As you enter the mountain gate, you will find yourself covered in silence. You would be surprised such tranquility exists in Kanaike, in the middle of the central City of Oita. It is Shouzan Manjuji Temple, one of the nation’s most renowned temple for Rinzai Zen. As you approach the temple, you will feel the dignity, and find many monks training day and night.
According to “Houshou Zenmeiroku,” which collected the records of great monks in Buzen and Bungo of Edo period, Sadachika, the fifth generation of the Otomo clan, was told by the regent Sadatoki Houjou to “build a temple, invite monks, to help reign the world.” So he started the construction of a large temple on a vast land near Motomachi in 1306. The site is currently under excavation research by the Prefectural Educational Commission, under the Otomo Clan Ruins Learning Center project.
According to a theory, establishment of the temple by Sadachika was actually a reconstruction. Ueno and Motomachi are the area that the Yuriwaka Daijin (the Great Lord of Yuriwaka) narrative took place, and there is a story of the handmaid Manju who sacrificed her life for Yuriwaka’s wife to commit suicide by drowning. Sadachika had to rebuild the temple for Manju as her temple had been ruined. A small pond, which is supposed to be the Komoike pond where the handmaid drowned, is nearby.
The temple was opened by Chikan Jikiou. He is a descendant of Ashikaga, a famous monk in Shoutenji Temple of Hakata (City of Fukuoka), who studied under Chinese monk Douryu Rankei who opened Kenchouji Temple in Kamakura. He has many disciples, and many great monks visit Manjuji Temple even after his passing. With the strong backing of the Otomo clan, the Bungo Manjuji Temple became one of the most famous zen temples in Japan.
It is one of the “Tenka Jissatsu (ten greatest temples)” that were established at the end of Kamakura period, and there are many great temples under this temple, including Daichiji Temple (Oita), Kaizouji Temple (Usuki), Gakurinji Temple (Hita), Jissaiji Temple (Kunisaki), and Houdaji Temple (Kitsuki) just to name a few in Oita Prefecture.
Manjuji Temple also suffered frequent fires, and was turned to ashes by the Shimazu clan during the Battle of Hosatsu in 1586. The reconstruction was done by the lord of the Funai clan, Shigeyoshi Takenaka in 1633, relocating to the current place with the monk Tanzan. Since then, great monks and the light of Buddhism continue on to the present day.