyoto. Mochiuji was always watching for a chance to overthrow the Kyoto government to become the Shogun himself. Back then, it was customary for the Kamakura Kubo to name his successor with one Chinese character (usually two Chinese characters are needed for naming) borrowing from the name of the incumbent Shogun, then the Sixth Shogun Yoshinori Ashikaga. Despite strong suggestion made by the Vice Governor to follow suit, Mochiuji neglected the long-cherished custom and named his son with characters at his disposal, whereby their relationship worsened to the point that Mochiuji tried to kill the Vice Governor. Getting furious, Shogun Yoshinori ordered to kill Mochiuji and a battle erupted. Isolated Mochiuji was eventually forced to kill himself (seppuku), and the Kubo system in Kamakura came to an abrupt end. (See History for detail.)

After the fall of Kubo, the Temple's fortune began to decline. Today's Temple is small and retains nothing of its old day splendor. The door of the hall-cum-residence is closed in winter, but often open in summer probably because the Temple hall needs an airing.

Objects of worship

The main objects of worship are statues of Amida trinity, with Amida Nyorai in the center flanked by Kan'non Bosatsu (Avalokitesvara in Skt.) at its left (to your right) and Seishi Bosatsu (Mahasthama-prapta in Skt.) at its right. The satellites are about half the size of theAmida statue. The trinity were fashioned during the Muromachi Period though the exact year of make and the name of the sculptor are unknown.

An Amida statue on display at e-Museum.

Another statue making the Temple famous is that of Gyoran Kan'non, which was introduced into Japan from China in the early 17th century. Gyoran literally means a creel and the statue holds a creel. With its nature, the statue is worshipped by fishermen and fishmongers. As one of the 33 transformations of Kan'non, it ranks last of the Thirty-Three Kamakura Kan'non Pilgrimage. A statue of Gyoran Kan'non stands near fishing port of Odawara city, western-most of Kanagawa Prefecture. The statue was built in 1982 and 13 meters tall.

A well-known cenotaph (Picture, below)

BetsuganHokyoA 3.21-meter-tall cenotaph stands near the entrance, which was erected in 1439 for the salvation of Mochiuji's soul. It is neither Gorinto nor Hokyo-into, and is unique in that it is made of andesite, which was not available in Kamakura and a torii gate mark is engraved on each of the four sides. Torii is a symbol of Shinto shrine and yet this cenotaph has them marked in this Buddhist Temple.

Note:
Betsugan is a specific term often used by the Ji Sect Buddhists. It denotes 48 vows Hozo Bosatsu, or Dharmakara in Skt., made to save the world. After those vows were fulfilled, he became the Amitabha Buddha.

Other Ji sect temples in Kamakura are Kosokuji at Juniso and Raikoji at Nishi-Mikado.

(Updated August 2010)


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