echigonagaoka> Sado Island> Iwayasan Cave

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map of Iwayasan Cave

Iwayasan Cave

How to get

Get off the #11 bus (Shukunegi-sen) at "Shukunegi Shinden" bus stop. Only a few buses are being operated, so plan ahead well. It would be a better arrangement if you could visit this spot before or after Shukunegi Village. As seen in photo 46.1, a big Jizo statue is a landmark. Note that the cave and the statue are not in the same place. The cave is at about 200 meter west of the statue. Photo.46.1 shows the branch from the bus route to the cave.

Photo.46.1 Turning point from Bus route for Iwayasan Cave

Walking upslope of path a little, you will reach the mouth of cave. Although the cave is higher than the current sea level, cave was created by the wave erosion. The entrance is surrounded by 88 stone Buddhist statues lining up like a half circle as shown in Photo.46.2.

Photo.46.2 Nemari-Henro 88 places Stone Buddhist Statues

On the cave wall, eight Buddhist statues were engraved on natural rocks1). They are called "Magaibutsu" in Japanese. The statues are not full body in depth, but are ones that were carved with reduced thickness on the rock surface. It seems difficult to find eight statues, however, a book says that three Amida(s) on the left, two Jizo(s) facing Amida, and three on the right at the entrance2). Magaibutsu are rare in Sado; other than Iwaya-san, there are Sugishima Magaibutsu at Tachibana and Magaibutsu in cave at Iwayaguchi3).

Photo.46.3 Iwayasan Mouth of Cave

This cave is maintained by Shoko Temple that is located the deepest end of Shukunegi Village. Shoko Temple is of Ji-shu Buddhism4). It is said that the temple was initiated by the 2nd Yugyo Shinkyo (1237-1319) in1301, was founded by 7th Yugyo Takuga-shonin (1285-1354) in 13385). The 8th Yugyo Tosen-shonin (1305-1381) 6) visited Sado Island in 1355. Ji-shu is one of Kamakura New Buddhism(s), and it is the one that was initiated most lastly. The head temple of the Ji-shu is Shojokoji in Fujisawa-shi, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Ji-shu was started by Ippen (1239-1289). He studied under the disciple who was, in a Japanese word, one of “grandson disciples” of Honen-bo-Genkuu7). Ippen traveled many places in Japan. On the road, he gave slips of prayer to Amida Buddha and danced "Odori-Nembutsu". It was a travel of Yugyo. He walked for 16 years and died at age of 51. He thought his teachings were for his life time only, so he burned his books and possession before his death. He just wanted to tell people that calling "Namuamidabutsu" was everything8). Honen’s disciple Shinran thought that belief was important. On the other hand, even belief was not necessary for Ippen. He said the only thing you need to do was just calling out loud the prayer to Amida Buddha. Believing or not believing does not matter because Amida Buddha's wish to save people is absolute. Only just calling "Namuamidabutsu" on your mouth brings you to the heaven9).

Ji-shu is not a major sect of Japanese Buddhism. Numbers of temples and believers are not so many. But it has very interesting features as a Japanese Buddhism. Other than Shoko Temple in Shukunegi, there is Daigan Temple in Mano in Sado as a Ji-shu temple10). Shoko temple and Iwayasan Cave are a little distant each other. The current location of Shukunegi Village is lowland almost on sea level, however, in old time, Shukunegi village was on the hill in front of the current Ogi Minzoku Museum11).

Actually visiting Iwayasan Cave is a little bit of scary experience. It is dark and wet. The cave was used to be a dwelling for ancient people. Human bones were found by excavation research of the cave. Besides, the cave's length or depth is not known. One says the hole could reach another Iwaya (岩谷) Cave in Aikawa area, which is actually unthinkable. Note that this Iwaya (岩屋) san cave is a sacred place for village people to pray.