HOME >> About Reito-ji - Reito-ji’s origin, history, and relationship with the Date clan

What is Reito-ji

The long and illustrious history of Reito-ji spans over a thousand years, during which it has been shaped by major events of Japanese history. In particular, four key events have worked together to shape Reito-ji's current identity.

The history of Reito-ji

1] The Founding of Reito-ji as Kitahase-dera (838ce)

Reito-ji was founded in Jōwa 5 (838ce) by Ennin (Jikaku Daishi), a priest of the Tendai sect who propagated Buddhism throughout Tohoku region.

The temple, originally called Kitahase-dera, was established at Dan-ga-mori. Its main image, a 129 cm wood standing statue of Juichimen Kannon - was personally carved by Ennin using the method called ittō-san-rei, or "bow thrice for each cut".

  • ●A Brief Biography of Ennin (Jikaku Daishi)
  • In Daido 3 (808ce), at the age of fifteen, Ennin studied under Saicho at Enryaku-ji on Mt. Hiei, near Kyoto. In Saiko 1 (854ce), at the age of sixty one, Ennin became the third chief abbot of the Tendai sect at Enryaku-ji. He passed away at the age of seventy one in Jougan 6 (864ce)

  • ●Site 18 of the Thirty-Three Kannon of Oū
  • The Eighteenth Tanzawa Maesawa (Reito-ji) “Unconsciously coming to ride the flower raft, rest the horse at the temple of the lacquer tree.” This pilgrimage site signboards are shown at the side of the approach from old national road and in front of the Kannon-do.

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2] Kamakura Restoration (1269ce)

The next major event in Reito-ji's history was its restoration during the Kamakura period.

The Chinese priest Daikyu Shonen Osho (Butsugen Zenji), the third chief abbot of Kamakura Kencho-ji, became the temple founder in Bun'ei 6 (1269ce). At this time, the name of the temple was changed again to "Horin-zan Koka-ji" and its affiliation was changed to that of the Kencho-ji school.

  • Butsugen-Zenji, born in Yongjia (Zhejiang Province, China), arrived in Japan in Bun'ei 6 (1269ce), received the devotion of Tokimune Hojo, and established Jochi-ji in Kamakura. Thereafter he became the chief priest of Zenko-ji (/Saimyo-ji), the seventh abbot of Jufuku-ji, the third abbot of Choken-ji, and the second of Enkaku-ji. He passed away in Shouou 2 (1289ce) at the age of 75.

  • In the winter of Kagen 1 (1303ce), Musou Soseki, the founder of Tenryu-ji, stayed at Shiratori-go (present-day Maesawa). Perhaps he stayed at Reito-ji, which at that time was called Koka-ji.

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3] Re-Dedication by Sadatsuna Ouchi (1610ce)

Date Masamune (1567-1636) appointed Sadatsuna Ouchi, previously lord of Obama castle in Shiomatsu (Fukushima-ken), to be the lord of Maesawa area.

Sadatsuna changed the temple's name once again from Koka-ji to Koka-san Jitsurin-ji in Keicho 6 (1610ce) and designated the temple as his family temple. He invited Sozen Taian of Ise district as its new head.

  • Sadatsuna died in February of Keicho 15 (1610ce) at the age of sixty five. His posthumous Buddhist name was "Horin-jiden Gesshin Koko Dai-koji". It is said that he was buried at Ozawa in Maesawa. The historical record says that the people of Ikawa family, vassals of the Oouchi family, “visited to Sadatsuna's grave at Ozawa of Maesawa (around the current Maesawa elementary school) until the Bunka era." In addition, that record shows that the Sadatsuna’s mother (the daughter of Satake Daizen-Taifu Yoshiatsu, posthumous name "Shutoku-in Shoho Myoka Daishi") and his sister (the wife of Muramatsu Shimousa-no-Kami Hisashige, lord of Tokai village in Ibaragi pref) were also buried there.

  • The second lord of the Ouchi family, Shigetsuna, was awarded 200 koku for his devotion of new rice field development at Maesawa, thereby becoming the lord of land valued at 1,200 koku.

  • Shigetsuna moved his family to Saito of the Tome district in Kanei 21 (1644ce), ending the governance of Maesawa by the Ouchi family that had lasted for two generations over a span of fifty three years.

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4] Re-Dedication as Reito-ji (1634)

Once Soukou Iisaka had married off his eldest daughter to Masanaga Koori, he asked the permission of the Sendai clan for his grandson Shojiro (the son of Shigenaga Koori, also known as Maroku Ishimoda, later Izumo) to be the sixteenth generation successor of the Iizaka family chief.

At this time, many of the vassals of Koori family who could not go to Uwazima became the vassals of Iizaka family. For those new vassals, the Sendai clan gave Iizaka family the land in Izawa district, Miyakodori village, Hirooka. Shojiro’s wife was the daughter of Sousuke Harada, and the elder sister (some sources say younger) of Kai Harada.

  • In order to fulfill the wish of Iizaka Gozen, Masamune appointed Sentaro (later Muneaki, born in Keian 1, the ninth son of Tadamune, the second chief of the Sendai Date) to be the successor of Izumo Iizaka in Manji 1. Sentaro took over as chief of the Iizaka family; he was additionally made Lord of Maesawa and was to be given 300 kan (3,000 koku) the following year. However, lord Muneaki died suddenly in Kanbun 3 (1663) at the age of sixteen on the way to take charge of his territory. His funeral was originally scheduled to take place at the Iizaka family's temple Koseki-san Tennou-ji at Yamato-cho Yoshioka (Kurokawa-ku, Miyagi). However, after a conference of the Sendai Date, Muneaki’s brother Munefusa and mother Keiun-in decided that the funeral would instead occur in Maesawa, the land Sentaro had been slated to control. The chief retainer of the Sendai clan, Okuyama Daigaku, sent the following message to Horin-ji: "As Esq. Takumi has passed away, his remains will be moved to Maesawa; Horin-ji is hereby appointed to his grave-keeping temple." The funeral was carried out on March 25 at Horin-ji.

  • The historical record says that in attendance were "Mr. Akiu on behalf of Yakata-sama (Tsunamura, the fourth lord of the clan); ten people from each related family; each deputy of the guardians of young lord Tsunamura, Date Hyoubu Munekatsu and Tamura Ukyounosuke Muneyoshi; Shishido Tazaemon on behalf of the Muneaki’s brother Munefusa; and many of the vassals of Date family.” The record also says that “The main priest of the funeral was (Take) Iwa Zenji who is the chief priest of Masamune Zuihou-ji; and the thirty four or five priests came from Matsushima.” After that, the name Horin-ji was changed a final time to Reito-ji, in reference to Muneaki's posthumous Buddhist name "Reito-inden". Thus Reito-ji became Muneaki's grave keeping temple. The provision of 30 koku for the memorial service which was paid out of Mumeaki's 3,500 koku estate remains part of Reito-ji's endowment. By this provision Reito-ji was also added to the seventeen temples belonging to the Date family.

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