To Seek the Essence and Truth:
World Heritage - Sacred Sites And Pilgrimage Routes in The Kii Mountain Range
Master of ceremony: Ms Hirano Masayo of Hirano Project Planning
Now we would like to start our panel discussion under the theme of seeking the essence
and the truth of the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range.
We think that the fundamental difference between Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range and other world heritage sites is that the sacred area of differing religions, Shugendo (mountain asceticism), Buddhism, and Shintoism coexist with each other in the area called Yoshino, Kumano, and Koya, and that these sacred sites are linked with one another by old pilgrimage roads. Even today these sites are still actively maintained and used for their purposes.
Today we have three leaders as guests from the three different sacred sites of Yoshino, Koya, and Kumano. This is the first time for us to have such wonderful members in this symposium.
We also have another guest, Ms Kawasaki Hitomi, who has been a bonsai researcher and has had a deep concern in Japanese religions for several decades. We expect her to give perceptive comments from a different perspective of our three religious leaders in this symposium.
From now, I would like the anthropologist Mr Ueshima to take the lead in this meeting.
As the emcee mentioned, the three sacred sites of different religions, specifically that of
Koyasan, the Kumano Sanzan, and Yoshino Omine are coexisting. In addition, these
sites are connected to each other by pilgrimage routes and have given a strong influence
on the spiritual culture of Japan for more than a thousand years. The fact that differing
religions are connected and that people can make pilgrimages to these sacred sites freely
is very unique and not seen in other countries in the world except Japan.
This shows that the conditions of Japan have been very tolerant to differing religions and have shown respect and admiration to their teachings. It also tells us that the Kii Mountain Range is a place where people feel something special and spiritual beyond logic. Moreover, it seems that there is a concealed aspect which can ease different cultures to coexist in harmony.
Now, I would like our panelists to introduce themselves in reference to the three sacred sites.First, Professor Murakami of Koyasan University, please.
<Introductions including the various sacred sites>
Hello, I am Murakami. Nice to meet you. I am wondering if I can finish my self
introduction in reference to Koyasan within seven minutes and end up with the lucky
(Laughter from the floor)
My profile says I am from Yamaguchi University, but I have transferred to Koyasan University. The reason is that I majored and am an expert in philosophy and ethics. He said when I taught ethics in university, I would be able to make a living. But, the fact is different. I can make a living neither in ethics nor philosophy.
(Laughter from the floor)
There are a variety of fields in ethics. My major is in "thought." "Thought" might happen to lead to some ideology, but "thought" is the way by which you can foster your insight powers into the true existence of things. That is how you can see things and what you can rely on to live by. Talking on this topic might lead you to very logical reasoning, however, I would be happy if you bear with me long enough to hear to my story.
When I worked for Yamaguchi University, I studied ethics and especially, Martin Luther was my area of expertise. I studied Nietzsche as well. But in the course of my studies, I couldn’t understand them. What I did not understand was what were "thoughts" or "religion."
Those men were Christians. There is only one god in Christianity. To the contrary, there are uncountable gods everywhere in Japan. Some may refer to this kind of topic today. In Christianity they have only one absolute God. Then, there is only one truth for Christians. There is no other answer but one which leads to truth. Christians are allowed to have different ways of thinking.
I can not understand such a religion in my mind. I can not imagine the concept of blood and flesh, smell and skin, etc. in Christianity. However, the essence of European culture is based on Christianity. Japanese people can be asked whether they understand Christianity, and they can become Christian believers, but they don’t understand what Christianity is after all. Do you understand the true form and the idea of Christianity by reading the Bible? We don’t. We can explain to others what Christianity is like. But, at heart, we don’t understand the idea which permeates flesh and blood in European culture.
As the result of such thinking, I decided to go to Koyasan to study Buddhism which would be familiar to my soul and spirit. In Koyasan, I studied Kukai (AD 774 - 835), the founder of Koyasan. When I first took a look at the writings of Kukai’s teaching, it seemed to me there were only Chinese characters written vertically in the texts. They were like pitch dark sticks standing in lines.
(Laughter from the floor)
It was very hard to read those characters because my eyes were not accustomed to them.
However, after I started and continued reading, I came to understand some phases of Kukai’s way of thinking. To understand or not to understand is a matter of our sensibilities. In my case, I understood things with some sense of internal feelings and intuition. I guess the sensibility of Kukai went well with my own. I realized that the harder I studied it, the more practice ( gyo ) I would have to do in real training as mountain ascetics did.
Three years later I went to Koyasan again and studied by carrying out my training as gyo. It seems there are no other people who went to Koyasan two times to study and have the same training as monks do. But I did gyo. Accordingly, I was invited to work in Koyasan and transferred from Yamaguchi University to Koyasan University. That was in 1990... Seven minutes have already past. I have to stop talking.
(Laughter from the floor)
I think Prof. Murakami might have been promoted to the second highest position of
Koyasan University, or maybe it was fourth, I suppose.
You are the head of the teaching department. Wouldn’t the head person in charge of the department be "number one" in all departments.
Yes, I am the head, but it has nothing to do with being the "number one" person in Koyasan.
No, no, no.
(Laughter from the floor)
Now I will introduce Mr Kuki Ietaka, Shinto priest of Kumano Hongu Taisha.
Speaking of Kumano Hongu Taisha, there are about four thousand Kumano Shinto shrines in Japan. Kumano Hongu Taisha is the headquarters of those shrines. Mr Kuki has devoted himself to his work in Hongu Taisha since 2001.
(Applause from the floor)
Hello, please allow me to speak while staying seated.
I think most of you here already know something about Yoshino, Koya, and Kumano.
In this kind of symposium a variety of people like Mr Ueshima, Mr Tanaka and Prof.
Murakami talk about the world heritage of Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range from different angles. Will you raise your hands if today is the first time for you to attend this type of symposium?
(Some people raising hands from the floor)
Thank you. Three Sacred sites connected with each other as one entity by their pilgrimage routes in the Kii Mountain Range have been designated as one of the world heritage sites. As Mr Ido, an area coordination committee member for the world cultural asset conference previously mentioned, there are seventeen world cultural heritage sites in Japan as of 2017. Things which we can be proud of in Japan and of our collective spirituality have been validated by the world at large. I guess you on the floor have visited not only Kumano but others of our world heritage sites.
I was introduced earlier as the top leader of Kumano shrines in Japan. Kumano means Kumano Sanzan which consists of three grand shrines as you know well. Different from three sanzan (which literal meaning is three mountains) in Yamagata Prefecture, Kumano Sanzan has its own Shinto priest. I have been a Shinto priest of Kumano Hongu Taisha for about sixteen years as my profile at hand describes.
Kumano Nachi Taisha which is famous for its waterfalls, also has a Shinto priest. The name of the priest is Mr,Otokonari. In Shingu, there is Kumano Hayatama Taisha. The name of the priest is Mr Ueno. I guess there are some people who don’t know what Kumano Sanzan is.
Sanzan in Chinese characters shows three mountains in geography, but it means that three becomes one like the trinity in Christianity. It can be said that Yoshino, Koya, and Kumano is one unit indivisible, too. I believe that this indivisibility or unity in harmony is very important in the present world. The profound unification of Yoshino, Koya, and Kumano plays an important role in our society, even though there will be the topic of syncretization of Shinto and Buddhism which will be talked about later in this meeting.
I would like to talk about something related to Kumano. I hope you will enjoy it.
There are many questions I would like to ask you, but Mr Kuki, when you are asked to explain what Shinto is in one word, what is your answer?
The origin of Shintoism is to see gods in nature, and the idea of Shintoism derives from the admiration and respect to nature, I think. Kumano Nachi Taisha sees deities in the waterfalls and established Kumano Hirou-jinja Shrine at the foot of the waterfalls. People who visit Kumano Nachi Taisha proceed to the 133 meter high waterfall and give prayers to the falls. There are many waterfalls in Nachi, and the first waterfall is Nachi Otaki. There are second and third waterfalls on the mountain. Kumano Hayatama Taisha in Shingu City has its branch shrine called Kamikura Shrine, and it is located on a hill with a view over the Kumano Channel. The deity of the shrine is a huge rock Gotobiki-iwa itself, and it has a sacred, twisted rope on it called shimenawa. "Big rock" belief is seen in Hanano-iwaya Shrine, Akakura Shrine, and Konouchi Shrine. It is thought that deities descended to huge rocks called Iwakura, and these deities have been enshrined as sacred gods since then.
They say Kumano Hongu Taisha has been established for 2050 years. How can we estimate such lengthy years of history of Kumano Hongu Taisha?
We have an old journal which says holy shrine buildings were founded in Oyunohara in
the reign of the10th Emperor Sujin BC 65. Just a half century ago, the 2,000 year
anniversary of Kumano Hongu Shrine was celebrated by the former priest of our shrine.
Next year, 2018 is the 2050th anniversary year.
In 2011 a disastrous earthquake called the Great East Japan Earthquake struck off the
east coast of Japan. It was so devastating that the disastrous flood in Kishu area in 1889
I hear the flood of 1889 caused significant damage to Kumano Hongu Taisha. What exactly happened to it?
Oyunohara, the old site of Hongu Taisha, was flooded and some of its structures and
buildings were washed away. The Kumano and Otonashi rivers overflowed, and in
addition, in an area of Yoshino, there was a part of the mountains which had massive
avalanches of earth and rocks which caused disastrous landslides and debris flows. In
regards to the structures and buildings of Hongu Taisha and its site, the priest at that
time decided how to rebuild Hongu Taisha, and a year and eight months later he
transferred some salvaged materials to the present site and reconstructed Hongu Taisha.
There was a flood in our area about four or five years ago. It destroyed our Zuihoden building, but other buildings survived the disaster. Thanks to the quick decision of people about what to do in the natural disaster, Hongu Taisha was saved.
When the big flood came in 1889, the forest of Nara Prefecture upriver was bare because of logging. There is a report which says that the disaster was caused by over logging. What do you think about this point?
While it might be one of the causes of the disaster, I think the movement to protect the mountains in Kumano from natural disasters led by Mr Minakata Kumagusu (1867 - 1941), a great man from Tanabe City, had an effect on saving the mountains. In 1889, we had a big flood but thanks to the concern of people, we are able to have the present Hongu Shrine.
I see. Next, Mr Tanaka from Yoshino, please. He is the person who made a great effort
to make the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range become
registered as a world heritage site. He worked for Kinpusenji Temple in Yoshino for
many years, he played a great role as a manager and head of its religious division, and
he is a venerable elder of the temple now. He doesn’t live in Yoshino but in Ayabe.
(Applause from the floor)
Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range consists of three sacred
sites which are Yoshino, Kumano, and Koya, and it was registered as one of the world
heritage sites. Before it was registered there were separate movements. There had been
a movement in which people wanted Kumano Nachi Taisha or Nachi Waterfalls to be registered as world heritage sites. In Koyasan we had seen the same movement that Koyasan
should be a world heritage site. About Kumano Kodo, there was the same movement as
But these movements didn’t work well. On the other hand, Kimpusen-ji Temple in Yoshino where I worked had many kinds of historical assets, but these assets were not well known to the public. I hit on the idea that I would like these precious assets to be known to the world, and I applied to the World Heritage Committee for the registration of Kimpusen-ji Temple. Yoshino was the last to have applied for the registration following the previous three movements. As a result, these four separate movements became one big movement by which Yoshino-Omine, Koya and Kumano were registered as one aggregation of world heritage sites in 2004. If I had not applied, the present situation would have changed in its figures and the registration would not have been realized. Just six months after I applied, the application of registration of these sacred sites as one aggregation was on the table of the cultural world heritage committee and was examined to be deliberated upon. It took only four and half years for these sites to be registered from the time of the first application. This is the world record in terms of the period of admission by the committee. People said that this was just like a TV commercial by Canon.
(Laughter from the floor)
This is the background of the registration process. I worked on the application as one of my jobs for Kimpusen-ji Temple.
I would like to introduce Yoshino Omine and Kimpusen-ji Temple. I guess that most people from the Kanto region have not seen mountain priests. I have brought a promotion video of Kimpusen-ji Temple so that all of you here will get some image of mountain priests. This video was made by a movie director from Nara prefecture, Ms Kawase Naomi who won a grand-prix award in the Cannes movie festival. I talked for 45 minutes in front of Ms Kawase for this video, but I was seen for only four seconds.
(Laughter from the floor)
This video gives you some image of Kimpusen-ji Temple and the photo of my face. The face is so large that it appears even in your dreams. Please enjoy the video.
The narration was wonderful.
Is that person Director Kawase?
Yes, it is her.
Wow, that’s great.
In her series of movies "Beautiful Japan" which are works number 24 and 25, the video
has no musical sound effects.
There are only one or two videos without sound, and she said this is the best.
(Laughter from the floor)
I hope the video will give you a brief introduction for me. Let’s have a good symposium today.
(Applause from the floor)
The Kii mountain range has had places of faith and training for the mountain monks
from ancient times, and the places have been extensively connected to each other by
trails. Accordingly, this aggregation of faiths and training was integrated into a broad
network of religions in Kumano. Speaking of Kumano sanro, it meant to seclude
yourself in the mountains in Kumano. I think the purpose of Kumano sanro was to get
some enlightenment from deities through training, dreams and prayers. As the result of
research and surveys, many training grounds for mountain monks were found all over
the Kii Peninsula, and at the center of the network, the Omine "Okugake-do" trail is
The Omine Okugake trail runs from Yoshino Omine to Hongu Taisha. We cannot emphasize enough that the religious history of Japan is based on the efforts and activities of ancient people like En-no-gyoja (born in 634) of the 7th century. Mr Tanaka, would you explain what Shugendo (mountain asceticism) is like?
In Shugendo there are three major features.
The first is mountain religion. It means you lie down in the mountains and in the fields.
The training ground for the religion is nature. Nature is like a training school.
The second is pragmatism without being caught up in faiths of different religions.
Shugen is to get something through living activities and training in nature. By Shugen, people get some magical power called genriki. It is enlightenment from deities or some inspiration from your inner self. No barrier occurs between different religions. Monks and priests from different Buddhist sects or Shinto sects get together and walk the trails to have training here in this region. In this respect, the sites of Yoshino Omine, Koya, and Kumano are open to everyone who wants to get something.
The third is that Shugendo is a kind of polytheism where even Buddha and Kami, Shinto gods, coexist. Let me talk about this later.
(Applause from the floor)
Ms Kawasaki, will you introduce yourself for the end of the first session, please.
Thank you for introducing me. My name is Kawasaki Hitomi, and I study and do
research on bonsai in Kyoto. Thank you for inviting me to this symposium today.
Speaking of bonsai, there are two ways of appreciating bonsai. One is the pleasure of growing bonsai trees and plants, and the other is to enjoy seeing and admiring them.
When I tell people that I am studying and researching bonsai, people usually ask me how many bonsai plants I have. This means that only the pleasure of growing is known to people.
To grow trees and plants you should water them every day, and it is quite hard to look after them when you are busy with other things. But the busiest people can enjoy bonsai if they come to know the pleasure of appreciation.
This is about a 200-year-old black pine tree. More than one-hundred-year old bonsai trees are called densho bonsai, which are passed down to people from generation to generation. In bonsai exhibitions these kind of densho bonsai trees are often displayed. I invite people to know the pleasure of bonsai. In any case, when I am asked what bonsai is, I usually show one easy-to-understand definition of bonsai which is known to the public.
"Bonsai is a way of gardening plants and trees in a pot or a bowl. Usually in the course of growing trees and plants, you should consider the shape and the arrangements in the containers for those trees and plants to be seen as if they exist in nature. This is a highly sophisticated art of gardening. The definition of bonsai is complicated because of the differing ways of viewing by individuals, but it is a spectacular art of works in which a plant would be passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years." (Mori Kazuo: Eastern Asia Wildlife Research Organization )
I am often asked about the difference of bonsai from just growing trees and plants in a bowl or pots. Bonsai copies nature. But when you copy nature to bonsai, you don’t reproduce it just for the sake of the copying of it. The key point of doing bonsai is that if you have a pine tree, you should make it look more like a pine tree than just what the form of the pine tree has. It is important to express your way of thinking and understanding about nature asking yourself what nature is like. I think this way of thinking and understanding should be carried out in bonsai. This is the difference.
There is another important point. We should reproduce a good environment of the geological system. This makes the environment in the pot to return to the conditions in which bacteria and microorganisms can be active. The world of bonsai has this kind of thinking for procedure and consideration.
There is a question. Which does bonsai belong to, art or gardening? Both are true to the answer. I think bonsai is not only art but science. When the word bonsai is described in Chinese Kanji characters as in 園芸 ( engei ), I think it is easier for you to understand bonsai as in both art and science.
I work as a bonsai researcher under the title of "modern bonsai." In April of 2017, there was a world bonsai exhibition. "Modern bonsai" has become a keyword in some field of business. Since then a lot of new styles of bonsai and something similar to bonsai were presented. With such a trend, I wondered how to evaluate bonsai as my research object.
When I evaluate bonsai, I have three major criteria of evaluation.
1. Whether the bonsai displays or exhibits respect to nature 2. Whether the bonsai is able to live a long life 3. Whether the bonsai is made to appear big though it is small One of the goals of my work is how to make people realize their misunderstanding of bonsai. When I refer to bonsai, people always say I am interested in and enjoy old things.
Bonsai has a long history, and the object is living plants. One of the purposes of bonsai is how to make plants in pots and bowls live a long time. So, in a sense, we work on bonsai using the latest skills and devices in the same way doctors do to their patients.
The concept and knowledge of bonsai develops day by day and year by year. I work on bonsai regarding it as on the cutting edge of things.
Did bonsai originate in Japan?
Bonsai originated in China. This is the oldest wall picture in the world which is in the
tomb of a son of Empress Wu Zetian. Some plants on the rock in the pot are seen in the
picture. This is said to be the oldest datum of bonsai. Why was Bonsai born in China?
There is a belief called Taoism in China. It is one of the beliefs of the commoners.
Monks and believers of Tao have training for the purpose of becoming hermits in the mountains. As you well know, sansui mountain watercolors tries to give a concrete picture of the fantastic and imaginary scenes of utopia in the mountains.
Drawings and pictures are two-dimensional works. Then, people began to express things using objects as three-dimensional representations. That became expressed in gardens later. Moreover, people tried to make gardens exist in the pots as if it were in utopia. Bonkei, the potted natural scenery, came about in this way.
In this sense, you could say that bonsai and bonkei started as one of the religious arts.
Bonkei in China is said to have been introduced to Japan in the Heian era. This photo is the oldest datum of bonsai in Japan. It is a picture scroll of the story of the Buddhist priest Saigyo.
In those days when bonkei came to Japan, people copied Chinese bonkei. People liked to grow trees and plants on rocks. They prepared a wooden rack and put a rock on it and grew trees and plants on top. Currently, this style is called Ishizuki Bonsai in which trees and plants are attached to rocks.
Here I have another famous picture scroll. This is the Kasuga Taisha Gongen (incarnation of a deity) picture scroll.
It shows the scene of a garden which belongs to a noble man. There are Ishizuki Bonsai and Bonseki on a wooden rack which is similar to Chinese Bonkei. In those days, these were not called bonsai but Bonsan. Hence, Chinese Bonkei began to change to Japanese bonsai which has a unique flavor and appearance.
There is another picture scroll made in 1351 in the era of the Northern and Southern Dynasty in Japan. It was made about fifty years after the Kasuga Taisha Gongen picture scroll was made. The bonsai in the picture scroll shows a style which looks similar to the modern style of today. This is the photo of the picture scroll.
When we take a comparative look at these picture scrolls, we understand that Chinese Bonkei developed into Japanese bonsai. And, in the course of its development, Japanese people began to respect or worship the divine trees seen in shrine grounds. As a researcher, I think that their attitude may derive from worship of gigantic trees in nature.
I guess some of you wonder why we have a bonsai expert and researcher in this symposium. But I think bonsai has something to do with a perspective of the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range.
Bonsai is "a world of tastes or hobbies." The viewing or thinking point of bonsai differs from person to person. However, in terms of universal values, it can be said that the older and the more antiquated the bonsai becomes, the higher and the better its value becomes. I think this longevity of bonsai may derive from the worship of gigantic trees and the belief in animism which arouses awe inspiring feelings.
Speaking of the synchronization of Shintoism and Buddhism, I found it difficult to study because I didn’t have enough information or data. Today I have come here expecting to get some ideas or advice for my work. Thank you.
Thank you. We look forward to a good outcome.
<Sacred Sites and Trails>
I have learned that Mr. Tanaka played an important role in regard to the registration of the sites and routes in the world heritage list while listening to his introduction.
If I didn’t refer to it, there would be someone who says he had done it. In fact, there are
three people who declare that they have done it. So, I would like you to know that the
success of the registration owes a lot to me.
(Laughter from the floor)
By the way, I hear that you have some complaint about the title of "Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range."
Exactly. It’s true that I have had a big complaint about that. I have often heard people
say that Kumano Kodo became designated as one of the world heritage sites with little
difficulty. I have been invited to attend conferences and symposiums about 70 times as
a guest speaker in the year Kumano Kodo became a world heritage site. When the
organizers invited me, they always said that they would like me to attend and talk
because the Kumano Kodo had become a world heritage site. I answered in this way, "I
don’t know much about Kumano Kodo, but I can talk about Yoshino Omine." Then,
they would say, "That’s okay." In this context I think that Yoshino Omine is treated as
an insignificant and extra title. The reason is from the title of Sacred Sites and
Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range. The Kii Mountain Range consists of the
Kishu domain and Ise domain. The word Kii in Kanji characters is made out of the first
character of these two domains which is Ki 紀 and I 伊. But it does not contain either
Koya nor Yoshino. And, hey… speaking of the logo mark made by three prefectures, it
only shows three mountains. This describes the Kii Peninsula just from the perspective
of Kumano Sanzan. It neglects Koya and Yoshino.
(Laughter from the floor)
In addition, this world heritage site is made out of three sacred sites and pilgrimage routes. Kumano Kodo is surely included in the routes and the Choishi-michi trail to Koyasan is also included. The Choishi-michi trail which was surveyed by Prof.
Murakami was registered last year. In Yoshino we have the Omine Okugake trail.
It is certain that the Kumano Kodo and Choishi-michi trails are pilgrimage routes, but the Omine Okugake trail is not a pilgrimage route. That trail is used for the training of mountain priests. If you walk the trail as pilgrims, you will be attacked and eaten by bears.
(Laughter from the floor)
It is the trail for monks and priests to train themselves at the risk of their life. It starts from Yoshino and reaches Kumano. When you start from Kumano, you reach Yoshino.
In a sense, the trail gives you the image of a pilgrimage. The purpose of walking the trail is not to worship nor to give prayers to deities but to have self-training in the mountains. The trail is the place of training. Therefore, Omine Okugake trail is not included in the pilgrimage routes. In these respects, I had a complaint and talked about it years ago.
Incidentally, how many times have you walked Omine Okugake trail, Mr Tanaka?
Seventeen times. I didn’t like to walk in the mountains, but I had to walk there.
Recently someone said to me, "you don’t have to walk." Then, I haven’t walked so often.
(Laughter from the floor)
You walked the trail seventeen times. It’s amazing! Would you talk a bit about what the Omine Okugake trail is like?
As I mentioned some minutes ago, the Omine Okugake trail is not a pilgrimage trail but
a place for training. It connects Yoshino with Kumano. It is different from other trails
by which you can go to shrines or temples to get blessings from their deities.
For example, while you are walking, you must have training or spiritual practices called gyo on some scary high cliff walls like Nabiki. There are 75 Nabiki now, but in the old days there were more than a hundred and tens of places which were thought of as holy training ones for asceticism. En-no-gyoja, who is a founder of asceticism, also trained himself in those places.
The trail starting from Kumano to Yoshino is called Jun-no-mine ( mine means peak), and the one from Yoshino to Kumano is Gyaku-no-mine even though they are the same trail. To the north from Mt Shakadake there is a praying place called Ryomine-wake.
The praying place divides two peaks at its top. The Yoshino area, north from the top is called Kongokai symbolizing the masculine world, and the Kumano area, south from the top is called Taizokai symbolizing the feminine world. When these two worlds join each other, the sacred world appears.
Monks, priests and ascetics practice training in the world of esoteric teachings. Among these peaks there are Fugendake, Shakadake and Dainichidake, each of which have Buddhist names. When you walk the trails in these peaks, you feel as if you travel in the world of mandalas.
Prof. Murakami. Would you talk a little bit about the newly registered Choishi-michi route?
Is it okay to continue the introduction of myself from that point of reference?
(Laughter from the floor)
When I went to Koyasan in 1990, I considered what sort of study I should do. The study of Kukai was at the center of my study, but I knew there were more things to study in addition to Kukai. That was because I think of religions as alive and changing year after year. This cannot be explained by logic. I thought about how I could prove that religions are alive and changing. Then, I started to study with the theme of "Faith and the Way."
Speaking of faith, it does not exist in front of the altar in your house, but in order to be faithful to some gods you must go to shrines or temples to give prayers; walking there to give prayers or by making a pilgrimage. This was to become the theme of my study.
I started it in 1991. Some of the staff in Koyasan University got involved in it because, hey..., I was afraid of walking alone by myself on the trails.
(Laughter from the floor)
Anyway, I had to walk in the high one-thousand-meter class mountains. If I had walked alone, I would have lost my life. Then, we walked in a group ringing bells to keep bears away. I walked with about twenty people including our staff and people from the town of Koya two or three times a year.
There are seven trails leading to Koyasan. Of course, there are a lot of other trails unworthy of walking.
(Laughter from the floor)
There is an old trail of faith which is thought of as the trail that Kukai used when he walked down from Koyasan. This is one of the Choishi-michi trails that starts from Kinokawa River and leads to Koyasan. He walked to Koyasan from Yoshino and walked down to Amano where there is Nyutsuhime Shrine. I am sure that he must have walked that old trail.
There is another trail of faith which leads to Kumano. It is called Kohechi. I walked these two routes before walking other routes. After I walked, I kept the record of my journey and wrote articles for the newspaper of religion issued twice a month by the Shingon sect of Buddhism in Koyasan. The title of the article was The Way to Koyasan. I got some payments for the manuscripts and saved them to spend when we went to onsen hot springs in a group. I thought, "If I did it this way, I could continue to work on my study over time. In this way, I walked in various areas for about five years.
My original manuscript for the world heritage sites is based on these experiences.
I didn’t think of the world heritage at that time. I had just thought that I would enjoy walking the trails of faith, but looking back over the days, ah… how many minutes have passed?
(Laughter from the floor)
There is a trail which starts from Koya and leads to Kumano. There remained a wonderful trail at that time. One day when we walked along it on and on, the trail was cut off by Koya Skyline Highway. But there still remained a path along the ridgeway.
It was a beautiful autumn day. As the leaves of trees fell in autumn, we could see far to the end of the mountain ranges and had a great view. While walking, we heard some sounds.
We went close to the place of the sound, and we saw a bulldozer destroying the trail.
Some years later the word ‘world heritage’ was seen and heard. But I was disappointed in the fact that the old trail was destroyed here and there. All of those places around there worthy of walking were damaged and destroyed. This was the beginning of my study.
I believe that the success of the registration owes a lot to Mr Tanaka. Though I am not a match for Mr Tanaka, I have written some articles about five or six trails leading to Koya. Some people in Koyasan say that the articles helped a lot when they applied for the registration of the world heritage sites. I am here for this reason today. Later I think I will talk about the true meaning of the Sacred Sites and the Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range. It is a theme of religious studies. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Prof. Murakami. As a matter of fact, today’s speakers are
Well, Mr Kuki, the Kumano Kodo has become very famous. Do you have any comments on it?
As you listened to Mr Tanaka’s lecture, I guess you have gotten to know that many
people think the sacred sites of the Kii mountain range equates the Kumano Kodo partly
because the choice of the title of the world heritage.
Along the Kumano Kodo, ninety-nine oji shrines were made along the trail from Osaka to Tanabe and from Tanabe to Kumano Nachi Taisha through Kumano Hongu Taisha and Kumano Hayatama Taisha (In reality more than 99 oji shrines were made.) Even today deities are enshrined in these oji shrines which play a role as road markers for safe travel.
It was after the seventeenth century that the pilgrimage to Kumano became explosively popular among ordinary people, and accordingly, the Kumano faith began to spread all over to the country. They say that there are about four thousand Kumano branch shrines from Hokkaido to the Okinawa islands. Why are there so many?
Kumano is an area with broad-minded thinking, and it has accepted all people whether
they were men or women, rich or poor, as well as pure or impure. It was not until the
year 907 when the abdicated Emperor Uda made the pilgrimage to Kumano that the
pilgrimage became popular. The pilgrimages by abdicated Emperor Kazan and retired
emperor Shirakawa were carried out hundreds and tens of times for more than 300 years
In addition, one of the reasons the pilgrimage became popular was Fudaraku-tokai. (It is a religious practice of self-sacrifice carried out in medieval times. A monk undertaking this practice would set out to sea in a small, single-sailed boat without oars or rudders in the hope of arriving at the southern paradise of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.) Kumano is located in the southern tip of the Kii Peninsula, and according to some old journals, this practice was carried out over twenty times by monks between the year 868 to the Edo era.
Local lore suggests that the boat of sacrifice drifted on the Black Current to some lands, and the Kumano deities were enshrined in those lands. In Okinawa there are eight Ryukyu shrines, and seven of them are named Kumano shrines.
The fact that there are many Kumano shrines along the coasts of Chiba, Fukushima and Aichi prefectures is another reason.
Chiba has the largest in number among prefectures. It has 270 Kumano shrines. Other than this, in the medieval era a lot of manors were donated to these places by powerful and influential people of the country, and Kumano shrines were built at such places.
Prof. Murakami, do you have any comments on the pilgrimage routes?
According to Mr. Tanaka, the sacred sites and the pilgrimage routes are not places for
training or practices. I think this is a way of modern thinking. Speaking of roads, we
think they are just the path we walk on or go along by bus. In common sense, roads are
connectors which connect one spot with other spot. Why did I walk the seven
pilgrimage routes of Koya with the theme of the trail of faith?
If you walk there, you will understand the reason. As a matter of fact, walking itself is a spiritual or mental training. For example, even aristocrats like Michinaga and Yorimichi Fujiwara got out of their palanquins and climbed up the slope from Jison-in Temple to Koyasan. Michinaga, who was a chief adviser to the Emperor, walked with straw sandals on. The distance was about eighteen kilometers. Every one hundred meters along the slope there was a choishi-michi road marker. This fact shows the road itself is the place of training.
In the 14th century there was the Emperor, Gouda. As long as an emperor kept his throne, he was not allowed to go out (leave the palace grounds) freely. After he retired from the throne, he could go anywhere.
Some went to onsen hot springs: others walked pilgrimage trails. After Emperor Gouda retired, he climbed up the slope with 180 Choishi-michi road markers from Jison-in Temple. He climbed up the slope kneeling down and giving prayers at every choishi-michi road marker. He walked all through the night in spite of rain or thunder.
He fainted because of cold and fatigue in the end.
Many of his attendants and servants walked with him. One of them asked the ex-emperor to ride in the palanquin, and he got very angry saying that he was in the middle of training to go to the feet of Kukai (Kobo-daishi).
Emperor Gouda fainted but, early in the morning of the next day he succeeded in climbing up to the top. To the ex-emperor, walking the trail giving prayers at every road marker site was a pilgrimage.
Just to connect point A with point B by road in one line was referred to a minute ago.
You can go from one point to another by car. This is not a pilgrimage road. It is just a road. Walking and stepping upon the road step by step itself holds meaning. This can take the shape of faith or belief. I myself also realized it after I walked the trail.
Therefore, the walking of the routes is accompanied by faith and training. From that standpoint, what I wanted to convey is that I thought "Training and Pilgrimage Route" should have been included.
What do you think of this point, Mr Tanaka?
(Laughter from the floor)
How about you, Ms Kawasaki?
To tell the truth, when I was asked to give a speech for this symposium, I had not
walked the trail yet. I applied for a plan of walking with some organization, but because
of a previous typhoon, I could not walk. When I decided to walk, I did a lot of research
about the trail. Let me talk about that.
As the result of my research, I found that there were a lot of brochures about the trail, and each of the three prefectures had its own perspective in them.
I thought there were too much information to understand about the trail, and I felt that most of these perspectives gave somewhat administrative aspects of the local governments.
If you really want to walk the trail, just one good map which highlights attractive points will do, because people think carrying too many things is unnecessary when you walk.
It’s better to carry lighter loads for walking. As a pilgrim, I expect authorities to create proper data and applications about the pilgrimage.
As mentioned before, each prefecture of Mie, Nara and Wakayama have worked on the
projects of the sacred sites and the pilgrimage routes in their own way. This is the point
which makes it somewhat difficult to decide where to go in order to feel something in
Kumano. In addition, even in Mie prefecture there are Hanano-iwaya and Ubuta-jinja
Shrine which are deeply related to the Kumano-sanzan, but they are separated by the
Today a large audience has attended here on a Saturday all the way from different areas in spite of busy schedules. Nobody has even tried to leave their seats. I believe this shows everyone who is here wants to get something from this symposium. So, I expect the administrators and authorities to think of what I have brought up in this symposium.
Since I live in Tokyo, I have a very mysterious image of Kumano. I think the "Kumano
boom" happened at every turning point in history.
For example, the time when the concept or the word Kumano came out was the time Emperor Jimmu created Japan, and Japan’s history started. The time of the Hogen and the Heiji war in 12th century was also a turning point in history. It was the time the ancient regime changed to medieval times.
Ex-emperor Gotoba had a dream in which he got a message from Kumano deities that said there would be a disastrous war in the coming year.
In the 21st century, the Sacred Sites and the Pilgrimage Routes became one of the world heritage sites. Kumano booms seem to appear at every one thousand years in history.
Mr.Kuki, what do people gain by making a pilgrimage to Kumano?
First is rebirth. When people start to work on something new, they visit Kumano. They visit Kumano to know where they have come from and where they will go. Then, they proceed to the future. In this sense, Kumano might be a place they can get something spiritual to rely on.
Aristocrats who lost their power in the royal court by political maneuvering often escaped to Kumano. Among these aristocrats only Oamano-oji did not lose his power in the war of Jinshin in the 7th century. Minamoto Yoshitsune came in the 12th century Kamakura era. In the 14th century (Northern and Southern Dynasty Court era), ex-emperor Godaigo fled to Yoshino and died there. But whether it was Yoshino or Kumano, people have an image of rebirth or a place to re-issue a challenge, I suppose. I imagine people feel the power of renewal and rebirth deep in the mountain ranges of Kii Peninsula amidst inspiring nature.
Oyunohara has the shape of a womb. When people go there, they can get rid of the bad feelings in their real lives and purify themselves with water in the river as a means to restart their lives. They go into a new world where they can experience rebirth through prayer. Then, in the end, they can return to their ordinary lives.
The practice of Yoshino asceticism called Okugake Shugyo started by purification with
water in the Yoshino River and ended up with the purification in the Otonashi River
which ran at the back of the old site of Hongu Taisha until the Meiji flood. To be born
in water and to return to water is called a "mock death" rebirthing in Shugen practice.
Getting some spiritual power by experiencing a "mock death" and rebirth was thought of as one way of training in Shugen.
Kukai is the person that gave a great influence to Buddhist society in Japan. He also
practiced Shugen-mountain asceticism. But he felt strange when he found a lot of
random information and knowledge, and he tried to introduce a formal esoteric
Buddhism directly from China’s Tang Dynasty.
He went over to China in 804 as a mission member to the Tang Dynasty. He founded Kongobuji Temple in Koyasan in 816 two years after he came back from China. It is said that many great people came to Kumano. But, are there any records or journals which show that Kukai went to Kumano?
There are no records of a visit to Kumano by Kukai though there are some records of the visits by ex-emperors. Nyutsuhime Shrine is deeply related to Kukai.
Old records remain which says that Kukai traveled from Yoshino to Tenkawa for one day and went westward for two days and that he found Koyasan. But it may not be possible to say that he went southward to Kumano.
I don’t think he went to Kumano. He did not.
(Laughter from the floor)
You can go anywhere you like by car these days. In those days people had to walk. To go to Kumano you had to walk over the mountains. Walking over the mountains in that area needed some permits. Walking over the mountains meant that you would trespass on the territories or properties of others. Without a permit, you were not allowed to do that.
The area Kukai walked was mostly the one along the Kinokawa River. Each river has its own deity. If the river is different, the deity is different. Deities of the mountains are different. Therefore Kukai were allowed to walk in the mountains along Kinokawa River, but he could not walk in the mountains of Kumano.
Thinking in this way, I believe he never went to Kumano. However, he went to Mt Misen in regards to Benten (goddess Saraswati).
<Shinbutsu-shugo (Syncretization of Shintoism and Buddhism)>
Now, let’s talk about Shinbutsu-shugo.
Daibutsu (a gigantic Buddhist statue) in Todaiji Temple was built in Nara in the Nara era of eighth century. Usa-hachimangu Shrine in Kyushu played an important role in this project. Because of this fact, it seems natural to think that Shinbutsu-shugo had already existed in the 8th century. Ms Kawasaki, as bonsai is related to the view of the world, I think it has something to do with faith and religion. Do you sometimes have a feeling that Shinbutsu-shugo is felt in a variety of occasions including in our daily lives?
My feeling toward Shinbutsu-shugo seems to consist of the following things. There is
an altar of a Shinto deity in my house. Our family goes and prays at our local Shinto
shrine on the first day of every month. I used to visit our ancestor’s Buddhist grave
monthly until the time I started to do club activities during my junior high school days.
In this sense, I think I was brought up surrounded by the Shinbutsu-shugo environment.
To the contrary, the time I felt the separation of Shintoism and Buddhism was when I went to a private senior high school. My school was founded by a religious corporation of Buddhism in Kyoto. There are many schools of such kind in Kyoto. In these schools students learn the history of Buddhism and religions in general. They go to the prayer hall to pray once a week. When they graduate, some of them graduate with a Buddhist name. Through attending classes and activities, I learned the difference between Shintoism and Buddhism. I had been raised in the mixture of Shinto gods and Buddhist gods up until that time. In my mind they had co-existed, but I came to know their separation by school education.
I see. In Kyoto people usually go to their family graveyard as you did since the time they were little. Right?
Yes. My family was one branch of a nuclear family lifestyle, but it was a family with an old and traditional style of thinking. This atmosphere gave me a feeling that I should go to our graveyard as a kind of duty. I was brought up in this way.
Thank you Ms Kawasaki. Mr Kuki, speaking of Shinbutsu-shugo, do you have any comment on it? And, do you feel it in your heart or in mind?
I am not sure what I feel about it but, when we hold our Shinto festivals, both esoteric
priests and Buddhist priests participate in them. People have passed down these holy
practices from generation to generation though the times change.
This tradition doesn’t change. When Buddhist priests come to our shrine, they usually come with their parishioners whether they belong to different sects or not. That is to say Kami (Shinto gods) and Hotoke (Buddhist deities) coexist in our way of thinking. We have Shinto priests and Buddhist priests as well in our daily lives in that sense. There was the time when Buddhist priests administered the Kumano Sanzan as "Kumano Betto" (the title of an official who administered the shrines of Kumano).
In the nineteenth century, there was a movement to abolish Buddhism called Haibutsu Kishaku. Since then Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples have been separated until the present day, but it seems difficult to think of these two religions as separate ones from the standpoint of Shinto shrines.
What do you think of that, Prof. Murakami?
I don’t remember clearly when I actually felt Shinbutsu-shugo in my heart because I
have a strong tendency to forget things these days.
(Laughter from the floor)
Probably the concept of Shinbutsu-shugo or the image of Kami and Hotoke formed a part of my knowledge in my junior high school days. But, I didn’t know what they were like.
I understand what they are now thanks to my age-long experience. For example, when you visit a Buddhist temple, you can see a Shinto shrine there. There are quite a few old Buddhist temples which have Shinto shrines in their precincts. Speaking of Buddhist temples established in the Heian era, Koyasan has Nyutsuhime Shrine which is Shinto, and Hie Jinja of Shinto belongs to the Tendai sect of Buddhism. May I talk a little bit about Buddhism?
(Laughter from the floor)
You may have heard the word Nanden-Bukkyo (Southeast Asian Buddhism).
It was transmitted to Myanmar in the 11 th century. In its scriptures there is a phrase of Buddha which says that you should enshrine your local Kami and pray. Yes, this is a local deity. You know this practice was carried out around the area of the River Ganges in India. Accordingly, it was transmitted to Japan I guess. Therefore, I think that it is not strange to worship Buddha and local deities at the same time. It is a natural thinking according to Nanden-Bukkyo.
Kukai was given Koyasan by Nyutsuhime Shrine, and then he founded Kongobuji Temple. It means that he did not receive a permit for founding Kongobuji, but that if he didn’t enshrine Nyutsuhime, he could not have established Kongobuji because there would not have been a local deity there.
This is why Buddhist temples and local deity shrines coexist as one set. It is true to say about Hie-jinja Shrine which enshrines Saicho. What did they do when Koyasan expanded its power along the Kinokawa river? They introduced Nyutsuhime shrines here and there. By enshrining Nyutsuhime, they could expand their territories through power and faith.
It means they pushed forward their power mentally and spiritually into ordinary life.
Therefore Shinbutsu-shugo has two phases. One is a phase of religion, and the other is one of political administration. Jinja (Shinto shrines) and Tera (Buddhist temples) coexist as of in the ruling class and the ruled ones.
In Shinbutsu-shugo there is a thesis called Honchi-suijaku in which Kami is said to be the incarnation of Amida Buddha. In order to understand Shinbutsu-shugo understanding Honchi-suijaku is one of the important factors.
May I speak? When do I feel Shinbutsu-shugo?
Yes. Please, please. Asceticism is the origin of Shinbutsu-shugo.
I mentioned it a couple of times from my experience. There is a practice called
Omine-okugake training. You start from Zao-do hall in Yoshino and go to Mizuwake
Shrine which is the first training place. Then, you receive purification from a Shinto
priest to keep the evil spirits away there. After purification, your practice is carried out
in the mountains, and you end up with reaching Hongu Taisha in Kumano after going
over Mt Sanjo-ga-dake and Mt Shakadake or other mountains. You finish completing
your practice in Hongu in Kumano, and then you visit Kumano-sanzan by bus from
In the world of Omine-okugake training your practice doesn’t distinguish Shintoism from Buddhism. Though I have experienced the practice only seventeen times, I have a feeling that Shinbutsu-shugo still remains in this area.
Next, I will talk about another thing. This photo shows our principal image of Buddha.
We display it to the public once a year, as it is a secret image hidden by a screen called Tobari. This statue is called Zao-gongen. It has a furious look and is an incarnation of three Buddhist deities. It is a temporal Shinto figure incarnated from Buddhist deities.
These deities are Buddha in the center, Kannon-bodhisattva on the right and Miroku-bodhisattva on the left. The history of Kinpusen-ji Temple derives from the fact that En-no-Gyoja, the founder of mountain asceticism, secured some inspiration from Zao-gongen.
Anyway, not only Buddha and Kannon but also Miroku-bodhisattva are all from foreign countries. According to En-no-Gyoja, Zao-gongen appeared from inside of a huge rock in Omine in the temporal figure of the above three deities when En-no-gyoja gave a prayer wishing to overcome evil spirits. Gongen appears according to an occasion, a place or an era.
This is Gongen. It is Kami that appears from inside of a rock. So, Buddha, Kannon and Miroku are the foreign deities. The foreign deities appeared in the figure of Japanese Kami. This is an exact example of the syncretization of Shintoism and Buddhism. The more you learn mountain asceticism, the more deeply you understand what syncretization and Shinbutsu-shugo are.
Thank you, Mr.Tanaka. Mr.Kuki, what do you think of the story by Mr.Tanaka?
In Kumano we have worshiped Shinto gods from ancient times and at the same time we
have accepted Buddhism as Kumano-Gongen. Mountain priests in Omine visited Kumano Hongu Taisha very frequently and had a training there from the Nara era. Then, the way of
thinking, Honchi-suijaku (Buddha as the prime phenomenon and a god as the
manifestation) was settled.
In Hongu Taisha we worship the Shinto god, Ketsumiko-no-okami as the incarnation of the Buddhist deity, Amitabha. When we talk about Shinbutsu-shugo, we refer to a deity incarnated from Kami. In this way we think Kami, the Shinto gods and Hotoke, the Buddhist deities, are syncretized.
Fujiwara Michinaga was referred to a while ago. Michinaga lived in the 11th century
when a lot of things happened. Shugendo, mountain asceticism became very popular. I
think the reason is due to Mappo-shiso (the belief in coming of the end of the world).
They were told that the end of the world would start in the year 1052.
In fact many things happened, and the world was disturbed and went into turbulent times after that year. The commoners seemed to run about in utter confusion. What do you think of this point, Mr Tanaka?
Yes, many things happened in the 11th century. People made pilgrimages to holy mountains as well as going on pilgrimages to Kumano. Noble people went to Koya or Yoshino or Kumano at the risk of their lives all the way from Kyoto. I presume the reason is due not only to Gensei-rieki (benefits obtained in this world through observance of the Buddhist teachings) but also something like Raisei-rieki (benefits obtained in the next world).
Is it the faith in Pure Land Buddhism, for example?
Yes. With such faith people made pilgrimages at the risk of their lives. This was one of the factors of making pilgrimages, I think.
Prof. Murakami. How about you?
Mappo-shiso is the "end of the world" faith. It means that the world of the teachings of
Buddha will come to an end. No one is saved by Buddha, and there is no way toward
Then everyone wants to be saved by something. In the end, this confusion developed into the Amitabha faith. Therefore, even in Koyasan, Amitabha faith became popular in the 11th century. Most principle images in temples in Koyasan are Amitabha even today.
The Amitabha faith is easy to understand. It is said that Amitabha bodhisattva appears when people are on their deathbed. According to the faith, people will be saved when they chant the sutra Namu-amida-butsu.
This is very easy to understand and has no complicated teachings. This faith is easy for people to rely on. I think this is the reason the Amitabha faith was born. In the teachings of the Shingon sect of Buddhism we do not have Mappo-shiso because Shingon is based on Sokushinjo-butsu (attainment of enlightenment in this very existence) faith.
But doesn’t it have a big influence on the Pure Land buddhism?
Even in Koyasan, there were many priests who ran about for the Amitabha faith chanting Namu-amida-butsu. I doubt if they believed in Sokushinjo-butsu faith. Mappo faith was not subsisting in teachings of the Shingon sect.
Mr Kuki. Kumano is not the exception in regards to the influence (of Amitabha faith), is it? Three deities in Kumano Sanzan seems to have its influence. They seemed to have a strong Buddhist influence. The influence was intensified from the 10th century to the 11th century. In fact, there was a big influence from the Amitabha faith, wasn’t there?
Yes. I think so, too. As you know well, the main deity of Hongu Taisha is Susanoo
which is Ketsumiko-no-okami, but the principle image is Amitabha. Due to the
Amitabha faith, very many people made pilgrimages to Kumano by walking over
multitudes of mountains.
But, when the movement of Haibutsu-kishaku (the movement to abolish Buddhism) was ranging over the country, many Buddhist images and statues were looted from the temples. Some of them were burned, and others were destroyed and thrown into the Kumano River.
There was the Amitabha faith in Kumano Hongu. In Nachi, the main deity is Izanami which is Senju-Kannon with one thousands hands. But, the Kannon faith also changed.
In this way Kumano Sanzan had a great influence from the Amitabha faith in those days. Kumano is based on Shintoism, but it introduced Shinbutsu-shugo faith, and it was reborn into something new.
Yoshino has a variety of faiths in that sense. Michinaga went to Kinpusen-ji Temple and
buried kyozutsu (a cylindrical container in which sacred scriptures are placed) in 1008.
But during the time when the main pagoda of Kinpusen-ji Temple was being repaired, he dug it out. His wish in the kyozutsu was written to Miroku (Maitreya Bodhisattva).
There was a belief in which people believed that Miroku would appear and save them 5 billion 670 million years after Buddha died.
Though there are many places where mountain priests make mystical waka poems along the trail of Omine, the word Amitabha Jodo (Pure Land of Amitabha) is frequently seen in their poems. One of the famous poems is a poem made in front of the copper gate at Hosshinmon Oji.
A mountain priest expresses the joy of entering the Amitabha Jodo in his poem.
As I am touching the copper gate in Yoshino, I would be able to enter the pure land of Amitabha at last. What a joyful feeling! Many mountain priests made the poems of the Amitabha Jodo over a span of a thousand years.
In this sense, I think Yoshino is the place where a variety of beliefs and faith were accepted.
I see, that makes sense.
Talking of Amitabha faith, I remember the word rokuji-myogo. This word is made out
of six letters which goes, Na, Mu, Ami, Da, Butsu.
There is a legend that Kukai wrote the six letters on a wooden board. Though Priest Ippen brought the Amitabha faith to Koyasan, disciples of priest Honen chanted the word here and there in Koyasan. Many priests of the Shingon sect complained about the fact that those disciples are very noisy as they rang a gong and a drummed when they chanted. Due to these stories, it is certain that the Amitabha faith was popular all over Koyasan in those days.
As to the graves, Koyasan is making a living thanks to them, isn’t it? Koyasan is full of hundreds of thousands of graves.
That is a different point.
Miroku Bodhisattva in the Miroku Jodo will descend to our world 5 billion 670 million years after Buddha’s death. There are three places in the world where Miroku descends to give preaching to people. One of the places is Koyasan. Miroku descends to Kukai, the Great Teacher. This leads to the Miroku faith.
You know as well, they say that priest Ippen made a pilgrimage to Kumano and got an inspiration and established the Jishu belief. He received a holy message from a god of Kumano which says that he should give a plaque of the six letters to anyone, whether they are rich or poor, or pure or impure. You can understand Kumano is strongly connected with the Amitabha faith as seen in this tale. In another sense, Amitabha faith could be said to be the beginning of Kumano beliefs.
Kumano is Amitabha Jodo. When you start walking from Yoshino on the Omine-okugake trail, you will reach the Pure Land of Amitabha at the end.
We have only ten minutes left, but Ms Kawasaki, could you give a summary of this meeting?
It’s an important role. While I was listening to the speeches, Mappo–shiso was referred
People in my generation have been what we call in times of "no religion" from the time we were born because the bubble economy had already collapsed in the time before we grew up to be adults. I thought this was similar to the world of Mappo-shiso.
As to myself I saw bonsai at the age of eighteen for the first time when I was a high school student. I wanted to know about Japanese culture, but I found it difficult to find the way to study about it. Struggling to find the way, I happened to see a three-hundred-year old bonsai. I thought intuitively that this was the door which would open the way to know Japanese culture even though I had no knowledge of the value of or the way to appreciate bonsai.
In my thoughts, a three-hundred-year old huge tree was only seen in the precincts of Shinto shrines, and they were usually sacred trees. I could not believe that a gigantic, sacred tree could be contained in a small pot. I felt as if I was seeing an illusion or something like alchemy.
My struggles disappeared, and I reached the point where I thought I would be able to know Japanese culture if I were to know bonsai.
In any age when people struggle to seek salvation or help, trees live much longer than humans and have the longest span of life of all living creatures. In this regard, people seem to have sought eternity - or to long for everlasting life in harmony with nature. I don’t know how to express this feeling, but it seems like animism. The practice of going into the mountains gives me some impression of a kind of contentment.
It is like the feelings of people who had training in the mountains or of those who
devoted themselves to Japanese religion, isn’t it?
Mr Tanaka, could you give us the final comments, Mr.Tanaka?
The religious system traditionally based on Shinbutsu-shugo and characteristic to Japan
was overthrown by the ordinance to distinguish Buddhist and Shinto law from secular
power in 1868. Shugendo mountain asceticism was not allowed to exist by the policy to
establish Shinto as the state religion which assumes Ise-Jingu Grand Shrine as the top of
the hierarchy. To make matters worse, a law banning Shugendo was introduced which
prohibited Shugendo practice in 1872.
Shugendo seen all over Japan temporarily disappeared, and most of the Shugendo temples were deserted or converted into Shinto shrines. Kinpusen-ji Temple became a deserted temple for some years. It was in the year of 1914 that Kinpusen-ji Temple revived as a Buddhist temple.
On the other hand, according to the Shrine merger law in 1906, from among 200,000 Shinto shrines, 70,000 Shinto shrines were destroyed and became owned by the national government one after another. The shrine forests were cut down, and the trees were sold to private entities.
Due to our bitter experience of the past, today, I think we must reconsider not only Shintoism and Buddhism but also our tolerant and meditative environment and a culture which accepts any kind of religious standing.
In the modernization of the Meiji era, we started to use the word "religion" which includes the values of monotheism. However, Japan already had a world of beliefs such as Shintoism and Buddhism before the concept of monotheism was introduced.
I think it may be difficult to find the key which enables us to get insights into the future if we don’t reconsider the environment, culture, and beliefs fostered from generation to generation.
Our religion with a variety of gods fostering our spiritual mind and body is absolutely different from monotheism from the time of creation. I think that there are many remaining places which were not influenced by the western god in the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes of the Kii Mountain Range. In this respect, I believe ‘The Sacred Sites and The Pilgrimage Routes in The Kii Mountain Range’ is a very unique and special place.
Thank you very much, Mr Tanaka. Now, Mr Kuki, would you give us a few words?
Speaking of Shinto, Shinto is the way of gods and that is the way of humans as well. It
is part of the rituals or ceremonies in our daily life such as, Shichi-go-san, Hatsumode,
and Miyamairi. These days Jinja shrines may not be so familiar in our lives because we
do not have so many Shinto altars in our homes as we used to due to the increase of
nuclear families, but I would like people to go to shrines and temples without feeling
discord in the same way as our ancestors went to them as a matter of course.
For example, at a time you want to restore your spirits freeing yourself from daily stress, and not only at the time of each event which marks the stages of your life, but at a time you feel free to visit, I would recommend you to go to the nearby local shrines to know what kind of gods are enshrined there.
About Shinbutsu-shugo, the Meiji government planned to unite the existing religions into one religious system influenced by the wave of modernization by issuing the separation of Shintoism and Buddhism law.
Buddhism received a crushing blow, but government policy could not change people’s minds. In the sacred sites of Kii peninsula containing Kumano Sanzan, Koyasan and Kinpusen-ji Temple, there is something like a mixed system of religion. It was created by people. Nature already existed before these systems. People perceived gods in nature. Then, our predecessors gradually created systems such as taizokai (Womb Realm) and kongokai (Diamond Realm) in esoteric Buddhism through deep insight and lofty ideas. And, this system has been passed down to the present time.
At the beginning of my presentation, I said that "aggregation" or "unity in harmony" is important. Today’s world has many problems. I hope more and more people will come to Yoshino, Koya, and Kumano to feel the unity in nature.
(Applause from the floor)
May I talk about Shinbutsu-shugo a little bit more?
Ten years ago, an association of 152 Shinto and Buddhist sacred sites was organized by
large Shinto and Buddhist shrines and temples in the Kansai district with Ise-Jingu
Shrine as a special one.
I am the head of the steering committee now and in charge of its educational section.
Next year is our tenth anniversary, and I hope many people will come to know about these sacred sites.
We live in a society where we can speak up about Shinbutsu-shugo after getting through the hard times of Shinbutsu-bunri (separation of Shintoism and Buddhism). In the events of our association, you can experience many things visually.
People from the Kanto area, please come to visit our sites. If you visit one, then you will have 151 left. We live in times when husbands and wives find time unmanageable after retirement from work. I hear that when a wife asks her husband where they should go next, the husband is in trouble.
(Laughter from the floor)
When you travel around the 33 sacred sites of western Japan, it will not take much time. You can finish visiting them in a short period of time. When you visit one, you have only 32 left, but our Shinto and Buddhist sites consist of 152 places. Your husbands won’t be in trouble for quite some time, so I entreat you to please visit our sites.
Now then, finally, Prof. Murakami would you give us concluding remarks, please?
Shinbutsu-shugo is shown in the form of Honchi-suijaku, but Mountain asceticism,
Shintoism and the Shingon sect of Buddhism have something in common. Where is it
seen? It is seen in the Kii Peninsula. It has been fostered in the deep, verdant, green
forests on the Kii Peninsula.
And it is exactly what Ms Kawasaki referred to. It has something to do with bonsai. She referred to three things concerning it. Is that an idea or a principle? The first one is the respect towards nature. It is the way to look at nature with respect.
Nature is not just an object to see or materials to use. It is what gives us life. Respect to nature is still alive in the sites and pilgrimage routes in the Kii mountain range, and I wonder if it could be felt in each sect of Buddhism or Shintoism.
The second is the continuity of life. The continuity of life in nature is the same as the one in human life. Living nature gives life to humans and animals and fosters it. I was listening to Ms Kawasaki’s speech with the thought of these things.
Finally, the third was about a small but gigantic tree, wasn’t it? This is about the view of the world. It is the way we should look at the world. Using bonsai as an example, Ms Kawasaki explained something in common seen in the Kii mountain range for over hundreds of thousands of years. Thank you very much, Ms Kawasaki. I appreciated to your presentation.
Thank you. Today’s topic was to seek for the essence and the truth of the Sacred Sites
and the Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range. As this is a very significant and
meaningful topic, I suppose there are more things to talk about, but our time is limited.
So, please allow me to close this symposium at this point.
Thank you for attending today.
Would you give applause to the guest speakers, please?