The founding priest Ryo-an-Emyo was born in Kanagawa Prefecture and took Buddhist vows in his youth. He once studied Buddhism at Engakuji in Kamakura and practiced Zazen, or sit-in meditation, at Sojiji in Ishikawa Prefecture. Later, he learned Zen Buddhism under the guidance of Priest Tsugen-Jakurei (1323-1391) at Yotakuji in northern Hyogo Prefecture. At one time he took the chair of the chief priest of Sojiji, but left Sojiji at age 57 and retuned to his hometown Soga in Odawara, where he secluded himself at a hermitage called Jikudo-an. (Jikudo is literally India).
Legend narrates that one day he was drying washed kesa, or a Buddhist surplice, in the sun when an eagle flew down and picked it up, flying away toward Mt. Myojin in Hakone mountains. Since the kesa was given by Priest Tsugen as his keepsake, Priest Ryo-an wanted to retrieve it by all possible means. He went toward the mountain in search of the kesa. Going through the dense forest, he finally found it hanging on top of a pine tree. The Kesa was hung too high to catch. He began to sit-in meditation at the root of the tree. A little while later, the kesa fell quietly on his shoulder. He interpreted this experience as a divine revelation telling him to erect a temple right there, and made up his mind to follow the revelation.
He recalled that he had a reliable disciple named Myokaku-Doryo (his date of birth and death unknown) back at the time he was the chief priest at Sojiji, and Doryo once saying, "If there is anything I can do for you, let me know. I would be most happy to help you." Priest Doryo used to be the leader of some 800 priests who were practicing asceticism at Mii-dera in Shiga Prefecture, and known for his Herculean strength.
Hearing Priest Ryo-an was in need of help, he rushed to the Priest Ryo-an's hermitage and started to help build the Temple. His physical strength was just marvelous, cutting giant trees easily and lifting up huge stones as if they were made of cotton. In amazement, people said he was like Japanese Hercules, almost equal to the power of 500 men. Construction of the Temple was completed within a year in 1394. Everyone believed the Temple would not have been erected that early had it not been for his help.
Seventeen years later in 1411, Priest Ryo-an passed away. Overwhelmed with grief, Priest Doryo Myokaku said, "I no longer want to be in this world. Hereafter, I will be the guardian deity of this temple," and flew up to the sky transforming himself into a Tengu, and giving rise to a storm of fire. A Tengu is a mystical creature in Japanese folklore that inhabits in steep mountains and deep valleys, whose most distinctive feature is an extremely long nose with long beak and wings on a man's body. It is a half-man, half-bird creature.
With this legend, Priest Myokaku-Doryo was called Doryo-satta (satta is a Bodhisattva) and enshrined at Goshinden in the Temple. In addition, the Temple was more commonly referred to as Doryo-son (Son is an honorific suffix for Buddha and Bodhisattva) by the locals and the faithful than its official name of Saijoji.
In erecting the Temple, necessary funds were donated by Yoriaki Omori ( ?-1405), chief of a powerful clan in Oyama in northeastern Shizuoka Prefecture, who was then controlling the western region of Kanagawa Prefecture and built the Odawara Castle. Not only did the Omori family continue to support the Temple financially, but also become adherents of the Soto Zen and many samurai of the clan followed suit. The Tenth Chief Priest Anso, for example, was a grandson of Yoriaki. Later in 1495, the Omori was destroyed by the Go-Hojo clan (See Ryuhoji for details). However, the Go-Hojo also patronized the Temple and helped build new structures. The Temple was protected, more or less, by the Shogunate then in power through the Edo Period (1603-1868).
Located in rather remote and rural area, it was inconvenient for the devout to repair to the Temple until the early Meiji Period (1868-1912). After the railroad line was expanded in 1889 from Kozu Station of the Tokaido Line to the west by way of Matsuda and Yamakita Stations (today's Gotenba Line), visitors and worshipers began to flock since distance between the Temple and the two stations was only several kilometers. In 1925, another railroad (Daiyuzan Line of Izu-Hakone Railway) was constructed connecting Odawara to a town near the Temple. Unfortunately, the railroad company had to suffer heavy loss with fewer passengers than had been planned. Then, the savior emerged. The world-famous Fujifilm Co. began to construct a factory near here in 1932 and it started operation in 1934. Passengers increased sharply and the railroad company extended its line to today's Daiyuzan Station, from where the Temple is only 2 kilometers distant.
The Temple quietly sits at the foot of Mt. Myojin, and preserves serene temple atmospheres. Judging from its scale, it seems natural that the Temple should rank third in the entire Soto Sect temples next to Eiheiji in Fukui Prefecture and Sojiji in Yokohama.
From the Ni-o-mon (Vajra-pani in Sanskrit) gate to the Temple entrance leads off a beautifully maintained walkpath through the quiet woods for about two kilo meters. I have been visiting the Temple at least once a year for over a dozen years always walking this fantastic path. I meet only a handful of visitors going up and down on foot even at weekends. However, the Temple is crowded in the autumn foliage season. Most of them come here by bus, which connects the Temple to Daiyuzan Station every 20 or 30 minutes. Almost parallel to the walkpath is a driveway, on which buses are running with a full load of passengers. Today's people do not really like to walk.
The woods are covered mainly with giant Japanese cedar (cryptmenia). They look like old growth often seen in the West Coast of North America. At some point of the walkpath, they were so huge that I feel as if I were in the Muir Woods, the redwood forest in California. (Frankly, trees in Japanese forests are rather thin by the American standard. s are rather like those in Scandinavia.) In the 26 hectare woods, there are 20,000 cedars, and the largest one measures 7 meters in girth and 45 meters high. ` of those cedars are not natural growth but were planted years ago. The cedar plantation started right after the Temple's founding, and therefore, oldest ones are roughly 600 years old. To preserve the woods, felling the trees were strictly prohibited in early times. If anyone felled a tree, he was punished with death and if anyone broke off a branch, his arm was cut off.
With its natural beauty, the Prefecture of Kanagawa designated the forest as a Natural Monument.
Structures: The Temple complex has nearly 30 structure. Listed below are the major ones:
Main Hall (Picture; right)
Rebuilt in 1954, it is called Gokoku-den in Japanese, meaning to keep the state in peace. The 27 by 21.6 meter hall enshrines a trio statues of Shaka Nyorai (Sakyamuni in Skt.) and its two attendants. In other words, the statue of Shaka Nyorai in the center flanked by Monju Bosatsu (Manjusri Bodhisattva in Skt. denoting wisdom and intellect) at its left (to your right) and Fugen Bosatsu (Samantabhadra Bodhisattva in Skt. Bosatsu of brightness) at its right (to your left), this group of three statues makes the Shaka Trinity, or Shaka Sanzon in Japanese. In the hall, there are several chrysanthemum insignias appearing on the pillar and transoms. Probably, the Temple was onetime patronized by the Imperial Family. The Temple's official insignia is a round fan.
Hall for Founding Priests, or Kaisan-do
Standing next to (or west of) the main hall is the hall for the founding priests, often called Kaisan-do, and in the case of the Temple, it is called Kongo-ju-in. It was rebuilt in 1961, the year of the 550th anniversary of the Temple's founding, to the memory of Ryo-an-Emyo, the founding priest, and his statue, together with mortuary tablets of all chief priests, is enshrined.
Taho-to built in 1863 is a two-story building, the ground floor with square structure and the second floor with round one, which is consecrated to Taho Nyorai (Prabhutaratna in Skt.). Buried under the building are ashes of major chief priests of the Temple. Taho-to is often seen at the temples of the Esoteric Buddhism like the one in Kongobuji in Wakayama Prefecture. Top page of Kongobuji website shows a colorful Taho-to. Before the Meiji Imperial Restoration of 1868, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in Kamakura had a giant taho-to in its precincts as it was a huge complex of Shingon Sect Buddhism and Shinto. It is rare for the temples in Kanagawa to have the structure this size, much less in Zen temples.
Goshin-den, or Hall for Doryo-son
Built in 1934, it is also called Myokaku-ho-den, dedicating to Priest Doryo. The main object of worship in this hall is Doryo-satta. A pair of giant Tengu statues are installed at the two sides of the hall to guard the Satta against all evils just like Ni-o of the Ni-o mon gate seen at usual temples. Tengu is a legendary creature believed to live deep in mountains or a god of mountain as noted above. Since they all have in common an abnormally long nose, white beard, carrying a round feather fan (which is the Temple's emblem) in his hand and wear a pair of clogs of high support, it is often compared to Yamabushi due to their appearance. Yamabushi practice ascetic discipline in the steep mountains that were believed to be the dwelling place of gods and practicing ascetic disciplines in the depth of certain mountains would give them holly and magical powers. Those in here are called Karasu (crow) Tengu as their appearance with a pair of wings indicates and a beak-like mouth. Legend holds that Doryo-son fled away at the death of the founding priest, saying he would be the guardian deity of the Temple. Statues of Karasu Tengu can be seen here and there in the Temple grounds. Karasu Tengu are also seen at Kenchoji in Kamakura.
Okuno-in, or Innermost sub-temple
Further west are stairs of stone steps, more than 700, leading up to the sub-temple called Okuno-in, also called Ji-unkaku on top of a hill. Enshrined in this 55-square-meter structure is a statue of Eleven-Headed Kan'non, or Ekadasamukha in Skt., which is believed to be a manifestation of Doryo-son. It was rebuilt in 1968.
Giant Geta, or Clogs and Karasu Tengu
Unique in the Temple is that more than one hundred pairs of clogs, large and small, are displayed in the grounds. A pair of clogs are old Japanese footwear made of wood and worn with kimono in less formal cases. Those clogs on display here are made of iron and dedicated by the devout to the Tengu, or Priest Doryo. Some of them are as high as two meters. Those pairs of clogs are believed to symbolize a conjugal harmony, and folklore belief has it that a pregnant woman would have an easy delivery if she pass under the high supports.
Shoho-den, or Treasure House
It stands at the other side of the main hall. The two-story structure, built in 1973, houses a one-tenths scale model of the old Goshin-den right in the center of the upper floor. It is of exquisite workmanship made by carpenters specifically trained for constructing temples and shrines. On view other than the model are hanging scrolls depicting the hell, Kan'non (Avalokitesvara in Skt.), Fugen (Samantabhadra Bodhisattva in Skt.), Monju (Manjusri Bodhisattva in Skt.) etc. A sedentary statue of Priest Tsugen is also displayed, which is very similar to those that are often seen at Zen temples in Kamakura. Statues of a dozen Rakan, or Arhat in Skt., all of them roughly 50 centimeters tall, are displayed. Rakan is the Lord Buddha's immediate disciples who attained Nirvana. In general, the Temple has few ICA-class treasures, and no literatures refers to the sculptors of the statues enshrined in the Temple, or when they were made. Admission: Free
Tales of Nun Eshun-ni
Tales relating to a beautiful nun of the Temple have long been handed down from generation to generation. She was a younger sister of the founding priest Ryo-an Emyo. At age a little over 30, she asked her brother Emyo to be enrolled in the Temple as a nun. The priest gave her a flat refusal saying that Buddhism is not easy to deal with and not the world for a woman to be engaged. The sister's resolution was firm. To show how firm, she appeared before him with a pair of red-hot tongs and burned her cheek to demonstrate she would risk her life. She also said, "Why can't women do what men do?" Knowing her determination was unshakable, Priest Ryoan had no choice but to enroll her as a nun. He may have recalled the tale of Maha-prajapati, aunt of Sakyamuni who entered nunhood despite Sakyamuni's refusal.
Her departure as Nun Eshun-ni (ni denotes a nun in Japanese) began to pose a serious problem, however, among the young male priests in the male-dominated Temple. She was a woman of extraordinary beauty and voluptuous. Even the priests in the Temple who otherwise were supposed to be strictly abstinent were unable to resist temptation. Many came courting. One of them met her in person at the hermitage where she was living alone, and said, "I will do whatever you say if I can have an affair with you." She replied, "Come to my hermitage every night for the 100th day in a row. Your wishes will be answered on the 100th night." The young priest began to commute to her hermitage every night, rain or shine, just to report he was there and she acknowledged his visit every night. She may have thought he would give up halfway, but he made a trip for the 99th consecutive night successfully and it was now obvious he would make it. Having an affair is the last thing a nun is allowed to do, and she had no intention to behave anything immoral. She was put in a awkward position. Before the priest appeared on the 100th night, she had piled up firewood around her hermitage and confirming the priest's visit, she set it alight. Surrounded by the blaze, she killed herself in a sit-in meditation, or Zazen posture. Rather than breaking the nun's code, she chose death. Burning oneself to death is called Kajo in Buddhist term and there have not been many a case in the past, let alone in the case of nuns.
Another story goes like this. A young priest persistently wooed her. Out of resignation, she said to him one day, "This is not a proper place nor proper time. I will let you know as soon as an opportunity offers." The young priest was happy to hear it and looked forward to the chance, but it did not come soon. He grew wearily of waiting. Days later, all young priests were summoned in a hall for a meeting. This was the opportunity she had had in mind. At the end of the meeting, she appeared before the scores of priests, and began to undress. Now with no clothes on, she pointed to the priest who had been wooing her, and said, "Come over here. Your wish will be answered right here. Now, you can do to me whatever you want." The disgraced priest had to leave the Temple immediately.
Since there is no record on her daily behaviors, her false episode goes even further. At one point, Priest Ryoan sent the nun on an errand to Engakuji in Kamakura , where, as noted at the beginning of this page, he learned Buddhism when young. Her beauty had already been well known to the priests in Engakuji. They eagerly looked forward to her visit. On the day of her arrival, they waited for her in line. As she walked by the welcoming priests, one of them stepped forward and exposed his erected penis in front of her, and said, "Mine is as long as 90 centimeters. What about your vagina, show us yours, will you?" Unruffled, she said calmly," Mine is bottomless," and kept walking in stride.
A charming nun surrounded by young priests in abstinence seem to be an interesting theme for playwrights and painters like in the West. The nun's tales were dramatized and painted by many artists. Most of them are fictional and are Japanese versions of The Nun's Story. It is evident from the Temple's records, however, that the nun was younger sister of Priest Ryoan and was of rare beauty, and killed herself with Kajo in 1402 at age around 37. A Kajo stone, near where she performed Kajo, is preserved in the Temple's grounds.
In June 1963, a priest in Vietnam named Thich Quang Duc committed a kajo suicide in front of Saigon's American Embassy in protest against government's crack down on Buddhists. He sprinkled gas on himself and set fire.
A priest in an ill humor
To look into the Temple's backgrounds, I searched literatures on the Temple at various libraries. However, there are few books and unable to get useful information other than those that appear in travel guidebooks. Once I went to the receptionist desk of the Temple's office. A middle-aged priest with skin head and wearing black canonical dress was sitting over the counter, which was shielded with glasses. I politely asked him if the Temple is selling some books that tell the Temple's history or backgrounds. Opening the glass shield, he said flatly that they had none, and tried to close the shield. Holding him, I further asked if they have some information brochures for casual visitors. Reluctantly, he pulled out one and handed it to me saying, "Free of charge," and shut the shield. It was no-nonsense. In front of his counter is the courtyard of the Temple, where many visitors were having lunch speaking loudly. For those visitors the Temple was just like one of many sightseeing spots. The priest must have been looking at them all day long and may have been in an unpleasant mood.
But when I visited the Temple in November 2008, a young priest at the reception treated me differently. I wanted to visit Eshun-ni-do (sub-temple for Nun Eshun-ni), which is located off the pale of the Temple and I haven't been there before. I asked him the way to the sub-temple. He was very kind and showed me a shortcut across the pale giving me a guide map.
Fuji Film's Flagship Factory Located near the Temple
The company started as Japan Celluloid Inc. in the early 20th century. With the advent of photograph technology, the company showed a keen interest in the photo film in the 1920s and believed it would be promising with a huge market potential. Back then, Eastman Kodak was the forerunner in the industry, almost monopolizing the world market. Japan Celluloid thought that entering into a licensee agreement with Eastman Kodak to produce photo film in Japan under Eastman Kodak's licence would be the best to explore the Japanese market. They started negotiation with Eastman Kodak, who declined the offer after a careful survey. Japan Celluloid decided to have a photo film factory with its own technology. They sought various candidate sites for the factory. For photo film production, it was absolutely necessary to secure clean and sufficient water under clean air. There were several sites that were thought to be suitable for the factory, and they finally picked up the site near the Temple. First of all, there were large springs gushing clean water which has never ran dry. Summer or winter, the temperature remained always unchanged. After testing water quality and other conditions, the company concluded to construct the first film factory in Japan right here. The factory construction was completed in 1934 and film production started under the new name of Fuji Film Co. Ltd. In the beginning, Fuji could in no way match Eastman Kodak in terms of product quality, and they had to undergo hardships. Even in the 1970s, Eastman Kodak's film was far better than Fuji's. But, Fuji slowly caught up to Kodak. In the early 1990s, there was little difference quality wise between the two, and Fuji's annual sales for@business year 2007 topping US$28 billion are well above Eastman Kodak's US$10 billion. Fuji posted US$1,044 million net earnings the same year as against Kodak's US$256 million net loss. On the other hand, Eastman Kodak's profit performances were poor and was excluded from the Dow Jones Industrial Average 30 in 2004.
Fuji grew with this flagship factory here and has long been maintaining high stock prices as a blue chip company in the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The buildings are quite different from those of Eastman Kodak's Rochester, New York, and tells us appearance is often deceptive.
With development of digital technology, however, businesses for both companies are changing rapidly. People take pictures but no longer use photographic printing papers. Instead, they take pictures with digital cameras and store them on hard discs. Fuji Film is the world's first digital camera maker and now developed 3-D one. Fuji is developing new businesses in the area of medical system, life science, optical devices, etc. , and is expected to post 2,290 billion yen sales (US$30 billion at an exchange rate of 76 yen to the dollar), and 54 billion yen net earnings (US$711 million) for the year ending March 31, 2012, while Eastman Kodak, the 131-year-old firm, went bankrupt in January 2012 and filed for the Chapter 11, though unbelievable to many photograph fans.
(Updated February 2012)