Get off the #10 bus (Ogi-sen) at "Sugahara Jjinjya Iriguchi" bus stop. Turn to the river, cross the bridge, and turn right so that you walk towards upstream of the river. Go by the red Torii gate of the Sugawara Shrine, and then you will get to the Nioh gate of Tairen Temple.
Photo.55.1 Ni'oh Gate of Tairen Temple
Tairen Temple is of Soto-shu that is one of Japanese Zen Buddhism1). Although this website cannot confirm any relationship between Zen Buddhism and a small porcelain statute, some books say that there is a small porcelain statue in the body of the main object of worship in the Kan’non building of Tairen Temple2). The porcelain statue of 18.4 cm (7.2 in) height and 6.5 cm (2.6 in) width is called Maria-Kan’non. The same type of Maria-Kan’non was found from the ground of Bamboo grove in the same Hamochi town in early 20th century3). Maria-Kan’non statue seems to have been an object of Christian belief. However, Samurai warrior government "Edo-Bakufu" strictly prohibited the Christian faith from 17th century. These hidden Maria-Kan’non statues indicate that there were people who believed Christianity in Sado under the strong suppression by Samurai Government. Actually those statues were made as a type of Buddhism Statue that was a guardian deity of child bearing and rearing. It is said to be a production of Dehuayao which is a pottery in Dehua County in Fujian Province, China4). Although the Kan’non statue has nothing to do with Christianity, it looked like the Holy Mother holding the baby Jesus Christ. Some Japanese Christian kept and made it an object of worship during Edo era from 17 century to 19 century.
Tairen temple is said to have moved twice. On the way of movement, its Buddhism had also changed. The temple’s main object of worship is Amida Buddha. Since Amida Buddha is usually Jodo Buddhism’s object of worship, it might have been a Jodo Buddhism temple5). Another book says it was likely to have been a Tendai-Buddhism6). The important thing about changes of Buddhism is that Soto Buddhism of Zen spread all over Japan under the protection by samurai warriors and local powerful families in Muromachi Era (1392-1573). In Sado, Soto Buddhism temples were built in Civil war era by those strong men as their family temples. Some temples were used to be of Shingon-, Jodo-, and/or Tendai-Buddhism, but they changed to be Soto Buddhism and transferred their locations to vicinity of the strong family’s castles. It was since the end of 15th century to 16th century when those Sado families came to have stronger tie with Soto Buddhism temples7). Photo.55.2 shows San’mon gate of Tairen Temple. It is said to be once the east gate of Hamochi Castle, moved and rebuilt as the Sanmon gate of the temple8).
Photo.55.2 San'mon Gate of Tairen Temple
There are three major Zen Buddhism(s) in Japan. They are described in the pages of Kaicho Temple. Of the three, Soto Buddhism is the biggest. It was initiated by the Zen superstar Dogen (1200 -1253) and established by Keizan (1264-1325). The following is a short introduction of Dogen. He was born in 1200 between Koga Michitomo and a daughter of Regent Fujiwara Motofusa. His mother was died when Dogen was just eight-year old. Feeling the sadness of life by mother’s death, he decided to become a priest. He studied in Enryaku Temple on Hiei Mountain. But he was disappointed by what the Hiei Mountain was at the time. Besides, he could not get an answer from Hiei Mountain for his question why a person should practice asceticism despite of a teaching of Tendai-Buddhism that says "A person is already Buddha as was born because anyone has Buddhism inside with seeds to be a Buddhist". Having studied years on Hiei Mountain, he went down the mountain and became a pupil of Myozen who was a disciple of Eisai in Ken’nin Temple.
Dogen wanted to study in China, so in 1223 together with Myozen he got on a trade ship in Hakata headed to China, and reached Nimbo. Dogen visited Tendosan and other temples, however, he couldn’t find an answer for his question. One day Chinese Priest Nyojo came to Tendosan as the newly assigned chief priest of Tendosan. If this webpage were going to write a teacher-disciple relationship between Nyojo and Dogen, this page would be too much longer and the web creator of this page could not write down it well. Anyway Dogen came back in Japan in 1227 at his age of 27. Age of 34, he established Kosho Temple at Uji in Kyoto, wrote 95 books of "Shohogenzo" during 10 years in Kosho temple. It is hard to understand Shohogenzo which is the first philosophical book written in Japanese. Note that most of religious book had been written using Chinese characters until that time.
The bigger his group had become, the more suppression was added to his group by the old Buddhism and the Imperial Court sides. He moved the place of asceticism in 1243 the Country of Echizen, currently Fukui Prefecture. The head temple of his Buddhism, Eihei Temple was established in 1246 at age of 47. When he was 48, he was invited by then Samurai government in Kamakura led by Hojo Tokiyori. He went to Kamakura and a half year later he came back to Eihei Temple. He rejected any donation from Tokiyori. There are some episodes which indicate that he didn’t like authoritarian power. He died at the age of 54, in Kyoto on August 28th, 1253. Dogen was the most important priest in Japanese Zen Buddhism. Also he accomplished so much in Japanese philosophy and cultural exchange between China and Japan9).
Photo.55.3 Main Hall of Tairen Temple
Some travel broachers say that Teiren Temple is famous for its azalea flowers, but there are a lot of camellia trees along the road between Nioh gate and Sanmon gate. The beginnings of April is the best time to visit if you want to see the camellia flowers. Since there are name plates for each camellia, the temple seems to be very enthusiastic about camellia flowers.