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Friday, October 30, 2015

Tadaji Temple Shimane a direct link to Kukai


Hamada in Shimane prefecture is a small city on the Japan Sea, and known for its attractive white sand beaches. Hamada was once a bustling port in the Middle Ages for trade with the Asian mainland, and today still has the area's only deep-sea harbor.

Buddha made from fishing buoys, Tadaji Temple, Hamada, Shimane.
Buddha made from fishing buoys, at Tadaji Temple, Shimane Prefecture
Tadaji Temple is on a hill a little north-east of the center of Hamada, and is the best-known of the city's temples, with a long history. Being on an elevation, Tadaji offers great views of the white, sandy Hamada coastline, and the dramatically weathered, sculpted-looking rocks of Iwatatamigaura: a section of coast in Hamada Coastal Prefectural Natural Park, just to the north. True to its location, the name tadaji literally means "very steep/precipitous temple."

The founder of Tadaji was a disciple of the great Japanese Buddhist priest, Kukai (774-835), the founder of the Shingon school of Buddhism that preserves the tantric form of Buddhism that has since died out in China. The founder accompanied Kukai to Tang China at the end of the 8th century, where they both studied under the Buddhist monk Huiguo. The founder returned to Japan in 806, two years before Kukai did, and in his subsequent wanderings settled on the current site as an auspicious location-which no doubt had something to do with the "magical" view. Here he established a temple, enshrining a golden statue of the Kannon, the goddess of mercy that he had brought back from China. Tadaji is also famous for having over sixty wooden Buddhas carved from drift timber.

The cute figurine pictured here was photographed at Tadaji Temple. Its face looks typical of a Buddhist image, as well as its arm and hand gestures, and it is standing on a lotus. The four characters on the doll: 平生往生, are pronounced hei-zei-oh-joh. This is originally a Buddhist phrase that means something like "All good things come to those who wait," or, more specifically, that attaining Buddhahood is a matter of living one's life normally, accruing virtue, and awaiting that moment of salvation.  However, it has also come to take on the quite different meaning of "A stitch in time saves nine."

The saying originated in the teachings of Shinran (1173-1263), the monk who founded the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism. Jodo Shinshu has an especially strong following in western Japan: specifically Hiroshima, Yamaguchi, Shimane, and Oita, so is especially well-known in these prefectures. Although Tadaji Temple belongs to the Shingon sect, not Jodo Shinshu, apparently the phrase is an intimate enough part of the culture to appear even in a Shingon Buddhist temple without seeming odd.

Tadaji Temple
Ubuyucho, Hamada-shi, Shimane-ken 697-0002
〒697-0002 島根県浜田市生湯

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