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Question120 What is the link between “Yoroboshi” and Shitennō-ji?

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The Noh play “Yoroboshi” is a story about a father and his son. The father disowns the son due to untrue stories he has heard about him. Later, the father meets the son, who has become a blind beggar priest called Yoroboshi, and makes peace with him. The focus of the play is their fateful reunion, which takes place at a famous old temple in Osaka, Shitennō-ji, during the Buddhist ceremony called Jissōkan in the period of higan (a Buddhist holiday celebrated in Japan at Spring and Autumnal Equinox).

Jissōkan is a form of Buddhist ascetic training in which heaven is imagined while watching the sun setting in the west. Shitennō-ji is said to have been founded by Prince Shōtoku (574-622) in the 6th century. Osaka was then called "Nanba-no-tsu" (Nanba Port). There was a bay close to the gate of Shitennō-ji. The temple was famous for having a superb view of the sunset and was celebrated in poetry. Next to the temple is a place named Yūhi-ga-oka (literally, "the hill looking out on the sunset").

Jissōkan originates in a practice by Kūkai, or Kōbō Daishi (774-835), who started such training by looking at the sunset over the western sea of Shitennō-ji. After the 12th or 13th century, the ceremony spread among the common people and was known as "Jissōkan of Shitennō-ji in Nanba." People visit the temple for the ceremony on Spring and Autumnal Equinox Days and watch the setting sun through the west torii gate. It was believed that the west gate of Shitennō-ji leads to the east gate of heaven..

(May. 22, 2013)


illustration : Hiroko Sakaki
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