Founded in: 1260 by Yoshimoto Hiki, Founding priest: Nichiro (1245-1320)
15-1, Omachi 1-chome, Kamakura, Kanagawa 248-0007
The Temple stands peacefully at the foot of a hill as if it has been nestling there for centuries. In the 13th century, however, there was a great tragedy on this site triggered by a power struggle among several samurai factions. After the death of Yoritomo Minamoto(1147-1199), founder of the Kamakura Shogunate, the Shogun was succeeded by Yoriie Minamoto (1182-1204), Yoritomo's first son. He was only 16 years old, too young to be at the helm of the Shogunate, and the real power went to Masako Hojo, his mother, and Tokimasa Hojo (1138-1215), his grandfather. Yoriie was not happy at all with the way his mother and grandfather treated him. He became a womanizer and had several mistresses in his teenage years. In 1203, Yoriie fell critically ill for no apparent reason and death seemed to be imminent. Masako and Tokimasa planned to split the Shogunate territorial rights into two: one for Yoriie's son Ichiman and the other for Yoriie's younger brother Sanetomo (1192-1219). Yoriie had married Wakasa, daughter of Yoshikazu Hiki (?-1203), the head of another samurai family. Yoriie's first son Ichiman was only 6 years old when Yoriie fell seriously ill. Should Yoriie die, Ichiman was supposed to succeed to the Shogun's position as was the custom for first sons. If Ichiman were to assume the seat of the Shogun, Yoshikazu and his family would become enormously powerful as the Shogun's maternal family. That was what the Hojos had feared most. The Hikis had also had close connection with Yoritomo from his early days. As a matter of fact, Yoshikazu's mother-in-law helped young Yoritomo financially while he was in exile to the Izu Peninsula, and Yoshikazu's wife was Yoriie’s wet nurse. Naturally, Yoriie was closer to the Hikis than to the Hojos. Learning of Masako and Tokimasa's plan for the dual ownership system, Yoshikazu got upset because he believed the first son of the Shogun, Ichiman in this case, should inherit all of Yoriie's right and property according to the rule of the day. At the bed side of sick Yoriie, Yoshikazu told him that Masako and Tokimasa were trying to oust Yoriie. Even further infuriated, Yoriie told Yoshikazu to immediately ruin the Hojo family. At the other side of the bed room, Masako eavesdropped on the conversation and the Hojos conspired to take the initiative. Soon afterwards, Tokimasa invited Yoshikazu to attend a religious ceremony at Tokimasa's residence for a new statue of Yakushi Nyorai (Bhaisajyaguru, Skt.) he had prepared to invoke Yoriie's recovery from the ailment. Yoshikazu accepted the invitation despite his retainers' advice, in the hope that conspiracy would be least likely to be involved in the religious event. Ichiman Yoshikazu was wrong. He went to Tokimasa's residence bringing only several aides with him. Upon his arrival, Tokimasa's men assassinated him in a surprise attack. The bereaved family of Yoshikazu and samurai of the Hiki clan gathered right away at Yoshikazu's residence to prepare for an unavoidable battle. Tokimasa and Masako had expected the ensuing scenario in advance and had made an ally of other powerful factions. The Hojos and their allies, making the first move, attacked Hiki's residence. Bitter fighting continued for several hours taking a heavy toll, and the Hikis were defeated in the end. Some 100 people were slaughtered in this battle including Yoriie's son, Ichiman. Witnessing her family members deaths, Wakasa committed suicide at the site. The Hikis were thus wiped out almost totally. After the battle, bed-ridden Yoriie was forced to step down as the Shogun and was deported to the Izu Peninsula, where he died (some say he was killed) a year later in 1204. The Shogun's position was succeeded by Sanetomo Yoritomo, second son of Yoritomo and Yoriie's younger brother. He was only 12 years old. The Hikis were survived by an infant, Yoshikazu' s last son Yoshimoto (1201?-1286), the founder of the Temple. He was sent to Kyoto and served Emperor Juntoku (1197-1242). When the Emperor was exiled to Sado Island off Niigata Prefecture in 1221 as a result of the unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Kamakura Shogunate, Yoshimoto followed the Emperor to the island and stayed there for 21 years. Upon the death of the Emperor, Yoshimoto returned to Kamakura, where he encountered Nichiren Shonin preaching at a busy corner in Kamakura. Yoshimoto was deeply moved by these sermons and became a disciple, despite being 21 years senior to Nichiren Shonin. As soon as Nichiren Shonin was pardoned from his exile (after submission of the Rissho Ankoku Ron) and returned to Kamakura, Yoshimoto provided him with his residence for a lecture hall. Following Nichiren Shonin's guidance Yoshimoto decided to establish a temple to console the souls of his father, sister and other family members. Construction of the temple was completed about 50 years after his family was nearly exterminated. The temples official name Chokozan came from his posthumous title and Myohon from his mother. This is one of the oldest Nichiren order temples in Kamakura.
The path leading to the Hondo from the main gate is tree-lined. We would enter this way while chanting. We had been asked to come directly to the Shoshi do, so we would march past the Hondo on our way (below) and go directly to the Shoshido.
In the Shoshi-do we would meet with the ministers from Myohon ji and would participate in a service.
The image of Nichiren Shonin in the Myohon Ji Shoshi do.
(above) Jakushi Myojin is a small shrine, just in front of the shrine to one side is the well (below). The shrine was built to placate a spirit created by a women who committed suicide in the pond next to it. The well was used to hide an important statue during a time of persecution of the Temple.