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|Taho-Fuji Dainichirenge-zan Taiseki-ji|
|Deity||The "Dai Gohonzon of the High Sanctuary of the Essential Teachings"|
|Location||Foot of Mount Fuji in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka prefecture|
Taiseki-ji (大石寺)—formally, Tahō Fuji Dainichirenge-zan Taiseki-ji (多宝富士大日蓮華山大石寺); more commonly just Sōhonzan Taiseki-ji (総本山大石寺 "Head Temple Taiseki-ji")—is the administrative and religious center of Nichiren Shōshū Buddhism. It is located in the foothills of Mount Fuji in Kamijo, Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan.
Taiseki-ji was founded in 1290 by Nikkō Shōnin, one of Nichiren's immediate disciples, on a land parcel donated by a contemporary believer. It is the home of the Dai Gohonzon, Nichiren Shoshu's definitive object of veneration, which draws pilgrims from among the faithful around the world. The temple's vast grounds are also open to the public for sightseeing, although some buildings are closed to non-believers.
Nichiren Shoshu's head temple is the administrative center, and its chief abbot (貫主 kanzu) (Chief Abbot) is simultaneously the high priest (法主 hossu) of Nichiren Shoshu. The current High Priest is Nichinyo Hayase (1935–), who assumed the position on 16 December 2005. Hayase is the 68th in a lineage that Nichiren Shoshu traces back to its founder Nichiren (1222–1282); he is formally styled as the "68th High Priest Nichinyo Shōnin."
Taiseki-ji is the home of the Dai Gohonzon, Nichiren Shoshu's object of veneration, and is visited by believers from around the world who come on personal pilgrimages, to participate in regular ceremonies, or to take part in large events such as temple-group pilgrimages, study programs, and large meetings. The temple is visited by several hundred thousand pilgrims annually, and its compound is known for numerous historically significant buildings and gardens as well as features like the old weeping cherry trees that line its tatchū (main path lined with lodging temples).
According to Nichiren Shoshu tradition, Taiseki-ji was founded in 1290 by Nichiren's disciple Nikkō on a tract of land called Ōishigahara (大石ケ原 "great stone meadow") donated by the district steward, Nanjō Shichiro-Jiro Tokimitsu (1259–1332). The name derives from an alternate reading of the kanji for Ōishi (大石), taiseki, and the character ji (寺), temple. Tokimitsu was one of Nichiren's lay followers and he looked up to Nikkō as his personal teacher. Taiseki-ji started with one small temple building but grew gradually as Nikkō's disciples built sub-temples. It went through further growth phases during the mid-Edo and in the post-World War II periods.
Significant buildings are listed for their historical and architectural value.
The Sanmon (written 三門, sometimes 山門) gate is Taiseki-ji's "front door" and has been designated as a Shizuoka prefectural cultural asset. It was built in 1717 with financial assistance from Lady Tennei-in, the wife of sixth Shōgun Tokugawa Ienobu, who donated 300 ryō for its construction. In 1997, it was significantly vandalized and defaced with graffiti. It is currently tented for restoration work to be completed by January 2021.
The first Mutsubō (六壷) was erected in 1290 as Taiseki-ji's first building. It has been rebuilt many times since, but the Gohonzon (object of veneration) it houses is attributed to temple founder Nikkō Shōnin]]. The current structure, which uses much keyaki heartwood, was completed in 1988. The High Priest of Nichiren Shoshu proceeds to the Mutsubō on concluding Ushitora Gongyō in the Kyakuden (see below) to perform another gongyo recitation with young priests and acolytes.
The first Kyakuden (客殿 "reception hall") was built in 1465. The current edifice, a wood-clad steel-framed structure, was completed in 1998 and replaced a steel-reinforced concrete building from 1964. The previous Reception Hall was built and donated by the lay believers of Nichiren Shoshu and was replaced because of worries about structural integrity in a major earthquake. The priesthood also cited its imposing ferroconcrete mass as incongruent with the architectural tone appropriate for a temple compound. A pre-war building, which had been requisitioned by the Japanese imperial military, burnt down in a June 1945 fire that claimed the life of 62nd High Priest Nikkyō Shōnin.
The Reception Hall is the site of Ushitora Gongyo, a prayer service performed daily at the transition from the "hour of the ox (ushi)" to the "hour of the tiger (tora)". The service begins at around 2:30 AM and ends about an hour later. This is believed to mark the transition from darkness to light as well as the hour at which all Buddhas attain enlightenment. The service is officiated by the high priest or his proxy. The purpose of the service is, among other things, to pray for the spread of the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin throughout the world and thereby bring about peace and prosperity for all humankind. The Ozagawari Gohonzon ("Gohonzon of the Seat of the Dharma") is enshrined in the hall on the second floor of the Kyakuden, flanked by lifesize statues of Nichiren Daishonin (left) and Nikkō Shōnin (right).
Image Hall (Mieidō)
The Image Hall (Mieidō: 御影堂) traces its history to a building called the Mido (Midō: 御堂) erected by Nikko Shonin when he founded Taisekiji in 1290. It gets its name from a lifesize image of Nichiren sculpted by Echizen Hōkyō Kaikei, a carver of Buddhist images, that was enshrined in 1388 in a building that was replaced in 1522. The current, classical structure was erected in 1632 with donations from Kyōdai-in, wife of Hachisuka Yoshishige, lord of the Tokushima Castle. Several rounds of expansions, improvements, and repairs have been undertaken since then, and it was designated a prefectural tangible cultural property by Shizuoka Prefecture after major repairs in 1971. The most recent overhaul was finished in November 2013. The seven-year project entailed completely breaking down and reassembing the building. It was dismantled piece by piece, and all the parts were cataloged, mapped, and their condition recorded. Damaged structural members were repaired or replaced, and decorative fixtures such as transom carvings and other artwork, were painstaking restored. When the building was reassembled, aseismic structural augmentation (dampers) was installed to protect it from earthquake damage. New gold leaf was applied to the indoor pillars, and all exposed surfaces were finished with vermilion using traditional methods.
The Hōandō (奉安堂: hōan is an honorific form of a verb meaning to enshrine or to place in an altar; dō is a large building or hall) houses the Dai Gohonzon, the supreme object of veneration in Nichiren Shōshū.
The Hōandō is built in the style of a traditional Japanese storehouse to signify that the Nichiren Shoshu faith has not yet taken hold as the primary religion of the world's people. The Nichiren Shoshu faithful believe that, according to Nichiren's will, the Dai Gohonzon is not to be made publicly accessible, but rather stored away and only viewed by those who have asked for and been granted an audience by the high priest, until such time. A further symbol of this is that, different from all other Nichiren Shoshu altars, the one in the Hōandō has neither offerings of evergreens nor drums, and non-believers are not permitted entry except under special circumstances. Handicapped believers and their attendants are given priority entry and seating inside.
On the altar, the Shumidan, of the Hōandō is a stupa containing ashes of Nichiren Daishonin (left), an inner-altar housing the Dai Gohonzon (center), and another stupa containing a statue of Nichiren Daishonin carved by Izumi Ajari Nippō Shōnin from the same camphorwood plank that the Dai Gohonzon was inscribed on; tradition has it that Nichiren approvingly characterized the statue as an exact image of himself.
The Hōandō replaced the Shōhondō (正本堂: true main hall), the Dai Gohonzon's previous home. Before the Shōhondō was completed in 1972, the Dai Gohonzon had been kept locked away in a storehouse called the Gohōzō or enshrined in the Hōanden, another storehouse-like structure built behind the Gohōzō.
Gohōzō and Hōanden
The Gohōzō (御宝蔵: "treasure house") houses scrolls and paintings of importance to this sect of Nichiren Buddhism, as well as religious and historical records, relics, and artefacts. It also features modest displays of cultural objects donated by pilgrims from countries where they have attracted converts. The Hōanden (奉安殿) stands behind it.
Completed in 1749 with the assistance of the Edo government, Taiseki-ji's pagoda was built with donations of 5,000 gold ryō. It is five-storied and faces west rather than the usual south to signify that Nichiren's Buddhism would spread from the east (Japan) to the west; that is, back to the land of Sakyamuni Buddha and beyond to the rest of the world. It is the largest five-storied pagoda along the Tōkaidō, the historical main highway along Japan's eastern seaboard from Edo (today's Tokyo) to Kyoto. The pagoda was designated a national cultural treasure in 1966 and a major restoration was completed in January 2017. Its doors are ceremoniously opened every February 16 to celebrate Nichiren's birthday.
The the Daikōdō ("grand auditorium") was donated by Soka Gakkai, with construction completed on 1 March 1958. It houses a Gohonzon inscribed by Nichiren for the enlightenment of women and bestowed to Sennichi, the pious wife of disciple Abutsubo. It is flanked by the memorial tablets of second High Priest Nikkō Shonin and his successor, third High Priest Nichimoku Shonin. It is scheduled for demolition and reconstruction after completion of the new Sanmon gate in 2021.
In 1968, approximately 8,000,000 Soka Gakkai adherents contributed money to construct the building which was to be  the Shōhondō building at Taiseki-ji, opened from 1972 and completely demolished in 1998. The Soka Gakkai inaugurated the building as the High Sanctuary of the Dai Gohonzon as mandated by Nichiren Daishonin, a title that was disputed by the Myoshinko lay organisation at the time. The temple priesthood, along with Nittatsu Hosoi also directed that the Sho-Hondo as a temporal shrine for the venerated image, issuing a Gohonzon to Daisaku Ikeda with a hand inscription commemorating its construction but refraining from assigning it to be its permanent home. As Nittatsu Shonin wrote in 1973:
The Shohondo is the True High Sanctuary at the present time, and carries the significance stated in the Transfer Document, "Document for Entrusting the Law that Nichiren Propagated Throughout his Life" ("Nichiren ichigo guho fuzoku-sho") and [the Gosho] "On the Three Great Secret Laws." – (Collected Words of High Priest Nittatsu Shonin, vol. 2-1, p. 3)
The design of the Shōhondō itself alluded to a crane taking flight, similar to the official logo of the Nichiren Shoshu school, while its entrance gates alluded to lotus flowers. The inside featured mid-century modern architecture, bronze carvings and an automatic door Butsudan, considered to be a rare novelty at the time. In its high altar is the main shrine was built to house the Dai Gohonzon, an inscribed wood block mandala which is the "True Object of Worship" of Nichiren Shoshu.
The Shōhondō was regarded as an important work of post-war Japanese architecture, noted for its vast unsupported roof span. The construction of the Shōhondō was funded largely by the personal donations of the lay believers of the Nichiren Shoshu. An estimated ¥35,536,000,000 was raised, of which ¥35,064,300,000 came from Sōka Gakkai adherents, ¥313,820,000 from Hokkekō adherents and ¥157,870,000 from priests and their families.
The official reason cited by Nichiren Shoshu for demolishing the building is due to the rust discovered on the pillars within the temple. Official reports were conducted by engineers who researched and validated the same ocean sand used for the mortar construction of the building, possibly risking the Dai Gohonzon's safety during an earthquake. The report took one full year to complete and its results were submitted to High Priest Nikken for review. The school also concedes that its demolition of the Shōhondō was an extension of the doctrinal dispute between it and the Sōka Gakkai, emphasizing the impurity of the organisation for deviating from its formal doctrines of orthodoxy. Former Nichiren Shoshu High Priest, Nikken Shōnin replaced the Shōhondō with the traditional style building of Hōandō in 1998.
The Soka Gakkai refutes both the report and the reason for its demolition. Non-Japanese architects, such as Richard Meier and Robert A M Stern. Terence Riley, former chief curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, said that the planned demolition would be a "regrettable finale" to a century that has "witnessed so much loss.".
An approximate 30-minute walk from the Head Temple is Myoren-ji, which is the former residence of Nanjo Tokimitsu, the person who donated the land of Taisekiji to Nikko Shonin. The temple's name derives from the Buddhist name (kaimyō) Nanjo Tokimitsu's wife, Myōren. This temple houses many historically significant artifacts, in particular the Gohonzon enshrined in its main altar, which was inscribed by Nikko Shonin in 1315, and a small, decorative statue of Nichiren that is preserved as a historical remembrance. The temple is known for the unique format of its Oeshiki ceremony.
- Nichiren Shōshū Nyūmon (日蓮正宗入門: "Introduction to Nichiren Shoshu"), Taiseki-ji, 2002, pp. 336–348. (Japanese)
- Taisekiji (大石寺), Seikyo Shimbun-sha, 1971 (Japanese)
- Nichiren Shōshū Nyūmon (日蓮正宗入門: "Introduction to Nichiren Shoshu"), p. 337.
- Taiseki-ji Information, Taisekiji, 1992; p. 17
- 日蓮正宗総本山御影堂―寛永の再建から平成の大改修まで: "The Nichiren Shosho Head-temple Image Hall: From its Kan'ei-period reconstruction to its Heisei-period restoration", Dainichiren Publishing, 2016 (source for dates, name derivation, content of 2006–13 renovations)
- Shōhondō was largely built at the behest of Soka Gakkai, but the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood stripped Soka Gakkai of its status as a lay organization in 1991 and later determined that a structure built by an organization that had turned heretical was no longer suited to house the Dai Gohonzon. In the priesthood's eyes, Soka Gakkai had proved through its actions that its motivation for building the Shōhondō was impure, so Nichiren Shoshu had the Shōhondō torn down. In this context, Nichiren Shoshu freely concedes that its demolition of the Shōhondō was an extension of the doctrinal dispute between it and Soka Gakkai (Sōka Gakkai-in e no shakubuku kyōhon [Text for refuting Soka Gakkai's misrepresentations to its members], Takisekiji, 2004. p. 330–331). There had been friction over the naming of the building from around the time construction began because many Nichiren Shoshu priests felt that, given that kōsen rufu had not yet been achieved, it was too early to erect Taiseki-ji's "True Main Hall" (Ibid, p. 74–75). Taiseki-ji has traditionally regarded the Mieidō (see above) as the temple's hondō (main hall), but only its provisional main hall until kōsen rufu is achieved, when the building housing the Dai Gohonzon would take over that role. Note that almost all temples, regardless of school, have one building or section of a building considered their hondō, which is usually where their most significant ceremonies are held.
- Ikeda, Kiyoaki Murata; foreword by Daisaku (1969). Japan's new Buddhism : an objective account of Soka Gakkai ([1st ed.]. ed.). New York: Weatherhill. p. 135. ISBN 978-0834800403.
- Corrigendum in Dai-Nichiren, July 1991. Published by Nichiren Shoshu.
- Sōka Gakkai-in e no shakubuku kyōhon (Text for refuting Soka Gakkai's misrepresentations to its adherents), Taiseki-ji, 2004. pp. 330– 331.
- "A Major Eruption At the Foot of Fuji". members.aol.com. Washington Post. June 14, 1998. Archived from the original on 1999-11-03. This article is also referenced in Jane Hurst, "A Buddhist Reformation", in Global Citizens: The Soka Gakkai Buddhist Movement in the World eds. David W. Machacek, Bryan R. Wilson, Oxford University Press, 2001, p.70
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