Artist: Hasui KawaseTitle: Night at Hommonji Temple, IkegamiPublisher: WatanabeDate: 1955, this later Heisei edition printed from the original blocksMedium: Japanese woodblock printSize: oban, approx. 15.5 x 10.10
HOMMONJI TEMPLE was founded by Nichiren just before his death at the request of Munenaka Ikegami. Nichiren was critical of the established schools of Buddhism that relied on state patronage and merely served the interests of the powerful while encouraging passivity in the suffering masses. In 1271 Nichiren was arrested and taken in the early hours of the morning to a beach named Tatsunokuchi to be beheaded. The execution was abandoned, however, when a bright object appeared in the night sky, terrifying the executioners. He was subsequently exiled to the island of Sado, where conditions were especially harsh. Nichiren survived freezing conditions with little food or shelter, coming close to starvation on several occasions. Despite the severity of his situation he continued to write prolifically, sending letters of encouragement and instruction to his disciples, among which are counted some of his most important works.
The Soshido Hall at Hommonji is where a statue of Nichiren is enshrined. This statue, the only embodiment of Nichiren in the temple, was made by his disciples on the seventh anniversary of his death. It is designated an important cultural property of Japan. Behind this hall is the Honden Hall where Shakyamuni-Buddha and four bodhisattvas are enshrined; ceremonial services are performed here. Behind the Honden is the octagonal Gobyo-sho (mausoleum) where the ashes of Nichiren are enshrined. It is constructed entirely of hinoki Japanese cypress. The five-story pagoda was built in 1608. It is the oldest five-story pagoda in Tokyo. On March 15, 1945, the temple was subjected to heavy bombing resulting in the destruction of all the structures except the main gate, the five-story pagoda, the Kyozo (a repository of Buddhist scriptures) and the Hoto (a pagoda). The temple was completely reconstructed through contributions from followers throughout Japan.
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