echigonagaoka> Sado Island> Rengebu Temple
To get to Rengebu Temple, you need to walk a long road of upslope from the seaside road. The upslope starts at the midpoint of two bus stops; "Ogi-onsen mae" and "Ichiburizaki". From either bus stop you need to walk, so walking from Ogi town is an option if you would not care about a long distant walking. Walk on the wide road from the Ogi Ferry terminal to northeast. At the end of the reclaimed land, there is a mouth of a river and an intersection. Turning right is the bus route for Hamochi/Akadomari. Tuning left takes you back to Ogi town. Choose the road between the two that is shown by orange arrow in the photo 41.1. At the beginning of the road you see the river on right hand side and a tall square chimney on left hand side. Behind that intersection, it is just a long uphill slope of one mile. Since a lot of hydrangeas are planted by the road, they tell you that you are walking on the right way. At the highest point you will see another temple on the right hand side, but it is not Rengebu Temple. Go down a little, and then you will see a parking lot on right hand side and the entrance of Rengebu Temple on left.
Photo.41.1 Start of Upslope Road for Rengebu Temple
June is the best month to visit this temple because of a lot of hydrangea flowers. Some tourists don't like go down from the level of the road, maybe because they don't want to go up the slope for way back. But it is better to go down to the pond so that you can see a lot of hydrangea flowers. It is even surprising that the temple does not charge tourists an entrance fee for such a beautiful flowers and old temple buildings.
It is said that the temple started in 8061) or 8072). Temple's name is Kobiesan Renbebuji, and first part "Ko-bie-san" stands for "Small Hiei Mountain". There is a real "Hiei Mountain" near the ancient capital of Japan, Kyoto. From Kyoto, Hiei Mountain is in the direction of northeast. Sado is also in the direction of northeast of Kyoto, although Sado Island is far from Kyoto. It is a reason that the temple name has "Ko-bie-san" that means "Small Hiei Mountain"3). Perhaps it might be difficult for you to tell the similarity between "Bie" and "Hiei", but the same Chinese characters are used for the two. Since Hiei Mountain is the center of Japanese Tendai Buddhism, this Kobiesan Rengebuji was a Tendai Buddhism temple in the early days. But now the temple is of Shingon Buddhism. The history book of Ogi says that Rengebu-Temple had got influenced by (Shingon's) Daigo-temple in 15 century and made its status sure as a Shingon temple in 16 century4).
Photo.41.2 Rengebu Temple
In March 1652, a tragic incident "Kobie Riot (Kobie Sodo)" happened at the temple. There was one of Sado magistrate office servants in the Ogi branch, whose name was Tsuji Touzaemon Nobutoshi. He hid himself in the temple with his followers including his two sons. Then-priest Kaikei gave him a protection. Sado Magistrate Office attacked the temple with 500 men in the morning of March 14, 1652. Mr. Tsuji and his two sons prayed to Buddha under the big camellia tree and committed hara-kiri suicide. Priest Kaikei were arrested and beheaded. Mr.Tsuji was 42 and Priest Kaikei was 68 years old5).
These two, Mr. Tsuji and Priest Kaikei, were thought differently people by people. One episode says; Mr. Tsuji sent a letter to the head officer of the Sado Magistrate Office who happened to be in Edo. But the ship with the letter was wrecked and the letter was picked up by a fisherman at the shore. The letter was sent not to Edo but to Sado Magistrate Office in Aikawa. The magistrate in Aikawa was surprised by what Mr.Tsuji wrote. The letter was a whistle-blowing to reveal corruption in Aikawa Office. Since it is too good to be true, this episode might be a fabrication. As for Priest Kaikei, The history book of Ogi says that Priest Kaikei wanted the temple to be bigger. His wish could have been a much burden of the farmers under the temple reign and brought troubles also with other Shingon temples in Sado6).
Photo.41.3 Hydrangea Flowers at Rengebu Temple
Many buildings were burned by the riot. But some old ones remain. The oldest "Kotsudo" was built around 1348. It is interesting that the year of construction is guessed by a graffiti left by pilgrims from Itoshima, Fukuoka where is in hundred miles away from Sado. "Kondo" is thought to be built before 1459, and "Kobodo" was in 16097). Maybe an example of a mixture of Shitoism and Buddhism, there is Kobie shrine in the same area. The stone Torii gate of the shrine is the oldest in Sado, which was built in 16088).
Rengebu temple is the Eighty eighth temple of the so-called "Sado 88-pilgrimage"9).