Birthplace of Holy Priest Nichiren
The Holy Priest Nichiren was born in a fishery family by the beach of Kominato Village in Chiba Prefecture on February 16, 1222. It is said that three lovely miracles happened on his birthday : a Spring of pure water suddenly gushed forth in a corner of the garden ; many lotus blossomed in full on the cold beach ; and lots of sea-breams gathered up near the surface of the sea. He was named ZENNICHIMARO.
At the age of thirty-one Holy Priest Nichiren began to chant the odaimoku, facing the rising sun, at SEICHO-JI on April 28,1253. After many years of severe study in Buddhism, he was convinced that the Lotus Sutra was what Sakyamuni Buddha had preached in order to save all living beings.
Despite various persecutions, he devoted himself to the propagation of the Lotus Sutra. He met with four great persecutions and countless minor abuses. Finally he was arrested and brought to Tatsunokuchi Beach to be executed unofficially. Having failed to kill him at Tatsunokuchi, the Kamakura Shounate exiled him to Sado Island for about three years.
On three occasions he remonstrated in vain to the military government at Kamakura. Though he was pardoned and came back to Kamakura, he left there without paying attention to an attractive offer by the government.
The Holy Priest Nichiren has been worshiped by his followers as a reincarnation of the Bodhisattva Visistacaritra described in the Lotus Sutra. The sutra states that Sakyamuni Buddha had ordered this Bodhisattva to propagate the sutra in the depraved world where we live.
He had come to realize himself to be a real practitioner of the Lotus Sutra when he was about to be executed and exiled to Sado Island. Anyone may understand this by reading Kaimoku-Sho, one of his major writings.
He entered Mt. Minobu, where he kept on upholding the teaching of the Buddha, educating many disciples and lay devotees, and communicating with those who lived afar.
When he was sixty years old, he left Minobu to have treatment at a hot spring resort for a sickness from which he had been suffering for the past several years.
At Ikegami, Tokyo, on the morning of the 13th of October, 1282, he passed away. His relics were enshrined at the KUON-JI, Minobu, as he willed in one of his letters.
As for the founding of the TANJOH-JI, Holy Priest Nichiren visited his critically sick mother in 1264 and prayed for her recovery. He succeeded in animating her, and she was able to live four more years. In gratitude she had a small shrine built.
In 1276, a temple was founded and reported to the Holy Priest Nichiren by two of his direct disciples, Nike and Niho, who later became the Second and the Third Chief Abbots of the temple. The Holy Priest Nichiren named it Kokozan Nichiren TANJOH-JI.
The temple was originally located at the site of the Holy Priest Nichiren's birthplace but was moved to the present location after it was destroyed twice by earthquakes and tidal waves in 1498 and 1703.
The Twenty-sixth Abbot Daichuin Nichiko had a typical set of splendid buildings reconstructed with financial support extended by Tokugawa Mitsukuni, feudal lord of the Mito Clan, and changed the temple's name to Kominatosan TANJOH-JI.
In 1758, however, all the buildings were burnt down except the Gate of Two Guardian Kings (Nioh-Mon).
The Forty-ninth Abbot Ichijoin Nissen had the present Soshi-Doh (Founder's Hall) built in 1842 after ten years of hard work. It was so huge and splendid that everyone could not help admiring this building. The temple received special financial assistance from the Satomis and the Masakis.
When the Crown Prince of Emperor Meiji was in poor health, TANJOH-JI was asked by concerned members of the imperial family to say prayers for his health. He recovered his health to become Emperor Taisho (reigned 1912-1926).
A shrine for the Prince Arisugawa family was also built in the temple precincts.
The Eighty-second Chief Abbot Nissen Katagiri organized the "Gojumannin-ko" (Five Hundred Thousand Devotee Association) to finance renovation and new construction projects beginning in 1985. With enthusiastic support of many devotees, these projects were successfully completed and dedicated in a ceremony in May, 1992, officiated by Nichiyu Iwama, Chief Abbot of Minobusan KUON-JI, General Head Temple of the Nichiren Sect, who is concurrently Archbishop of the same sect in Japan.
In additon, Chief Abbot Katagiri is at present appealing for nation-wide support in order to put the finishing touches to the works of the "Gojumannin-ko." He has asked Masters Kyo Ishikawa to work on the mural painting of the Jataka Tales depicting "The Buddha's Previous Lives" and Ko-Hasegawa on the statues of the "Ten Great Disciples of Buddha." Upon completion, these works of art, in harmony with the religious atmosphere, it is believed, will greatly impress visitors.
The TANJOH-JI, one of the Grand Head Temples of Nichiren Sect, has been visited with reverence by devotees from all over Japan through all seasons.
Quite a number of people from the rest of the world also pay homage to the temple, enjoying the beautiful scenery, as well as the wonderful atmosphere surrounding it.
Buddhism embraces a number of different sect including the Nichiren Sect, in much the same way that the Christian faith embraces different theologies such as Catholicism or Protestantism.
The Nichiren Sect was founded by the Holy Priest Nichiren (born in 1222 A.D.), and TANJOH-JI, or TANJOH Temple which you are now visiting, was originally built in 1276 during the later years of the Holy Priest by his followers on the ground where there used to stand the house in which the Holy Priest had been born used to stand.
TANJOH-JI is a name coined from two words, TANJOH meaning birth, and JI meaning temple.
TANJOH-JI has a tempestuous history, for it had to endure natural disasters such as earthquakes and tidal waves before it was moved to its present site, but here too, it met disaster in the form of a fire, to be destroyed completely except for the wooden statue of the Holy Priest Nichiren and the main gate.
The present structure was built by more recent followers of the Holy Priest Nichiren.
TANJOH-JI is now an institute where followers of the Nichiren Sect come from throughout Japan to pay homage to the memory of the Holy Priest Nichiren. He is revered as Honge-Jogyo Bosatsu or Bodhisattva Visistacaritra who was ordered, in the Lotus Sutra, to spread the Sutra.