The Temple is situated at the site where Tanesada Chiba, a famous lord of manor in Chiba Prefecture, used to live and served the Kamakura Shogunate. Chiba Prefecture originates in his surname. His ancestors fought for Yoritomo Minamoto (1147-1199), the founder of the Kamakura Shogunate, against the Taira Clan, and greatly contributed to his landslide victory.
More famous than the founding priest or the founder of the Temple is the second chief priest Nisshin (1407-1488) and his ever-ascetic, harsh disciplines. At the age of 19, he underwent a hundred-day self-discipline. Everyday he peeled off one of his finger nails. Pricking a needle onto it, he rinsed the finger in a pond and drew a mandala with blood-smeared water of the pond. He continued this excruciating training for a hundred days in midwinter. The pond still exists near the main hall.
In 1427, he wrote a treatise similar to, but a new version of Priest Nichiren's"Pacifying the State by Establishing Orthodoxy" (see Ankokuronji), and attacked the Muromachi Shogunate then under the rule of Sixth Shogun Yoshinori Ashikaga (1394-1441). Priest Nisshin's harsh criticism against the Ashikaga regime enraged Yoshinori, and the Priest was thrown into jail.
Though he was tortured with various cruel methods, neither did he give in nor change his views. One of the tortures he was subjected to was putting a scalding saucepan on his head and yet he held to his faith. Thus he was called "Nisshin with a saucepan on his head." One day during the torture, he prophesied that misfortune would fall on Shogun Yoshinori within 100 days.
As predicted, Yoshinori was suddenly assassinated by a feudal lord in Okayama Prefecture named Mitsusuke Akamatsu (1381-1441). Priest Nisshin's prophecy came true. The new Shogun Yoshikatsu Ashikaga (1434-1443) ordered to release Priest Nisshin immediately in awe of his power of prediction.
Many of the Priest Nichiren's followers experienced similar persecutions. Priest Nisshin was strong enough to put up with them by virtue of his austere disciplines. In fact, he lived up to 82.
The old building was destroyed by the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, but rebuilt the next year. The main object of worship is a wooden statue of Priest Nichiren (1222-1282), the founder of Nichiren Sect Buddhism, carved during the Edo Period (1603-1868) and enshrined in the center of the hall.
The following statues are also installed in the main hall:
Tomb for actor Sadao Maruyama (1901-1945)
Making the Temple also famous is that Sadao Maruyama, a famous actor, was buried here. He was a victim of A-bomb dropped over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 while he and his troupe were staying in Hiroshima to perform plays. He died 10 days later. He introduced Western-style dramas into Japan, and often played those written by the French playwright Jean-Baptiste Poqueline, more commonly known as Moliere (1622-1673). Maruyama's monument in the Temple shows the scene he was performing Moliere's L'avare. On August 6 every year, a memorial service for him takes place in front of this monument.
(Updated August 2013)