History of Kuonji


History of the Minobusan Kuonji Temple

The Kamakura period (1185-1333) saw a series of epidemics and natural disasters, indicative phenomena related to the Age of Dharma Decline. Nichiren Shonin thrice remonstrated with the government, underlining his wish to guide people with ‘the Lotus Sutra’, only to be rejected each time.

The one who helped him was Nambu Sanenaga, one of his followers and the governor of Hakii Go village in the Province of Kai (today Yamanashi), who donated Minobusan (Mt. Minobu and its surroundings), part of his territory. Upon accepting the offer, Nichiren entered the site on May 17, 1274 and built his hermitage in Nishidani, at the foot of Mt. Takatori on June 17 the same year.

The Nichiren Shu history has officially registered May 17 as the day of Nichiren’s Entering Minobusan and June 17, the day of Opening the Minobusan Temple. Since then, Nichiren dedicated himself to reading the Lotus Sutra and guiding his disciples for nine years at the temple. On November 24, 1281, he upgraded his hermitage to a grand temple complex and named it “Minobusan Myohokkein Kuonji”.

On September 8, 1282, Nichiren departed Minobusan for the Province of Hitachi (present-day Ibaraki Prefecture), where he would treat his ailing health and visit his parents’ grave. However, amid his journey on October 13 the same year, his 61 years of life came to an end in Ikegami, the Province of Musashi (present-day Ota Ward, Tokyo). According to his will: “Wherever I may die, my tomb shall be built near the stream of Minobu”, his remains were brought back to Minobusan and enshrined.

After his death, Minobusan Kuonji Temple was succeeded by Niko Shonin, one of his legitimate disciples (one of the Six Elders) and schools of Niko’s lineage. The original temple complex lasted two centuries until it was relocated and enhanced by the 11th Successor Niccho Shonin in 1475 from Nishidani to the present location, which is less humid and more spacious. In later years, the temple flourished thanks to reverence and patronage by the Takeda and Tokugawa clans as well as the designation as a temple officiating imperial prayer services in 1706.

The light of dharma kindled by Nichiren Shonin has been ceaselessly maintained, even after his transition, alongside his grave protected by successive generations of head priests. At Minobusan Kuonji, the sanctuary where Nichiren preached the Lotus Sutra and his dedication of life, not a single day passes without many visits — as a center of faith to devout followers and a spiritual home to those who revere Nichiren.