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日蓮大聖人『御書』解説

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2022年 05月 19日

69, Ikegami brothers and three obstacles and four demons



  Record of the Descent of the God Kasuga, 1309 (Carpenters can be seen on the right)


 The time was July 29, Kouan 2 (1279). Crowds were thronging the execution site at Hakata Bay in Tsukushi.

A messenger of the Mongol emperor was waiting to be executed.

Four years earlier, on September 27, 1275, following the execution of Du Shizhong, Mongol's official envoy to Japan, the Shogunate had executed the Mongol's envoy who had come to Japan again.

The crowd in Hakata was abuzz.

“Lord Kamakura has done it again. War is coming. The Mongolian invasion is coming.”

However, during the execution, three of the former envoy's followers, who had been tied up, escaped.

The Shogunate soldiers pursued them, but they escaped and boarded a Mongol’s ship. The three escaped with their lives to Mongolia, where they were to report the Japanese misdeeds to Kubirai Khan.


At the Kamakura government office, a group of vassals gathered around Tokimune, Taira no Yoritsuna, and Adachi Yasumori. Beside Tokimune, the magistrates lined up. They were bureaucrats of the Kamakura shogunate.

At this age, there were various magistrates. There were the familiar magistrates of accounts and temples and shrines, as well as magistrates of gifts, gifts, tribute horses, and the first magistrate of beginning bows and arrows.

Among them was Yasumitsu Ikegami, a magistrate in charge of "Sakuji.”

“Sakurai" means "construction," and was in charge of the construction department of the shogunate. It was an important position that entrusted the construction of major buildings of the Kamakura shogunate. He was the official master builder of the shogunate.

Brothers Munenaka and Munenaga, sons of the magistrate Ikegami Yasumitsu, also followed their father in the position of construction. The brothers were not clerks. They worked with axes and hammers themselves.

Basically, positions in the Kamakura shogunate were hereditary. After Yasumitsu, his elder brother Munenaka was supposed to succeed him as a magistrate.

The father and son were devout Buddhists, but they were followers of different sects. The father, Yasumitsu, was a worshiper of Ryoukan in the Gokurakuji Temple. On the other hand, the brothers were devotees of Nichiren.

The Ikegami brothers have a long faith.

It is said that he became a disciple of Nichiren in the first year of Kougen (1256), 22 years before the same as Shijo Kingo. Like Kingo, his elder brother Munenaka was a firm believer in Nichiren. Like Tomiki Tsunenobu and Kingo, he was a central figure in the Nichiren school. His younger brother Munenaga also agreed with his brother and studied under Nichiren.

On the other hand, his father, Yasumitsu, was a parishioner of Ryoukan in the Gokuraku-ji Temple. In this way, the conflict between father and son was about to begin.


Yasumori Adachi told the story.

“I report to you that we have executed the envoy of the Mongols in Kyushu.”

Everyone was astonished.

Taira no Yoritsuna followed.

“We will face the Mongolian army again. From now on, it is necessary to strengthen the defense of Tsukushi. We barely managed to stop them in the Battle of Bun'ei, but this time the Mongolian army would be coming to Japan with their largest warships. If they are not taken seriously, they will land on Kyushu again. We must hold off the Mongols at all costs.”

Yasumori continued.

“I will make all the temples and shrines in Japan, including the Ryoukan of the Gokurakuji Temple, pray for the repression of the foreign powers. We will not hesitate to donate to any priest, of any sect, who prays for the peace of the country.”

Taira no Yoritsuna glares at them all and makes his final pronouncement.

“Now is the time for the warriors of Japan to unite. Those who defy us will be destroyed immediately.”

 Yasumori Adachi cleared his throat and changed the subject.

“Next, we have decided to rebuild Lord Tokimune's mansion, which was recently damaged. The Shogunate ordered this construction to lord Ikegami, the magistrate for the construction of the building.”

Yasumitsu Ikegami spoke on behalf of the family. It is a great honor for the family to be entrusted with the regent's mansion.

“It is a great blessing. I will surely see to it that the work is in accordance with the will of Lord Kamakura.”


After the meeting was over, the vassals mounted their horses at the exit of the government office and headed home.   

Here stood Ryoukan of Gokurakuji Temple.

All the retainers put their hands to Ryoukan as they passed by. Ryoukan was still a powerful man in Kamakura. Some of the vassals were borrowing money from him. If they did not greet him, they were afraid of what would happen later.

The Ikegami family passed by Ryoukan.

The father, Yasumitsu, laid hands on Ryoukan, but the brothers, Munenaka and Munenaga, remained standing. They could not join hands with the person who had led the saint Nichiren to the mouth of the dragon through a conspiracy.

Yasumitsu greeted him cordially.

“The High Priest. You have come all the way here.”

Ryoukan was beaming.

“I am always grateful for your deep piety, lord Ikegami. Is this your son?”

Yasumitsu introduced them.

“This is my eldest son, Munenaka, followed by my second son, Munenaga.”

The younger brother Munenaga lightly bows his head, but the elder Munenaka remains silent.

Seeing this, Yasumitsu chided him.

“Here, Munenaka, why don't you greet him?”

Munenaka said firmly, "I am not going to be a part of this.

“Though in the presence of the priest Ryoukan, I am not a believer in the precepts or Nembutsu.”

Yasumitsu's face scrunched up.

“What are you talking about, Munenaka? The priest Ryoukan is highly trusted by Lord Kamakura, and is respected by everyone in Kamakura..."

Ryoukan interrupted, exaggerating.

“Oh, by the way, I have heard that you are a devoted follower of the priest Nichiren."

Munenaka nodded and said aloud.

“That is correct. Therefore, I cannot greet the priest Ryoukan, who drove my master sage Nichiren away to Sado Island."

The surrounding retainers were surprised to see each other's faces at Munenaka's strong words.

Munenaka left.

His father Yasumitsu was indeed angry.

“Here, wait, Munenaka!”

His younger brother Munenaga, on the other hand, looked timid and bewildered.

All the vassals in Kamakura were flattering Ryoukan of Gokuraku-ji Temple. Ryoukan accepted this as a matter of course. However, there was one person who did not go along with him. Ryoukan had no idea that he would be publicly humiliated by Munenaka Ikegami, who was almost abusive to him. It brought back the anger he had felt since the time he had been defeated by Nichiren in the praying rain.


Lumberjacks were swarming all over the mountain. They chiseled large trees with stone axes.

In this period, stone axes were used to cut down large trees. Large saws did not appear until much later. The root of a large tree was slimed down and felled as if sharpening a pencil lead.

Men tied the fallen tree with a rope and rolled it away. They used a short log as a wheel to move the big tree. Everyone was half-naked. Some wore only a loincloth.

The big tree was carried to a construction site in Kamakura. In the sun, thick pillars were erected on disk-shaped stone vessels.

Craftsmen sat on the ground and sawed. In those days, woodworkers worked sitting down. Everyone worked half-naked and sweaty under the blazing sun.

A craftsman finishing the surface with a planer. According to documents from that period, the planer used a curved blade like a bow. Some craftsmen also used chisels. The big plane used today is said to have been introduced from China in the middle of the Muromachi period (1333-1573).

Craftsmen who worked on the constructions were of low status. However, construction itself was considered sacred. Even nowadays, the building of a house is still done in a ceremony, but in this period, the etiquette was even more strict. Craftsmen did not just finish the work quickly. First, the date of construction had to be decided. The day was not decided by government officials, but by a yin-yang master who told fortunes.

As a side note, Hojo Masako once set a date for the construction of her own residence and the Buddha hall in the second year of the Jouou era (1223). Nichiren was two years old.

February 27: The date was decided at Masako's residence.   

February 29: Beginning of the wooden construction [Kozukuri] and jibiki. Kozukuri is a ritual to pray for the safety of the work. Jibiki is a ceremony held to prepare the ground for construction. 

The foundation stone was laid on April 6.

April 19: Pillar is raised.

July 26: Moving out. This is called "O-Ishi" (moving out).

August 20: Memorial service to the mansion.

According to the Eastern Mirror (Azuma Kagami), six yin-yang priests are involved in a dispute with the magistrate to decide on this date. The surnames of the six Yin-Yang masters were all Abe family members. Incidentally, the other of the two families that had taken over the Yin Yang master lineage was the Kamo family.

Masako was at the height of her power at that time, when she was known as the nun shogun. Even Masako could not easily decide on the arrangements for their work. Still, it is astonishing to learn that six yin-yang masters divined the fortunes of the newly built house. It would be the height of inefficiency today, but in those days, it was quite natural to use yin-yang masters to carry out important events. The person in charge of this construction was Hojo Yasutoki, who was highly praised as a great ruler, but he was at the mercy of the yin-yang masters for the location and date. It is a funny story nowadays, but it was a serious problem for the people of that time.


The day of the ceremony at Hojo Tokimune's palace was also determined, and the site of the event became a lively place.

 In the midst of this bustle, Ikegami Yasumitsu's voice could be heard yelling.

The craftsmen were astonished.

“It's started again!”

The yelling came from the tool shed.

His father Yasumitsu was flanked by his eldest son, Munenaka, and his second son, Munenaga.

The first son, Munenaka, and the second son, Munenaga, were sitting in front of his father, Yasumitsu.

“The priest Ryoukan is the most powerful person in the Buddhist world in Kamakura. If we defy the priest, the procurement of wood will be in jeopardy and our work will be delayed. Don't you understand that?”

Munenaka retorted.

“My father, our religious beliefs have nothing to do with the work we do. Father, we ask you to abandon the Nembutsu of the priest Ryoukan and accept the teachings of the sage Nichiren.”

"Oh, no, I won't listen to you.”

Munenaka was forced to back down.

Yasumitsu, in turn, rallied his younger brother. The younger brother was gentle and could be persuaded. Yasumitsu said.

“You understand what I want to say, Munenaga. Believe in Nembutsu. Do not follow your elder brother.”

Munenaga responded calmly.

“Father, I, too, believe that the sage Nichiren's teachings come first. Please forgive me for saying this, even though it is your word.”

The younger brother also backed away from his father.

Yasumitsu looked bitterly at his brother's back.

The religious conflict between Ikegami and his father had continued ever since the brothers took refuge in Nichiren.

In the past, Yasumitsu had disowned the brothers who did not devote themselves to the Nembutsu. Yasumitsu still believed in Ryoukan of Gokurakuji Temple as if he were a living Buddha. Yasumitsu could not forgive his brothers for disobeying their parents.

In this era, the price of disowning was heavy.

A disowning meant severing the relationship between parent and child. That is not the same weight as today. Not only the job, but also the status of the family is lost. Not only inheritance rights, but also social status were erased.

For this reason, the brothers had to go into exile for a time. The situation was resolved after the heat had died down. However, if they once again incurred their father's wrath, they would never be able to return to their former lives.


The residence of his elder brother Munenaka was a handsome one, as befitted the eldest son of a magistrate. It was natural that the eldest son should succeed to the family headship. The interior decorations were also suitable for Ikegami's successor.

Munenaka came home. He showed a cheerful face, but his wife was in a bad mood.

The couple and their children began to eat without saying much.

Munenaka shoveled down a bowl of white rice.

“I've done it again," he said.

“What is it?”

“I told my father about my faith, but he was in a bad mood.”

His wife put down her chopsticks.

“Again? I know it's not for me to say, but you are Ikegami's heir. If you offend your father's feelings, he will not ask you to take over the position of magistrate. Please don't cause any more trouble.”

Munenaka grumbled.

“I don't care about my successor. All I care about is my faith in the Lotus Sutra.”

His wife said firmly.

“I don't like it. I have come this far because I dreamed of being the wife of a magistrate. Can't you do more for your father's feelings?”

“So you want me to abandon the Lotus Sutra and believe in the Nembutsu?"

“I am not saying that. But there must be a better way. Can't you get your father to understand so that we can continue the Lotus Sutra in a more peaceful way?”

Munenaka fell silent.

His wife's mood did not return.

“I was thinking of an outfit for the heir..."

His wife's concern was sincere. When Munenaka had been disowned in the past, his wife had been thrown into despair. She doesn't want to go through that again.


On the other hand, his younger brother Munenaga's house is a simple structure, far from being a prestigious house of artisans. As the younger brother, he had to live in his brother's shadow.

By the way, it is said that Munenaga's wife was saddened by his inability to have children.

Nichiren wrote to her, encouraging her not to give up hope of having a child. This shows that Nichiren understood the circumstances of each believer and provided not only guidance in religious belief but also detailed guidance in daily life.


“Dear wife of lord Munenaga, I have received a piece of silk lining. I have told you of your intention before the Lotus Sutra.

I do not believe it to be true, but my disciples say that you have no children. It is a pity that you have given up on this life, but even so, please do not give up and live your life with hope (of having a child) from now on.

           Nichiren

November 25

Reply to the wife of lord Munenaga”


Munenaga came home with a sunburned face.

“Welcome home. I’ll prepare the meal right away."

Munenaga's expression was dark. His brow was furrowed.

His wife noticed.

“I understand you had some trouble today.”

“Do you understand?"

“It's written on your face.”

“I see. You know everything.”

My wife smiles at him.

Munenaga blurted out.

“My brother and I recommended this faith to my father.”

“Well, that's, that's..."

“As usual, we got into a fight. Father wouldn't listen to me at all.”

She said, “I see, but I'm sure your father will come to understand someday. This is a time for patience.”

The wife laughed in spite of her husband's concern. She is always like this. This innocent wife always saved Munenaga.

“You're right. We'll just have to be patient for the time being.”

“It's all right. I have such a strong brother with me. If you and your brother talk patiently about piety, our thoughts will be conveyed to your father like melting ice.”

Munenaga put down his chopsticks.

“But I'm also worried. My brother is stubborn as he is. I hope nothing will happen to him.”


A full house filled the Gokurakuji temple.

There were warriors and nuns dressed in glittering costumes.

Outside, a sick man wearing a straw mat on his head held his hands together.

The Gokuraku-ji temple had been destroyed by a fire earlier in the year, leaving only one hall, but Ryoukan's popularity was as strong as ever. Although he was defeated by Nichiren in the rain-making contest and was shamed by Ryuzo-bo’s incident, he still had a large number of followers.

Ryoukan preached confidently.

“The teaching of the Buddha is not something difficult. As long as you observe the five precepts of not killing, stealing, drinking, lust, and lying, you can become a Buddha.”

Ryoukan looked around the room.

“But how many of you here are capable of becoming Buddha?”

Everyone burst into laughter.

Mr. and Mrs. Yasumitsu Ikegami were waiting for Ryoukan in a separate room at the Gokurakuji temple. Both of them seemed to be in a state of deep thought.

Ryoukan came in, flushed after his sermon. He did not notice the presence of the couple, and gave instructions to his disciples.

“Today's preach was not so bad, was it? I would like you to include more easy-to-understand stories in the draft of my next lecture, even if they are condescending. Intersperse them with stories that encourage people to make offerings. Be skillful in getting them to give even a little. Are you all right?”

Ryoukan's preach was prepared by his disciples. He was busy managing the barrier and finance. He had no time to think about the Dharma stories. He was playing the stories prepared by his disciples for his audience.

At this point, Ryoukan noticed Mr. and Mrs. Yasumitsu.

“Oh, lord Ikegami. I see you are here. You should have informed us. You have taken the trouble to come, and your devotion is as deep as ever. You are very auspicious.”

Yasumitsu said with a smile.

“Our monk, I am deeply sorry for your rudeness the other day. As the leader of the Ikegami family, I apologize.”

“Oh, yes, that's right. I had forgotten. Young people always tend to get carried away with their bloodlust. It is important to tolerate them.”

He has not forgotten. For Ryoukan, Munenahka's attitude at that time was humiliating. Ryoukan could not forgive anyone who did not bow to him.

His wife put up her hands on the floor.

“I have come to consult with you. Please take this.”

His wife held out a bundle of copper coins on a plate.

Yasumitsu went right to the point.

"My two sons believe in Nichiren's Lotus Sutra and call Nembutsu the karma of hell and Zen Buddhism the work of a heavenly demon. I have tried to teach them for many years, but they have never opened their eyes.”

Ryoukan nodded.

“I have been wondering if that is the case. The sons of the magistrate are all devotees of Nichiren. There is no one in Kamakura who does not hear rumors about it.”

“That is true, that it is. A child who disobeys his parents cannot follow in their footsteps. On the other hand, it would be unbearable for the Ikegami family, which has been in the business of making buildings for generations, to die out..."

Ryoukan's eyes relaxed.

“I wonder if you have any bright ideas.”

The couple remained thoughtful.

 Ryoukan said smoothly.

“The son of lord Ikegami, the brothers of Munenaka and Munenaga. The elder brother, Munenaka, appears to be quite a man of valor. Compared to him, the younger brother seems to be more honest at heart.”

 Yasumitsu's wife opened up to Ryoukan's understanding words and began to speak.

“It is true that my younger brother Munenaga was a kind and gentle child. But he was seduced by Nichiren.

Ryoukan nodded.

“Nichiren is truly the bane of Kamakura. He has fled to the mountains of Kai in fear of me, but his fanatical disciples roam about here in Kamakura.”

“Truly, a child who is against his parent’s lessons cannot be considered a successor.”

“But I think your younger brother Munenaga has a chance of reforming himself. It is unusual, but if the younger brother succeeds his elder brother, the Ikegami family will prosper for generations to come. It is not a bad idea. What do you think, lord Yasumitsu?”

The couple put their hands on the floor and prostrated themselves.

“High monk, please help us."

“No, no, lift up your head. If it is the wish of the pious lord Ikegami, I will grant it. A person of such low status as Nichiren would not be a match for a person of such high rank.”

Ryoukan smiled wanly with satisfaction, knowing that he could now give Nichiren a good beating.





by johsei1129 | 2022-05-19 19:21 | WRITING OF NICHIREN | Trackback | Comments(0)
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