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Kaicho Temple

How to get

Get off the #11 bus (Shukunegi-sen) at "Yajima Iriguchi" bus stop. Walking from Ogi town is another option to get to Kaicho Temple because only a few buses run on route #11 and the temple is not so far from the town. From the bus route, turn towards the sea at the corner which photo 43.1 shows. Within 100 meter there is a short cut on the right hand side, but it should be a road for Priest's family. Still go down the slope and turn right along the road, you will get to the gate of the temple which is on your right hand side.

Photo.43.1 Turning point from Bus route for Kaicho Temple

Kaicho Temple is of Soto-shu that is one of Zen Buddhism in Japan1). Although other "-shu"s of Japanese Buddhism have many sects under their "-shu", interestingly enough there is no such sects in Soto Buddhism. Even the Soto-shu founder Dogen forbade putting a name on his group. There are three major Zen Buddhism in Japan; Soto-shu, Rinzai-shu, and Oubaku-shu.

Soto-shu was started by Dogen (1200-1253). In Soto-shu, Zen meditation is not what is done for spiritual awakening. The commitment to Zen meditation is already being a form of spiritual awakening. "Do just Zazen (Shikantaza)" is the teaching of Soto Buddhism.

Rinzai-shu was started by Eisai (Yousai; 1141-1215), but Hakuin Ekaku(1685-1768) did a big role. When the followers make Zen meditation, they have a question and answer. Through the process of solution to those Zen dialogues, spiritual awakening is tried.

Oubaku-shu was started by Ingen (1592-1673). Ingen was a Chinese Zen priest. He came to Japan in 1654 avoiding confusion of last days of Min dynasty. He brought a new wave of Zen from the continent2).

This website introduces three Soto-shu temples of Sado; Kaicho Temple in Ogi, Tairen Temple in Hamochi, and Toko Temple in Akadomari area. The founder Dogen’s story appears on Tairen Temple’s page. As for Kaicho Temple, the book of temple list of Niigata prefecture mentions two stages of establishment. The first was August 1258. High-rank disciple of Zen master Rankeidoryu, Nissan Soshun came to the place and got to know about the story of Cherry trees planted by Juntoku-Joko. He built a hermitage to give protection to the trees. And 1596 is said of foundation of this temple3).

Photo.43.2 Two Cherry Trees in front of Kaicho Temple

Cherry trees planted by Juntoku-Joko are called “Gosho Zakura” which means “Palace cherry”. In 742, a lady was sent to Sado as a punishment. She died an unnatural death there. Juntoku-Joko got to know this story and felt sorry for her when he came to this area, Misaki. So he planted cherry trees, take one of branches, and put it into ground as a mark of her grave4). As to the place of planting, there is another episode that Juntoku-Joko himself was looking for a place to plant a particular type of Cherry. Juntoku-Joko had got several types of cherry trees from Kyoto. He planted them around his residential area in Kuroki. But one particular type did not match with the soil there. So he selected this place and plant it5).

Now two trees are there; the one of two has flowers of single-petal, the other has that of multi-petal6). The cherries are said to be valuable kind because they also have flavor of flowers. Flower season is usually days around April 28th7).

Photo.43.3 One member of Priest's family, probably.

Kaicho Temple is the eighty fifth temple of the so-called “Sado 88-pilgrimage” 8).