April 12, 2006
by Maki Mizobata; Natsuki Mitsuya
Mibu Temple, which belongs to the Risshu sect of Buddhism, was built in 991 by Kaiken Souzu. The temple was called Hotozanmai-ji, or Jizo-in, from the principal deity, “Enmei-Jizo-Bosatsu” (a guardian deity of children), which is an important cultural asset. And there are many images of other guardian deities as well.
This temple is believed to have the power to ward off evil and to improve the future. Yakuyoke-setsubun-e, which is a bean scattering ceremony to ward off evil and celebrate the coming of spring, is held in February. This ceremony has been held for about nine hundred years.
Introduction of structures
Dainenbutsu-do (An important cultural asset)
- This temple was rebuilt in 1856. Another name for this building is “Kyogen-do.”The Mibu Kyogen play (see below for further details) is held on the second floor here. There is not only the main stage and a kind of road, “hashi-gakari,” which crosses from the opening of a mirror to the stage and has a parapet, but there are also the unique structures “tobikomi” and “kemono-dai,” which are not found on other Noh stages.
This is a branch temple, and the present hall, which houses an image of Buddha, was rebuilt in 1829. The main Bodhisattva is “Juichimen-kannon-bosatsu.”
Inari Myojin is deified in this hall. The name “Mibugawa” comes from the area name of the neighborhood “Mibugawa.” People pray to the god for success in business or for securing prosperity for descendants.
This Jizo Bodhisattva was sculpted in the early Edo era (1603-1867). People call it “Mizukake-Jizo,” and they say that if someone prays while splashing it with water, one of his or her wishes will come true.
This building was rebuilt in 1894. “Benten,” which is the main image of Buddha here and which we cannot usually see, was moved from Enmei Temple of Kiyomizu Temple. It is said that praying to this image is effective in securing prosperity for descendants and for getting much money.
This was rebuilt in 2002, and “Amida-nyorai-sanson-zo” is housed there. “Amida” means Amitabha Buddha; “nyorai” is an honorific title for Buddha; “sanson” represents three respected persons, a lord, father and teacher; and “zo” means a statue. This building is the entrance to “Mibu-zuka” (a grave). In the basement, there is a museum of the history of Mibu Temple. We can view images of Buddha, treasures and so on.
This stone image of Buddha in front of Amida-do is called “Yonaki-Jizo.” People believe it is effective in providing cures and in stopping children from crying at night.
This structure was rebuilt in 1852. In the center is “Ichiya-tenjin” (a god of the heavens). On the right is “Kinpira-daigongen” (appearance of Buddha), and on the left is “Rokusho-myojin” (a god) who mitigates and protects Mibu Temple. The name of “Ichiya-tenjin” comes from a story in which a god of the heavens Sugawarano Michizane came to the Mibu area and lived here when he was exiled a long time ago. These images are effective in improving academic ability.
This Buddha tower was built in 1989. The stone images of Buddha here were collected from various places within Kyoto city during the Meiji era (1868-1912) when the city planning of Kyoto was implemented. About a thousand statues, including Jizo Bodhisattva and Amitabha Buddha, are collected here from the Muromachi era (1336-1573).
Shoro (Bell tower)
It was rebuilt in 1851, and the bell was cast in 1847. The general public can ring the bell on every August 9th and 10th and also on New Year’s Eve.
Connection between Mibu temple and Shinsen-gumi
Mibuzuka is an island in a pond in the eastern section of Mibu Temple.
There you can see the bust statue of Isami Kondo who was a leader of theShinsen-gumi, which was a group of samurai who played active political roles after 1863. Also, there are the graves of members of the Shinsen-gumi:Kamo Serizawa and Goro Hirayama, who were killed in the place wherethey stayed, and the mass grave of seven other members.
The precinct surrounding Mibu Temple was used as a training place by theShinsen-gumi. They practiced military arts, horsemanship, and marksman- ship. Also, there are many anecdotes about members of the Shinsen-gumi.On Bojo Street in front of the east gate, two traces of the place where they stayed are left even now.
The correct name of Mibu Kyogen is “Mibu Dainenbutsu Kyogen.” Kyoto people have called it “Mibu-san no Kan Den Den” for a long time. Kyogen is the classical Japanese comedy which is performed between each Noh play.
Mibu Kyogen was designated as an important intangible cultural asset in1976. This was the first designation in Kyoto prefecture. And this kyogen is one of the three famous kyogens of Kyoto. (The others are Saga DainenbutsuKyogen at Seiryo Temple and Senbon Enmado Kyogen at Injo Temple.)
It is believed that Mibu Kyogen was started by Enkaku Syonin, or Saint Enkaku, (1223-1311) in 1300. Because there were no loudspeakers at that time, pantomime was the best way to introduce Buddhism to a lot of people.In the modern era, Mibu Kyogen drifted away from its original religious purpose and developed into a popular rtainment. Now, there are 30 kyogen plays in Mibu Kyogen. Even though Mibu Kyogen has become entertainment, all of the kyogen plays have a moral. Especially, they tell us aboutright and wrong and about punitive justice.
Characteristics of Mibu Kyogen are as follows
l. Performers don’t speak during the performance.
2. All performers wear masks, and they show their expressions by using traditional Japanese bell, drum and flute.
3. All performers are men.
Dates of performances are as follows
l. Dainenbutsue: 9 days from April 21st to 29th
*13:00-17:30 and 18:00-22:00 only on April 29th
2. Autumn Performance: 3 days until Health Sports Day
*Health Sports Day is the second Monday of October
3. Setsubun, or the end of winter, Performance: 2 days before and on the end of winter
*Setsubun is on or about February 3rd
Perform the play “Setsubun” at the end of each hour from 13:00 to 20:00
Originally, Dainenbutsue in April is a Buddhist memorial service, and it is performed in dedication to the principal image of Mibu Temple. “Enmei-Jizo-Bosatsu.” In Kyoto, there is a tradition at Setsubun of paying homageat Mibu Temple by dedicating a houraku, or an unglazed plate, to the temple. The dedicated unglazed plates are broken in the kyogen play “Houraku Wari,” which is performed during Dainenbutsue. It is believed that people can expel evil spirits in this way and ensure a better future. The performers of Mibu Kyogen are not professional actors but amateurs,a group of about 40 people living around Mibu Temple, including elementary school students and seniors in their 80s.
Access from Kyoto Station
Take Kyoto city bus No.28 and get off at the “Mibudera Michi” bus stop.
Mibuzuka: 100 yen
History Museum of Mibu Temple: 200 yen
Adult: 800 yen
Junior high school and high school student: 600 yen
Elementary school student: 400 yen