En no Gyōja
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En no Ozunu (役小角?, also pronounced Ozuno or Otsuno (male; b. conventionally given as 634, in Katsuragi; d. approx. 700–707, reported details vary). His kabane, or political standing of his clan, was Kimi (君)) was a Japanese ascetic, mystic, and apothecary, who was banished to Izu Ōshima on June 26, 699 AD. In folk religion, he is often called En no Gyōja (役行者?, lit. "the Ascetic from the En clan") and traditionally held to be the founder of Shugendō, a syncretic religion incorporating aspects of Taoism, Shinto, esoteric Buddhism (especially Shingon Mikkyō and the Tendai sect) and traditional Japanese shamanism. He is also known as En no Ubasoku (役優婆塞).
Although his life is mostly covered with legends and folklore, there is a historical reference on Ozunu in Vol. 1 of Shoku Nihongi, a national history completed in 797 AD (below is a translation of  with notes and subject-filling in brackets):
On the day Hinoto-Ushi [May 24, Mommu 3 (June 26, 699 AD)], En no Kimi Ozunu was banished to Izu no Shima. Ozunu had first lived in Mount Katsuragi and been acclaimed for his sorcery and was the teacher of Outer Junior 5th Rank Lower Grade Karakuni no Muraji Hirotari. Later, [a person (or Hirotari?)] envied his power and accused him of witchcraft of delusion. Thus, [the Court] sentenced him to banishment to a distant place. Rumor says, "Ozunu was able to enslave spirits and let them draw water and collect fuel wood. When they were against his order, he bound them with his sorcery."
In spite of this incident, it seems that the Court continued to highly evaluate the herbal knowledge of Ozunu's school, since Vol. 11 of the book also tells that on October 5, Tenpyō 4 (October 28, 732 AD), his student Karakuni no Hirotari was elected as the Head Apothecary (典薬頭 Ten'yaku no Kami?), the highest position in Agency for Apothecary (典薬寮 Ten'yaku-ryō?).
In the religion Shugendō
En no Gyōja was conferred the posthumous title Jinben Daibosatsu (Great Bodhisattva Jinben, 神変大菩薩) at a ceremony held in 1799 to commemorate the one-thousandth year of his passing. Authorship of the non-canonical Sutra on the Unlimited Life of the Threefold Body is attributed to En no Gyōja. Due to his mythical status as a mountain saint, he was believed to possess many supernatural powers.
In popular culture
- In the historical fantasy novel Teito Monogatari by Hiroshi Aramata the protagonist Yasunori Kato claims to be a descendant of En no Gyōja.
- In the SNES game Shin Megami Tensei, an NPC named En-no-ozuno resides in Kongokai, sending the protagonist on a series of errands before making him fight several high level enemies.
- In the PS1 game Oni Zero: Fukkatsu, the main antagonist is En no Gyōja.
- In Koji Suzuki's novel Ring, Shizuko Yamamura draws a statuette of En no Gyōja up from the sea, upon which she receives supernatural powers such as precognition. Because her daughter Sadako was born with these powers, some[who?] have suggested that En no Gyōja (referred to as En no Ozunu in the novel) is meant to be seen as Sadako's father.
- (In Classical Chinese) Grand Collection of National History, Vol. 2: Shoku Nihongi (國史大系第貳卷續日本紀). Keizai Zasshisha, 1897. p. 7. Original kanbun, or Classical Chinese text: 丁丑。役君小角流于伊豆島。初小角住於葛木山。以咒術稱。外從五位下韓國連廣足師焉。後害其能。讒以妖惑。故配遠處。世相傳云。小角能役使鬼神。汲水採薪。若不用命。即以咒縛之。
- Yoshino/Omine outskirts area assets Part of the Wakayama Prefecture World Heritage Site web site (Retrieved on March 17, 2009)
- Blacker, Carmen. The Catalpa Bow. 2nd ed. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1986.
- (In Classical Chinese) Grand Collection of National History, Vol. 2: Shoku Nihongi (國史大系第貳卷續日本紀). Keizai Zasshisha, 1897. p. 189.
- Kodansha, Encyclopedia of Japan. Vol.2, Tokyo, 1983.
- Unannotated references
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- Introducing places of interest: Yoshino-Kumano National Park || National Parks of Japan [MOE] (Ministry of the Environment (Japan) Retrieved on March 17, 2009)
- JNTO Website | Find a Location | Nara | Yoshino (Japan National Tourist Organization Retrieved on March 17, 2009)