Kōsoku-ji (光則寺), officially known under its mountain name Gyōjisan Kōsokuji (行時山光則寺), is a Buddhist temple of the Nichiren sect located in Hase, Kamakura. It is of great importance to the worshippers of Nichiren because of its connection to the founder and his disciples who were held captive at the temple. Yet, despite its vicinity to Hase-dera and its remarkable history, the temple is rarely visited by the throngs of tourists on their way to see Hase Kannon.


Sanmon Gate (山門)

History


Kōsoku-ji was built in a small valley close to Hase-dera on land that belonged to Yadoya Yukitoki (宿谷行時), a shogunal official and a retainer of Hōjō Tokiyori (北条時頼, 1227-1263), the fifth regent (執権 shikken) of the Kamakura shogunate, and his son Mitsunori (宿谷光則). Mitsunori was a lay priest and on very good terms with Nichiren, the founder of the Nichiren School of Buddhism.


The slab next to Sanmon displays Nichiren's holograph as well as his letter to Mitsunori asking him to deliver his famous treatise to Hōjō Tokiyori.

In 1260, Nichiren approached Mitsunori to propound his treatise Risshō Ankoku Ron (立正安国論, "On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land") in which he argued that the only way to overcome the suffering caused by the political chaos and the consequences of natural disasters was to adopt the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. His treatise faced severe criticism from priests of other Buddhist schools. When Nichiren was physically attacked by followers of non-Lotus Sutra sects he had to flee Kamakura. Tokiyori, himself a devout follower of Zen, ordered Nichiren arrested in 1261 and exiled to Izu Peninsula.


The garden of Kōsoku-ji has a pond and a variety of seasonal flowers and trees, such as Japanese apricots, Japanese quinces, East Asian crabapple, peonies and irises. It is most famed for its 150-year-old Japanese aronia ( 海棠, kaidō or chokeberry) which measures 7 metres in height and 40 centimetres in diameter.

Nichiren returned from Izu in 1263 and continued his campaigns against other schools of Buddhism, in particular, Zen, Risshū, and Shingon, and interpreted the arrival of the Mongol emissaries in 1269 as a sign that the shogunate was pursuing erroneous policies by supporting his religious adversaries. This eventually incurred the wrath of the shogunate: two years later, he was condemned to death and supposed to be executed in Katase (片瀬), close to Kamakura. He miraculously escaped death but was sent into his second exile to Sado Island.


The Main Hall of Kōsoku-ji rebuilt in 1650. It houses statues of Nichiren and Nichirō but is usually not open to the public.

Four of Nichiren's disciples, Nichirō, Nisshin, Shijō Kingo and his son, were resolved to die with their master on the beach of Shichirigahama but were put under the protective custody of Yadoya Mitsunori, who locked them in a rocky cavern on the mountainside behind his residence. Both Yukitoki and Mitsunori had followed Zen Buddhism; Mitsunori, however, must have been deeply impressed by Nichiren's extraordinary escape from execution for he became a fervent follower of Nichiren's teachings.


The inscription over the entrance of the Main Hall reads shikō daiichi (師孝第一) which means as much as "teacher first" and refers to a student's loyalty to the teacher.

Mitsunori later assumed an administrative position and rearranged his residence to a place of worship, humble beginnings that laid the foundation of Kōsoku-ji. Mitsunori invited Nichirō, one of Nichiren's six great disciples and the founder of Myōhon-ji, to become the first head priest. "Kosoku" is just another reading of the Chinese characters for "Mitsunori", while the mountain name "Gyōji" (行時) is another reading of his father's first name "Yukitoki".






The flight of stairs that leads up to the cavern where Nichirō was locked up in 1271. The gorintō (五輪塔, "five-tiered towers") are dedicated to the members of the Yadoya clan.


Nichirō's cavern


A statue of Nichirō in the cavern.

More pictures in the Kōsoku-ji album.

References:

  • Mutsu, Iso, Kamakura: Fact and Legend, Tuttle 2012

Access:

About 1.7 kilometres from Kamakura Station (JR Yokosuka Line, Shōnan–Shinjuku Line) or 300 metres from Hase Station (長谷駅) on Enoden Line.
Address: 3-9-7 Hase, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0016; phone: 0467-22-2077.
Admission: open daily from 07:00 to sunset; 100 JPY (on a voluntary basis).


Map: