Origin of the Kohoin

By OOMORI Sogen (written in 1965)


July 19th is the day of Yamaoka Tesshu's death. He passed away at the age of 53 on this day in 1888, which makes this year the 68th anniversary of his death. Kohoin Temple was built on the site of Tesshu's home, and he became the founding teacher, with his given name (taka-yuki = kou-ho) becoming the temple name. On this day, I think it's not entirely pointless to recall his memory and express our good wishes.

The area where Kohoin Temple is currently located at 31 Koyodo-cho, Nakano-city, is quite large, measuring over 11,700 square meters on the same lot. All of this was once Yamaoka's estate. I suppose I could look up when Tesshu moved here, but I'm lazy and don't know for sure.

Before Tesshu lived here, there was a villa owned by the Kabuto family. They were a wealthy merchant family from Kojimachi called Ise-Hachi, one of the twelve merchants of Edo. Even now, there is a monument next door called "Seishu-en-ki" that was chosen by ASAKA Gensai and written by MAKI Ryoko. According to the text, this land has long been owned by the Kabuto family, and was called Koyodo-yama or Tengu-yama. The area was dark even during the day due to the old pine and plum trees, and the locals were afraid to pass by, believing that tengu lived there. The monument also mentions that Masayuki Kabuto's father, Hachibei, was the first to chop down trees and build a few tasteful homes, which he named Seishu-en.

When our master Seisetsu Seki acquired this land, he inspected it with Tesshu's daughter, Matsuko, who was looking for a spot where Benzaiten was said to have been. She recalled that her father had told her not to be disrespectful to Benzaiten because she was very divine. It seems that Benzaiten is quite old, as mentioned in the text by Asaka Gensai. Although the Benzaiten is still enshrined within our Kohoin Temple as a guardian, the pond was unfortunately filled in last year. Benzaiten must now be lamenting the same fate as the kappa who once lived on the designated hill.

In March of 1874, Tesshu traveled to Satsuma with an imperial order, but saw through the Nanshu's no intentions to take any active part and never mentioned his desire. Nanshu, who also understood Tesshu's intentions, did not ask his request, and the two heroes spent several days leisurely in Ibusuki. They exchanged calligraphy as a gesture of farewell, and Tesshu asked Nanshu to write the three characters of his home, Seishu-en, which are still preserved in Zensho-an today.

In August of 1878, during the Takebashi Disturbance (also known as the Imperial Palace Fire of 1886), Tesshu Sensei, without any time to change clothes, put on his nightgown and hakama, and with a sword at his waist, rode his horse from his residence in Koyodo to visit the Imperial Palace and give his sympathies to the Emperor. However, at that time, he felt that it would be unbearable for the person who was to serve as his personal attendant to be so far away from his residence that he could not reach it in time for an emergency, so he moved to Yotsuya, near the current National Diet Library. He moved to Yotsuya, near the current National Diet Library, and the Koyodo house was presented to the Fushimi family, and has been their villa ever since.

It is a historic site where he used to meet with Nanshu, Kaishu, and others to discuss national affairs. After it became the villa of Fushimi no Miya, the historic residence where the Taisho Emperor had visited several times in his childhood passed away in 1942 in the hands of an old man in Osaka. Knowing the above story, the old man donated a corner of the central area surrounding the pond to Zen Master Seki Seitoshi, who was the president of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism at the time.

Here, Seisetsu asked for help from many people of the same faith. He wanted to build a "Dojo of Chin Koku," by inserting a stalk of grass and calling it "Chin Koku San Kohoin." He wanted to build a hexagonal hall on an island in the middle of the ground, enshrine a statue of Bodhisattva Sho-Kannon, which was Tesshu's Buddhist prayer offering, and his tablets, and to "leave this holy site and historical remains to posterity, and to uplift the true spirit of Tesshu's loyalty to the nation and the country, and eventually make it a spiritual center of Chin Koku.

Those who assisted in the petitioning were Yamada Mumon roshi and others, and those who contributed to the fund were ISHII Mitsujiro, NOGA Masatomo, IMAMATSU Jiro, and the following.

The memorial service was held on May 8, 1943 for three days. Those who attended were Shigeru Honjo, Raisaburo Hayashi, Nobuyuki Abe, Sanehiko Yamamoto, Sankichi Takahashi, Kenichi Abe, Taketora Ogata, Tamotsu Kagetsu, Yuho Takehashi, Inosuke Yoshino, Denpei Shimosato, Takesuke Shirane, Ryusaku Endo, Daikichi Yasui, Etsusaburo Shiina and over 100 other famous people.

On that day, Seisetsu's words of congratulation were as follows

Follow the footsteps of Koho by tying up your chian with a board / The garden and forests are so beautiful that they emanate a thousand charms. / The Dragon Pond is a place of peace and tranquility. / A place of eternal peace and tranquility

 However, in May of 1945, the forest disappeared without a trace due to an air raid. The pond, which the priest had called Ryuou-ike, was also destroyed. As a result of the conflict, the site was reduced in size, and it is now a literal thatched hut with a floor space of only 41 tsubo (860 square meters). There were no parishioners, no base, and when I was assigned to the temple in 1947, there was only a shoin (study room) left over from the fire, and not a single item of temple property, making it a perfect place to "follow a walk in the gutter," as it was called.

 However, with the legacy of the founder, Tesshu, and the Zen style of the temple's founder Seisetsu, I have been thinking how much I need to add to the temple in order to "make it a place of peace, tranquility, and a country of peace".

 Seisetsu had intended to recommend Zen master Tekisui as the founder of the temple, and had even carved the seal of "Koho I" himself, but after he passed away, we decided to make Seisetsu the founder of the temple after consultation with abbot Bokuo, Master Mumon, and others. (By Omori Sogen, from Tesshu magazine, 1965)