by Yumi Ryujin
Kawagoe Goodwill Ambassador for Tourism

§ No.10

The Relation between Edo and the Kita-in Temple in Semba after the death of Tokugawa Ieyasu

Welcome to Kawagoe! Kawagoe is an old town whose history can be traced back to the Old Stone Age. I would like to tell you a story about the Kawagoe of olden times. This story is about the relation between Edo and the Kita-in Buddhist Temple in Semba (Map E-4) after the death of Tokugawa Ieyasu. This is number ten in the series of stories about Kawagoe.
Death of Tokugawa Ieyasu
On April 17, 1616, Tokugawa Ieyasu passed away at the age of 75 at Sumpu Castle in Shizuoka. He was the first Shogun of the Tokugawa Shonunate and had lived an eventful life. It is said that he instructed his right-hand man, Honda Masazumi, High Priest Tenkai of Tendai Esoteric Buddhism at the Kita-in Temple in Kawagoe and High Priest Suden of the Shinto religion, as follows:
"After my passing, my body shall be buried at Mt. Kunou in Sumpu (now Shizuoka City) in the Shinoto tradition. The funeral ceremony shall be conducted at the Zojoji Buddhist Temple in Edo. Obtain my posthumous sacred name one year after my death. Build a small shrine in Nikko and it shall become the tutelage for the eight provinces of the Kanto Region."
As he wished, his body was buried at Mt. Kunou in the Shinto tradition on April 19, 1616.
Though the burial was conducted at Mt. Kunou, there was a dispute about Ieyasu’s posthumous sacred name with Suden insisting on naming in the manner of Yoshida Shintoism and Tenkai insisting on a syncretistic fusion of Shintoism and Buddhism, based on the doctrines of Tendai Esoteric Buddhism.
Yoshida Shintoizm had an advantage when they considered past instances. However, Tenkai mentioned the Toyotomi Family, which was destroyed by Ieyasu even though Toyotomi Hideyoshi had obtained a posthumous sacred name from Yoshida Shintoism, which was supposed to protect his family. Finally, on February 21, 1617, Emperor Gomizuno gave Ieyasu the posthumous name "Tosho-Dai-Gongen," based on the beliefs of Tendai Esoteric Buddhism.
Ieyasu's Coffin Moved to Kawagoe
After this decision, Ieyasu's coffin was moved from Mt. Kunou to Nikko. With Tenkai, Ieyasu's right-hand men, and many daimyos, Ieyasu's coffin departed Mt. Kunou on March 15, 1617, passed through Mishima, Odawara, Atsugi, Zama and arrived at Fuchu. Without entering Edo, it reached Kawagoe on March 23 via Tokorozawa. A four-day memorial service was held at the Kita-in Temple and the coffin arrived in Nikko on April 4.
Iemitsu Comes to Kawagoe
They say that Tokugawa Iemitsu, later the 3rd Shogun, deeply respected his grandfather, Ieyasu. Ieyasu relied on Tenkai. So, I wonder when Iemitsu started to speak with Tenkai frankly? It was December 1618 when Iemitsu visited Kawagoe for the first time. He was 15 years old and the purpose was for some falconry. But I assume he decided to engage in some falconry in Kawagoe in order to meet Tenkai in the Kita-in Temple. One year prior to his enthronement as the 3rd Shogun in 1623, he came to Kawagoe and spent a week here. It was August, not a season for hunting. He may have received some wisdom from Tenkai about becoming shogun. Also, after the enthronement he visited Kawagoe quite often.
The "Semba Toshogu Shrine"
Iemitsu completed the Nikko Toshogu Shrine in April 1636 and we can enjoy the absolute gorgeousness of this shrine even now.
In Kawagoe, Tenkai built a Toshogu shrine in 1633 within the Kita-in Temple. They say that an artificial hill was made by 2,000 followers before building the main shrine and a worship hall. This is called the "Semba Toshogu Shrine (Map E-5)." However, the Great Fire of Kawagoe occurred on January 28, 1638 and most of Kawagoe town including the Kita-in Temple and this Semba Toshogu Shrine was burned down.
Iemitsu, who was concerned about Supreme High Priest Tenkai at his advanced age of more than 100, ordered Hotta Masamori to rebuild the Kita-in Temple and the Semba Toshogu Shrine.
Have you seen the Semba Toshogu Shrine? These buildings completed in 1640 were designated as a nationally important cultural property in 1946.
The 'Torii' Gateway at the entrance to the Semba Toshogu Shrine
The "Torii" Gateway at the entrance to the Semba Toshogu Shrine
he main building of the Semba Toshogu Shrine
The main building of the Semba Toshogu Shrine
The Tokugawa clan crest
The Tokugawa clan crest
Please visit Kawagoe again! We welcome you!
©Yumi Ryujin   All rights reserved.

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