It is very easy to visit Zencho Temple if you are already in the town of Akadomari, although getting to Akadomari town is a little difficult task for tourists. Find the narrow alley between the two houses as shown in Photo.58.1. There is a long stairway to the temple.
Photo.58.1 Path to Zencho Temple from Bus Route
Zencho temple was found in 827, but was burned down in Tenreki Era (947-56). The temple was reestablished in 9591). The fires destroyed the temple several times. The current main building was constructed in 1904 that was the same year as the Russo-Japanese War began. The whole of the building is made of timbers of zelkova tree that were gathered from surrounding area of Akadomari2).
Kyogoku Tamekane, one of sentenced persons for remote custody on Sado, was sent to Sado in 1298 when he was 45 years old. He was a politician and a Tanka poet. It is said that he had lived at Hachimanguu in Yawata of Sawada area. He also stayed the Bishamon Hall of this temple. He was allowed to be back in Kyoto in 13033).
Zencho Temple is a temple of Chisan-sect of Shingon-shu (Shingon-Buddhism). It is always confusing that the same Chinese character "Shin” is used for both Shingon-shu and Shin-shu. As for the latter, Shin-shu is the short form of Jodoshin-shu. Shingon-shu is a Shodomon, while Jodoshin-shu is a Jodomon, they are different Buddhism.
Actually there are a lot of Shingon-shu temples in Sado. In the research by the prefecture in 19954), 150 of 281 temples in Sado are Shingon-shu. Of the 150 of Shingon-shu, 49 are Chisan-sect and 51 are Buzan-sect. This website introduces seven Shingon-shu temples;
Photo.58.2 Zencho Temple with Crape Myrtle Flowers
Zencho Temple is located on a hill looking down Akadomari town. The town is a remote place from major ports of Sado like Ryotsu and Ogi. It makes difficult for travelers to reach because bus operations are very little from Ogi and Mano. The official village history book says that Akadomari is the nearest from ports on the main land of Niigata prefecture. The book says of distances of ship route; 59.2 km between Ryotsu and Niigata, 66.7 km between Ogi and Naoetsu, while that is only 40.8 km between Akadomari and Teradomari5). If many ships were operated from Teradomari, Akadomari would have been a place that is easy for tourists to access. But it is not.
Houses and buildings of Akadomari town are standing along the shore line. There is only narrow space on the land of Akadomari because Kosado Mountains are just behind the town. With little agricultural land, main industries were fishing, shipping trade, and migrant working in northern island of Hokkaido. Akadomari people made ends meet by such jobs since Edo Era (1603 - 1867) until the beginnings of Meiji Era (1868 - 1912). Actually the foreword of the official village history book is a very interesting essay of 14 pages6). It reviews the town’s history with episodes of mountainous route from Akadomari to the other part of the island, the ports and shipping trade, seasonal temporary working in Matsumae of Hokkaido, straw rope manufacturing, cowherd, and so on. It seems that the writer is lamenting the declining of Akadomari area. About 40 years has passed since the foreword was written in 1982. Probably the situation has not changed or even getting worse. It is sad to see that the town continue to become desolate but this is a prevailing reality in most of the towns in rural regions of Japan.
Photo.58.3 The 79th Temple of 88-pilgrimage on Sado, Zencho Temple
Zencho Temple with its long history is still taking a glance around Akadomari town. The temple is the Seventy ninth of the so-called "Sado 88-pilgrimage"7).