Fukuchizan Shuzenji, Izu city,Shizuoka, Japan
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Stories of Shuzenji Temple

 Shuzenji Temple was built in 807 AD. Legend has it that the famous Saint Kobo and his disciple founded the temple while traveling around Japan. While Kobo Daishi (Saint Kobo) stayed only temporarily, his disciple Korin Taitoku stayed and built up a small Shingon temple called Fukuchizan Shuzen Bannnanzenji; the origin of present day Shuzenji temple.

 Shuzenji Temple’s proprerties were far more extensive than today. The entrance to the temple ground was once by Yokose near the present day red bridge (Shuzenji-Bashi). Eight satellite temples once surrounded the main temple, echoing the style of the Shingon mandala in which eight Buddhisatvas surround the main Buddha “Dainichi Nyorai”. The last of these satellite temples disappearered about 100 years ago.

 During the time of Kamakura shogunate (1185-1333), the Hojo clan dominated Japanesse political power. The first shogun Yoritomo had married Hojo Masako, and after the shogun’s death, his widow’s relatibes became the shogunate’s regents, and thereby the Izu Peninsula, they firmly controlled the Shuzenji area. Shuzenji Temple was the most important temple in their territory. For this reason, some important political rivals or enemies were exiled to Shuzenji Templ. In some cases they were also murdered there.

 In 1193, the shogun Minamoto Yoritomo (whose wife was of the Hojo clan) had his brother Minamoto Noriyoriexiled to Shuzenji on suspicion of treason. Noriyori lived in a satellite temple of Shuzenji Temple called Shinkoin, once located below the present-day Hiei Shrine. He was attacked and killed there in 1193 or 1194.

 In 1203 the second shogun Minamoto Yoriie (1182-1204) was exiled to Shuzenji Temple. He had been too young to be a responsible ruler, and when he became seriously ill, all his countries had been confiscated. All actual power came to be held by his grandfather Hojo Tokimasa who planned a rebellion against his maternal relatives, the Hojo’s together with his father-in-law of the Hiki clan. The plan was discovered, the Hilki clan was crushed and Yoriie was forced to abdiccate and was exiled to Shuzenji Temple. He was murdered in or near the temple on July 18, 1204 at the age of 22. It is said that Yoriie’s bathwater was poisoned, causing his death. A wooden mask of a red contorted face is in Shuzenji Temple’s museum. It is said that this is was Yoriie’s carved death mask.

 After Yoriie’s death, his mother Hojo Masako commissioned various sutras, statues and a shrine to help her son’s soul find repose, and perhaps out of remorse for probable collaboration in ordering his murder. It is said that she commissioned Shuzenji Temple’s main statue of Dainichi Nyorai, made by the famous sculptor Jikkei in 1210 for Yoriie’s sake.

 In 1275, Shuzenji Temple's domination was changed from Shingon To Rinzai Buddhism, supposedly in honor of the famous Chinese Rinzai monk Rankei Doryu. Rankei Doryu came to Japan in1246.He worked to establish and spread Zen Buddhism in Kamakura. He gained the support and respect of the shogunate's regent Hojo Tokimune.When Genghis Khan's Mongolia armies threatened Japan around 1274, Rankei Doryu was suspected of spying and was exlited to Shuzenji Temple. He was later found to be innocent and released. After leavibg Shuzenji Temple, he developed Rinzai Zen theory while living as a hermit on a mountainside for 20 years, Shuzenji Temple reminded a Rinzai temple for 243 years.

 In 1361,a fuedal lord of Izu, Hatakeyama Kunihiko rebelled against the shogunate. He was defeated and took refuge in Shuzenji castle was set on fire; the fire spread to Shuzenji Temple, destroying it.

Shuzenji Temple was rebuilt, but in 1407 another fire broke out, destroying the main building completely.

 The temple was rebuilt by Hojo Soun in 1489. Hojo Soun was feudal lord in Nirayama. He donated much land and money to the temple. He invited his uncle, the Soto Zen master Ryukei Hanjo-Zenji to become its abbot. Since then, Shuzenji Temple had belonged to the Soto school of Buddhism.

 A number of famous Japanese writers have come to Shuzenji, visited Shizenji Temple, and were inspired by its history. in 1910, the famous writer Natsume Soseki also came to Shuzenji and wrote "Shuzenji Diary". The famous Kabuki playwright Okamoto Kido was inspired by his visit to Shuzenji in 1911. He wrote the Kabuki play called "Shuzenji Monogatari" which is based on the story of Minamoto Yoriie's tragic death. Shimaki Kensaku visited Shuzenji in 1944 and wrote the essay "Red Frog", which is about the stories of Shuzenji.

 Many monks used to live and train in Shuzenji Temple. About 60 monks still lived in the temple about 100 years ago. The monastery was closed about 20 years ago when their number dropped to less than 10.

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Shuzenji Okunoin.

There is a legend that Kobo Daishi defeated the evil spirits by mantra.

Dainichi Nyorai

the main Buddha
“Dainichi Nyorai”
made by the famous sculptor Jikkei in 1210.

Shuzenji in autumn.
the main building of Shuzenji.
the scenery in autumn.

mask of Yoriie.
Mask of Yoriie.
Okamoto Kido was inspired by it and wrote "Shuzenji Monogatari".
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