About Ofuna-Kannon-ji Temple
|Ofuna-Kannon-ji Temple Overview|
|Organization Name||Religious Corporation Ofuna-Kannon-ji|
|Address||1-5-3 Okamoto, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, 247-0072|
|Hours||9:00 a.m.–4:50 p.m. (Feb.–Oct.)
9:00 a.m.–4:20 p.m. (Nov.–Jan.)
|Entrance Fees||Adults: ¥300 (high school age or older)
Children: ¥100 (elementary or junior high school age; younger children enter for free)
Group Rate: ¥200 per person (groups of 20 or more)
|Parking||No parking spaces are available.
Please use the nearby pay parking lot or use public transportation to visit the temple.
|Memorial and Prayer Services||If you have a preservation society membership card or a Fukuju Handbook for the Elderly issued by Kamakura City, please present it at the entrance to enter free of charge.
The reception desk is located on the first floor of Shoshin-kaku Hall.
If you wish to lay ashes to rest in the pagoda, you may apply at the reception desk.
|History of Ofuna-Kannon-ji Temple|
|It is said that Shakyamuni (Buddha) attained enlightenment while meditating under the Bodhi Tree. His Zen teachings were passed down through 28 generations before being inherited by the monk Bodhidharma, after which the Buddhist priest Dogen brought the Zen teachings of Bodhidharma to Japan.
Dogen established the Eiheiji Zen Monastery in what is now Fukui Prefecture, and his teachings were further developed to by the monk Keizan to create the Soto Zen Buddhism. Keizan established Daihonzan Sojiji Temple in modern-day Kanagawa Prefecture. Both of these became the head temples of Soto Buddhism. Ofuna-Kannon-ji is a branch temple directly affiliated with Daihonzan Sojiji and takes Kannon (the bodhisattva Guanyin/Avalokiteśvara) as its principal figure of worship.
|In February 1927, Kentaro Kaneko, Mitsuru Toyama, Keigo Kiyoura, Tensho Hamachi and Hansuke Hanada gathered together, in fear for their nation and with the intention of better protecting it, and decided that they needed to spread the teachings of Kannon and help purify society. To this end, they created the prospectus for the Gokoku Daikannon Konryukai (Association for Construction of a Kannon Image to Protect the Nation). They began collecting donations for construction of the Kannon statue, which they estimated would require 150,000 yen for main construction and 50,000 for attached facilities.|
|The project’s groundbreaking ceremony was held on April 14, 1929, then construction work commenced.
The Yokohama Trading Newspaper published an article stating, “Ground leveling work has been underway in preparation for the construction of Japan’s largest Kannon statue. Several days ago, this phase was completed, and on April 14 the long-awaited groundbreaking ceremony was held. The statue’s foundation will be 30 shaku [9.1 meters / 29.8 feet] high, and the statue itself 100 shaku [30.3 meters / 99.4 feet] tall with steel reinforcements, making for a massive figure roughly twice the height of the giant Buddha statue in Nara’s Todaiji Temple.”
However, because the planned construction site was on the upper edge of a hill whose earth properties had a tendency to crumble on the east-side slope, the organizers were forced to change the statue’s design from a standing Buddha image to a seated image. However, this proved unfeasible, so they changed the plan to creation of a bust image instead.
|Due to the Great Depression, it proved difficult to secure the necessary funding, and in 1934 construction was discontinued and the Kannon statue was left unfinished. It remained abandoned in that state for the next 23 years.
Dissatisfied with progress on the project, Zen priest Rosen Takashina wrote the Daikannon Kansei Sokushin Soganbun (Petition for Completion of the Ofuna-Kannon Construction Project) in October 1939, which contained the following text: “With the formation of the Churei Kensho Kai [Society for Celebration of the Loyal Deceased], we can now celebrate throughout the nation the sacrifices of loyal souls who served in the Imperial Japanese Army. However, there is no equivalent means of honoring the souls of war dead from the Chinese forces. Therefore, with the intention of fostering greater goodwill with China, and from an international religious standpoint, based on the Buddhist doctrines of mercy which apply to both enemies and friends alike, we wish to honor the countless souls of the Chinese military who sacrificed themselves for the sake of Pan-Asianism alongside the tens of thousands sacrificed while in the Imperial Japanese Army. By doing so, we wish give people the joy of putting into practice the teachings of Buddha, which tell us to pursue joy for all living things, and also to pray for happiness in the afterlife for and mourn all of those who have stripped themselves of worldly desires and attained enlightenment before meeting death…. Currently, atop a hill over Ofuna Station, sits a giant Kannon statue whose construction was left incomplete. We wish to complete this massive Kannon image because we believe it will serve as an extremely valuable memorial to all soldiers who fought for the sake of Pan-Asianism.”
|In 1939, as many throughout the nation sought to enshrine and mourn the souls of war dead from the Imperial Japanese Army, Takashina clearly stated in this document his goal of equal treatment for both Japanese and Chinese people in prayer and mourning as the primary reason for his efforts to complete the Kannon statue.|
|On August 15, 1945, the war finally ended for Japan. Mitsuru Toyama had already passed away, and Hansuke Hanada and others had fallen into despair at the collapse of the emperor-centric system, in which they had believed so strongly, following Japan’s loss in the war. As a result, the statue’s proponents had lost much of their previous enthusiasm for completing the Kannon image.|
|The Korean War from June 1950 to July 1953 greatly accelerated Japan’s economic recovery, ushering in the nation’s postwar era of high-speed economic growth. This prompted efforts to resume construction of the unfinished statue. Kiyoshi Nishimura, who would later become the director of The Gotoh Museum, was called to the private resident of Keita Goto on New Year’s Day 1953 and instructed by the latter as follows: “The [statue] whose construction was started by my old schoolmate Ryozo Makino, Rosen Takashina and others in 1929 has been left unfinished. I want you to complete that abandoned, neglected Kannon statue.”
During the interval in which organizers were still completing procedures to create an official association and hand operations over to Daihonzan Sojiji Temple, Nishimura took charge of the project,
|and on November 2, 1954 the Ofuna-Kannon Association was founded through the efforts of Masazumi Ando, Takashina and Goto. At this point, the Gokoku Daikannon Konryukai along with its goal of purifying society were no longer part of the project.
Following the death of Masazumi Ando, who had served as minister of education in the first Hatoyama Cabinet, a prospectus was created under the name of Minister of Justice Ryozo Makino (of the same cabinet), which stated, “We wish to complete the large Ofuna Kannon image at the earliest possible date, thus providing an unparalleled and sublime image of the deity visible from afar to serve as a sacred place for souls to rest and a beacon of love for the entire world. Gazing at this image will fill the people of the nation with the joy of following Buddha’s teachings and the happiness at witnessing other people’s good acts, thus naturally driving the evil out of their hearts and restoring them to a state of pure, unspoiled morality which is their true form, while also fostering greater prosperity throughout Japan and helping to lay unshakable foundations for world peace. Furthermore, the monument’s interior will welcome the more than two million brave souls who gave their lives in the recent great war, thus laying these lost souls to rest and, through prayer and mourning, filling them with the joy that comes with adherence to Buddha’s teachings. For these reasons, we call for the completion of the Kannon image.”
This prospectus was distributed and efforts begun to collect 100 yen from each person,
|Project organizers then sought the opinions and ideas of painter Sanzo Wada and architect Junzo Sakakura, and with Tokyo University of the Arts professor and architect Isohachi Yoshida playing a leading role they began repair and construction work on the Kannon statue. Throughout the project, design work and central guidance was provided by Tokyo University of the Arts professor and sculptor Toyoichi Yamamoto.
The construction project’s groundbreaking ceremony was held on May 18, 1957, and its completion ceremony on April 28, 1960. Total project costs are said to have exceeded 40 million yen.
|In August 1969, the Kanagawa Prefecture Atomic Bomb Victims Association established a plan to build the Atomic Bomb Cenotaph as a project marking the 25th anniversary of the bombing. The association’s chairperson had close relationships with influential members of the Tokyu Railway Group, which resulted in securing of the current land for the cenotaph free of charge from said company, and on April 18, 1970 the monument was officially unveiled.
Even now, Kanagawa Prefecture residents connected in some way with persons killed by the atomic bombings gather in front of the Atomic Bomb Cenotaph every year in late September to hold a memorial service for the dead.
For more than twenty years following the association’s founding, Ofuna-Kannon-ji Temple prepared facilities for Buddhist religious rites, ceremonies and services. During this time, local volunteers with Kiyoshi Nishimura at their head formed the Special Association for Maintenance of the Ofuna Kannon, which carried out deliberations on concrete measures to ensure continued maintenance and operation of the facilities into the future.
Ofuna-Kannon Association Chairperson Ryozo Makino passed away in 1961, and many say that Managing Director Noboru Goto played a major role since that time in keeping operations going. Chief Abbot Shoshun Iwamoto from Daihonzan Sojiji Temple in Tsurumi Ward, Yokohama City stepped up to fill the vacant association chairperson position in April 1971, after which increasing numbers of Buddhist believers began making strong petitions for the statue to be used in a proper place of worship. In response, on December 25, 1979 the Ofuna-Kannon Association was dissolved and reborn as a religious corporation, and preparations were undertaken to established Ofuna-Kannon-ji Temple as part of the Zen School organizational framework. After receiving certification from Kanagawa Prefecture on November 20, 1981, the facility was established as Ofuna-Kannon-ji Temple and has continued in that role to the present day.